Every December since 1999, the color mavens at Pantone have announced a color of the year for the upcoming twelve-month period. The Pantone color for 2023, revealed earlier this month, is Viva Magenta, a color that
balances boldness with a feeling of fun. This dynamic mix exudes rebellion, but not at the expense of softness. It embodies an expression of fierce grace, inspiring us to show up with confidence and humanity. The digital space has accelerated globalization, and as a result, we are more deeply connected to each other than ever before. We can never fully understand what lies beneath the surface of the friends and strangers we meet, but we can always work to deepen our empathy. The Color of the Year 2023 speaks to our desire to take on new challenges and try the unconventional while meeting others with compassion.
That’s a lot of words for a color that looks like this.
Unless it looks like this.
Image via Pantone.com
Red? Purple? It’s a mystery.
Women’s high-top sneaker in Viva Magenta from Cariuma.
In a thorough and interesting article for Fast Company, Elizabeth Segran called Viva Magenta “the color of the metaverse”:
While it is drawn directly from colors in nature, it is so rich and saturated that it looks artificial. It’s a color that appears frequently in our digital universes, including video games. Pantone believes this color helps us explore the tension between the real and virtual worlds.
What we definitely know about “magenta” is its origin. It was developed chemically in 1856 and initially named triaminotriphenyl carbonium chloride. It was also called “fuchsine” because of its resemblance to the fuchsia flower (which, please remember, is named for the 16th-century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs).
The color name we know today is the result of the bloody battle of Magenta, in what is now Italy but in 1859 was in the province of Milan. Here’s some history from the Royal Talens website:
In 1859 France and Austria declared war on one another. A battle took place near the Italian town of Magenta in the province of Milan. Despite inferior numbers, 54,000 against 58,000, France executed a surprising manoeuvre to clinch victory, though the losses on both sides were considerable. The French suffered 4000 dead and wounded, and the Austrians 5700. The battlefield was so red from the blood that the red dye discovered three years previously was from that moment called Magenta.
So much for balancing boldness with a feeling of fun.
That’s how the color magenta got its name. But how did the town of Magenta get its name? I turned to the Online Etymology Dictionary for the answer:
The town's name traces back to Roman general and emperor Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius (d. 312), who supposedly had a headquarters here.
And magenta may be the best-known color named for a battle, but it isn’t the only one: there’s also solferino, a brilliant pink named for the town in Italy where another 1859 battle was fought; and magdala, an orange-red named for a battle fought by British forces in 1868 in the city of Magdala, near the Sea of Galilee. Magdala was known as “the city of dyers”; it was the birthplace of the Christian Bible’s Mary Magdalene.
See also “Pantone’s color of the year is pretty gay,” by Brock Colyar for The Cut.
Last year’s color, as I’m sure you remember, was Very Peri. (Scroll down in this post.) View a gallery of all of the Pantone colors of the year from 2000 to 2023.