In our increasingly visual world, color has become an essential power player in both imagery and storytelling.

It has the ability to instantly evoke emotion and transport you to a period in time – like the 1980s with its neon or ’50s with its bold contrasts.  But color also is key to helping brands feel current and relevant, especially as people are surrounded by digital displays.

“As screens get sharper and more detailed, color has become crucial — it can really pop in digital,” Getty Images Director of Visual Trends Pam Grossman said. “It’s incredibly important for brands to pay attention to the color story they’re telling.”

At the same time, viewers have become so much more sophisticated and discerning in how they analyze images overall, Grossman said, so if a brand is using colors that feel a bit dated and boring, people will easily pick up on it.

To guide them in selecting contemporary, on-trend colors many brands turn to the Pantone Color Institute. The Pantone team scouts the globe looking across art, movies, packaging, home furnishings, fashion, technology, popular travel destinations, and more to find colors that reflect the pulse of current culture.

“Color and material go hand-in-hand,” Pantone Color Institute Vice President Laurie Pressman said. “You need a cohesive, unified presence to successfully convey a message to a customer and tell a story; color on its own is not strong enough, but it is critical. It’s the first thing that people see and connect to and what’s going to grab their attention.”

Each year the Pantone Color Institute puts forth their selection for Color of the Year, which offers brands a launching pad to make intelligent color choices. This year, they announced for the first time not just one but a pair of colors: Rose Quartz and Serenity.

“Life is moving so quickly, everything is accelerated and people are constantly bombarded with so much information,” Pressman said. “People are looking for a way to deal with this, they’re looking for balance and for calmness. The combination of these two colors conveys a sense of tranquility and inner peace—there’s something light and airy about the union of these colors that feels soothing.”

Rose Quartz and Serenity are already appearing more frequently in the high-end conceptual imagery Getty Images represents, with photographers using the colors to tell a variety of stories. Grossman explains four of her favorites:

 

 

“When you take colors that exist in nature but put them in a man-made context, they suddenly feel unnatural. We’re so used to seeing the trail coming out of a plane as being white. Suddenly, you add pink and blue and it feels like this otherworldly image.”

 

“Pink has always been traditionally associated with girls and blue with boys. In this day and age, there’s so much swapping and color inversion, especially along gender lines. There’s something inherently feminine about this pattern and the color pink in the context of florals. I really like the tension this creates; it feels really fashion forward even through he’s wearing this feminine pattern.”

 

“These two colors work together to enhance each other. We never associate water with being pink, so it feels out of context. It creates a very surreal and arresting image with an element of surprise.”

 

“The woman floating over the ocean is a masterful use of the contrast of these colors, which creates a very graphic sensibility. This image feels peaceful but also a little unsettling.”

 

We’ve curated a gallery of some of the best images featuring Pantone’s 2016 Colors of the Year. See what we recommend for inspiration and decoration.