Forecasting, developing and applying color is a global industry. Through peer review and discussion, color designers establish directions and publish forecasts. Then, members of design and product teams with responsibility for color development interpret these forecasts in ways to engage their audiences. Applied with wisdom, insight and sometimes a bit of courage, color transmits a message that hooks the intended receiver, establishing a sensory connection.
By connecting with prospective customers, color addresses one of the first steps toward a purchase. Achieving this result is something anyone involved with marketing and sales will appreciate. It helps explain why color professionals make a valued contribution to product development and marketing.
Mapping color applications shows how trends cut across industries, how color messaging is used to reach target audiences. For an armchair tour of the current color season, consider this map. If trends from other color-savvy industries are any indication, versions of these colors may appear at NeoCon 2012.
“Salsa” This color arrives with freshness and warmth at a time when some of the financial gurus are showing optimism about the economic outlook. As the season’s “red”, its youthful energy works as a showstopper or as supporting cast member.
“Lemonade” Is this color a time-traveler, one that pops in from the past when needed? If so, its time has come again. Images from 1968 show this color alone and in combinations with black and white. For 2012, gray steps up as a companion.
“Cabaret” Seems like this color reflects a split decision. Most American designers embraced a watered-down version, while the Europeans and Asians went bold. The market will sort out the message, allowing election of a preference by consumers.
“Sodalite Blue” Deep and rich, this color might be the season’s “black” alternative. As an offset to spicier reds, yellows and greens, this color is something of a throwback. Often dispatched as a secondary, it is one of the palette’s durable, anchoring heavies.
“Bellflower” Light and usually in limited applications, this color’s appeal is equal parts nostalgia and buffer. It calms the heat from the primary palette while connecting with those who remember the tinted purples of bygone days.
“Jalapeno” A version of this color with less heat and more water, “Margarita”, appeared in some applications. The hotter color had more appeal, especially in products intended to resonate with youth.
“Denim” Every palette needs a reliable blue. This year’s version appears with a reasoned intensity that broadens its applications. The color has a familiarity to it that might stem from similarities to earlier versions of the late 60s to mid 70s.
“Techno Pink” Observed as paint, yarn and piece-dyed goods, this appears to be a color that is allowed to shift positions around a core definition. This core appears to be a pinkish-purple. It runs to red occasionally, and runs to blue just as easily, with a pull towards lighter tints.
“Driftwood” and “Starfish” Somewhere, someplace a palette locates its neutrals. The role they play varies. Dark and light versions present earthy, warm-to-warmer choices with the strength to stand on their own, if needed.
“Cockatoo” The place occupied by this color could be as the yellow-leaning opposite of “Bellflower”. Both incorporate blue, but where “Bellflower” mixes with red, “Cockatoo” mixes with yellow. Faulty analysis or not, this color remains a cooling choice alongside hotter alternatives.
Note: Years ago, I had the opportunity to work alongside many talented color designers. This happened when I was a product manager for upholstery, laminate surfaces, wood finishes and metal paints at Kimball. Stepping back into that frame was an enjoyable experience, and makes me all the more appreciative of the work done by color designers—SW.
“Salsa”, “Jalapeno”, “Techno Pink”, “Denim”, and “Lemonade” color names from Chevrolet division of General Motors.
“Cabaret”, “Sodalite Blue”, “Bellflower”, “Margarita”, “Driftwood”, “Starfish”, and “Cockatoo” color names from Pantone.
Image credits: Chevrolet website for Spark front-views; 1968 year in review page for the vintage fashion images; and other images photographed by the author.