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Yellow was so last year. Turquoise is the hue for 2010.

January 7, 2010 | 11:20 am

Turquoise Whether you call it aquamarine, robin’s egg or Tiffany, turquoise is the official color of 2010, according to the Pantone Color Institute.

Annually since 2000, the company that provides color standards for design industries has named a singular hue that exemplifies consumer attitudes and preferences. In unveiling color number 15-5519, a.k.a. turquoise, Pantone says it “evokes thoughts of soothing tropical waters and a languorous, effective escape from the everyday troubles of the world, while at the same time restoring our sense of well-being.”

Color guru Leatrice Eiseman is executive director of Pantone’s Color Institute and one of the forces behind selecting the color of the year. She writes about color trends at the Eiseman Color Blog and teaches courses on color theory, including a session in Los Angeles Jan. 28-31.

There is actually a bit of science -- not just art -- to choosing a color of the year, Eiseman explained during an interview.

Why turquoise?
We look at what’s happening in the world around us and at what we hope will be an indicator for the next year’s color. We look at socioeconomic indicators and what’s coming down the runways. With turquoise, we see people wanting to feel safe and protected from some very large, looming concerns in the world. I wanted to choose a color that speaks to lifting people’s spirits; a color to give people something hopeful to look forward to.

How to you conduct color research?
In the color-word association studies that I have used in my training classes for a number of years, I show people various chips of Pantone colors and ask them to react with a word or short phrase. I ask: “What is the first thing you think of when you see this color?”

What do your subjects say when you show them turquoise?

They speak of going off to some exotic, wonderful, tropical place; of escape, oceans and islands. With turquoise, there is also a secondary response with turquoise jewelry. Turquoise stones are seen in some parts of the world as protective talismans. Because it is believed to be protective, turquoise is also symbolic of faith, truth, compassion and healing. And of course, we always look to nature for inspiration and this goes back to the ocean. There’s that almost blue-green atmosphere in the tropics.

How successful is turquoise in fashion and interiors?
Turquoise is universally flattering. It works well in unexpected ways. Of course, we’ve seen turquoise paired with browns or pure white, but it also complements reds and pinks. I love turquoise with Pantone’s "Tomato Puree," which is a very warm red. Together they are absolutely stunning and reminiscent of a color combination from the early 1970s – the first time anybody used those complements together. I also like to defy the old rule about mixing turquoise with yellow-green. Yellow-green has been so trendy but turquoise adds a touch of newness to it for a really dramatic combination.

How do you measure whether your color predictions are accurate?
Every color is cyclical and goes through periods of popularity. Interestingly, there has been an undercurrent of turquoise for six or seven years. After we named Mimosa Yellow as the color for 2009, we did an analysis of the top-selling Pantone colors for home and fashion. Sure enough, up popped Mimosa Yellow. It is not usual for a color like yellow to be in the top assortment as far as sales of color swatches are concerned. The presence of yellow reflects what designers and manufacturers are specifying.

So when you declare color of the year, does it become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Maybe there is some of that involved. Manufacturers and designers do look to forecasters for help and inspiration. But our color of the year is just a guide, not an edict. When I want a new toaster in yellow, I can find it. I can also paint my kitchen cabinets in that same shade of yellow. And I can find it easier to shop and pick up items in that same color family. That’s the benefit to the consumer.

What do you wish people would understand about color?
There are all sorts of urban legends about how to use color, and I feel one of my obligations is to pass on credible information rather than just disseminating misinformation. For example, one of the most ludicrous urban legends is that babies cry more in yellow rooms. There are no studies that prove babies cry more in yellow rooms.

-- Debra Prinzing

Four-Day Color/Design with Leatrice Eiseman, Jan. 28-31 at the Marriott Residence Inn Burbank. Course fee is $1,750 and includes workbook and professional color-specifying materials. For details, see www.colorexpert.com.

Photos: Turquoise color swatch courtesy of Pantone. Houseware images from Macy's.