What’s Up with PINK?

Pink, the understudy of red, has taken on a leading role in the interiors landscape.

While enjoying my August 2018 issue of Interior Design, it struck me that the number of visuals and spaces incorporating pink seemed inordinately high. The color is everywhere, from carpeting, furniture, and installations to textiles and plastics.

Pink started gaining momentum as far back as the early 2000s, but in the last several years, it has picked up steam as it began popping up on packaging, graphics, logos, and products for numerous brands catering to young consumers. It was those upstart, disruptive, direct-to-consumer brands that lead to the birth of “millennial pink.” Beauty and lifestyle disruptor Glossier, geared towards millennials and their younger Gen Z counterparts, is one of the best known proliferators of this color.

In a landscape where attention spans are shorter than ever and the appetite for newness is insatiable, it’s impressive that pink has managed to stand the test of even a few years’ time. More striking to me is that the color has leapt from the world of product into large-scale commercial applications.

Several design projects came to mind that seem prescient in their use of pink in commercial settings. Cary Bernstein Architects designed One & Co’s San Francisco industrial design office in 2009. As Bernstein has described it, the key goals of the project were to inspire fresh ideas for staff and clients, to exude warmth using warm woods and textures, and to meet the client’s desire for passion in their environment.

One & Co’s San Francisco industrial design office designed by Cary Bernstein Architects. Photograph by Cesar Rubio.

Bernstein’s design was featured in Contract and On Office and garnered the best small project award from the International Interior Design Association of Northern California.

Rapt Studio’s Dropbox Headquarters, featured in Interior Design in 2016, used multiple pinks in the 260,000-square-foot project. There are strong core spaces which radiate out to different auxiliary spaces. The pink carpet in the library lays the groundwork for a 40-foot-long walnut table. Project designer Rosela Barraza said the color was inspired by European opera houses.

Dropbox headquarters via raptstudio.com. Project designer Rosela Barraza. Photograph by Eric Laignel.
Dropbox headquarters via @raptstudio instagram. Project designer Rosela Barraza. Photograph by Eric Laignel.

When you enter the Gallery at Sketch restaurant in London, you are surrounded by a sea of pink.  The designer India Mahdavi called the color “Ladurée-esque pink.” You cannot remain neutral when the central dominant surfaces of this hospitality environment are monochromatic pink.

Sketch London by designer India Mahdavi. Photograph by Ed Reeve.

As a practitioner of functional color with an art and science approach to color selection, I was surprised, when I studied each of these environments, that the corporate clients were easily sold on pink. Maybe less surprised by Sketch, as the hospitality industry takes more adventurous designs in stride, but even that was a color coup.

Pink is a delicate color associated with femininity, sweetness, romance, and playfulness. It’s sincere. These associations do not typically translate to the corporate and hospitality environment.

Twins from Oregon wear matching pink rain outfits
Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, September 2006
Tyler Mitchell, who photographed Beyonce’s September Vogue cover shoot, in a self-portrait from 2015. Via vogue.com

What has happened to the global design consciousness to vault pink front and center? What has allowed pink to go from product and graphics to corporate interiors? Are we craving pink’s positive associations? Is the color the antidote to aggression and hostility in our world affairs, bringing us sweetness and warmth?

Whatever the rationale, pink is serving clients and designers in a positive way. Bring on the pink!

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