Pantone's color of the year is actually two colors: Serenity and Rose Quartz.

Washington - The design world rushed online last week to find out what the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2016 would be.

But there was a surprise: For the first time in the 16-year history of this tradition, there are two colours.

Rose Quartz (pale pink) and Serenity (hues of lilac and blue-gray) were both anointed with the esteemed title.

It was the biggest shock for the design community since October, when Benjamin Moore named plain vanilla Simply White its 2016 Colour of the Year.

Colours of the year are supposed to be snapshots of the current mood in our culture. The tradition at Pantone goes back to 1999, when Cerulean, the blue of a serene sky, was named the 2000 colour of the Year to reflect the “fear and unrest for Y2K and general hope for the new millennium,” according to a Pantone spokeswoman.

This is what Pantone said in its official announcement about the 2016 colours: “The seamless union of Serenity and Rose Quartz creates balance in a chaotic world by providing the perfect counterpoint to the fast-paced, fractured and hurried lives we live.” The colours “bring a feeling of calm and relaxation into the home environment.”

Reaction from designers was swift.

From interior designer Victoria Sanchez of Alexandria, Virginia: “The pink is a lovely feminine colour that can be infused in almost any room of the house,” she said “It's not just for a girl's room. It would look really good as an accent, maybe with some ivory in a room with chocolate brown walls. The blue has a funky tinge to it. I'm not sure I would want to use it. To me, it's an awkward baby blue.”

Washington designer Joe Ireland was not impressed. “I was a little surprised. I am not ready for pastels,” Ireland said. “I thought we would see some more intense colour. Last year was Marsala, which was more intense. And before that was Emerald. Maybe come springtime, I will feel more positive about them.”