Taking too long? Close loading screen.
color theory creative website design brave new creative

Colour Trends Throughout History 1950s – Today

Colour trends from 1950 to today.

Last week, we looked at colour trends through the decades, starting with the 1900s and up until the 1940s. Let’s continue this blast from the past starting at the 50s!

  • From rationing and recovery to optimism and abundance
  • Pastels and primaries, poised and self-assured.
  • Rise of the teenager: Rock ‘n’ roll music, Sock hops, Diners and drive-ins, Elvis, James Dean
  • Teen Angels “Having fun” Optimistic color range
  • Mid century modernists, Movie Goddesses and Cosmetic superstars dominated a pastel pallette
  • Abstract expressionists bring big bold strokes of color to the artworld


  • The Saturated 60’s
  • Warhol blurs the lines between pop and high cultures using intense bright colors
  • Flower children: championed ideas that were at once wildly hedonistic and dreamily idealistic
  • Psychedelia and the LSD experience, tie-dye wardrobes
  • Pantone is born
  • Sesame Street’s whimsical use of color


  • Earthy and Eclectic
  • If the ’60s were a party, the ’70s were a heavy therapy session, putting the world’s major issues under a microscope
  • New focus on Earth as a living entity in need of protection; Land art becomes a new genre, Avocado and Harvest gold are trending interior decor colors that help people feel closer to nature
  • Feathers and leathers
  • The punk movement rejected hypocrisy and anything inauthentic: Nihilistic black backdrop for a spectrum of neon dyed hair and lights
  • Day glo & nightlife


  • Adventures in affluence
  • Urban cowboys, John Travolta
  • Signs and Symbols: Keith Herring’s vivid colors and expressive graphics spoke about social unity and the joy of being alive
  • 1984 Olympic Games’ palette consists of unexpected, stimulating juxtapositions that separate from the everyday environment, the drabness of permanent institutions
  • Pre-AIDS gay sexual revolution
  • Georgia O’keefe paints dreamy tones which lend a sense of historical and spiritual depth


  • The Nuanced 90’s
  • Optimistic mood opening the way for rich colors from other cultures (after a brief recession, the U.S. economy was blossoming)
  • ’90s were the worst of times, too— Rwanda & Bosnia, Soviet Union collapse, first Gulf War, Word Trade Center bombing; dire events that created a need for a range of softer, thoughtful colors which offered comfort and sustenance
  • Grunge and graffitti, Millennial anxiety and anticipation (Y2K)
  • Personal computers, Apple computers are released in an eye-popping array of translucent plastics “Chic over Geek”
  • Anime, consumer culture, digital design boom


  • A new beginning
  • Globalization leads to huge groundswell changes
  • Technological revolution, the dot com crash, availability of easy credit
  • Continued influence of the minimalist movement : neutral, expressive colors without being ‘boring’
  • Stainless steel appliances and metallic hues
  • Lifestyle movement focuses on inner peace and spiritual fulfillment as we move toward an uncertain, yet exciting, future
  • Start of the Pantone Color of the Year
Final thoughts

This video by MaryAnn Icaro is a beautiful rendering of color through the ages. 100 years in 2 minutes with gorgeous animated effects and concise descriptions. Check it out!

And there you have it!!

My head is spinning as we’ve just travelled 100 years over the last couple of posts. Hopefully this brief outline will show that, like all trends, color is cyclical. Expect many of these palettes to make a comeback in future years. And, as with all design, color is both subjective and linked to our own personal histories. If you’ve found this guide useful, feel free to leave a comment below.


Vickie ?


Sources: Pantone: The Twentieth Century in Color by Leatrice Eiseman, Keith Recker, Pantone.com,

Share your thoughts