Color of the Year 2016

For the third year in a row, the Pantone Color Institute engaged Sub Rosa to develop and execute its now famous Color of the Year campaign. As Pantone's long time collaborator in both creative and strategy, Sub Rosa was prepared for a new and unique challenge to shift deeply ingrained audience expectations.

Client Conversation


Color of the Year 2016 creative provided a unique challenge for Sub Rosa, as there were two colors instead of one. Given the global use of the work, this newly complex message needed to transcend both language and culture without capitalizing, or leaning on, traditional gender-based themes.



Sub Rosa led the development from concept through execution on all creative, including culture-based research to answer the visual question of how the colors could interplay without making inadvertent references. Sub Rosa presented four directions for Pantone to respond to, all representing different vehicles through which weightlessness, transparency, balance, lightness, tranquility and above all color could be expressed.

Pantone and Sub Rosa determined that fabric would be the ideal carrier as its use and comprehension is global. Additionally, the weight and transparency of the fabric could be controlled to communicate the messaging surrounding Serenity and Rose Quartz.

Our Work


After landing the concept, Sub Rosa took the foundation and created the full brief for execution including directions, styling briefs, and sizing guidance. Sub Rosa directed and produced all static photography for the primary campaign as well as designing and executing for a new media type called ‘stills-in-motion’ which is the layered use of statics inside a 3D environment then animated using Autodesk software, creating a motion asset that is wholly consistent with the still imagery.

Laterally, Sub Rosa also produced a series of stills for social channels, video for behind-the-scenes, and interviews with all key members of the team for media use. Sub Rosa’s in-house production company executed the production for all of this.



The 2016 Color of the Year campaign created the largest media impact yet in the history of the brand. Within 24 hours, 298 media placements had resulted in 1.35 billion media impressions. By the end of the first week, those numbers had grown into 1,120 media placements and 2.6 billion media impressions. The response across all channels was overwhelmingly positive, aided by the elegant use of color and visuals that championed the emotional essence of the campaign.