Researching color trends and forecasts: it may not be saving the world, but it is definitely making it a prettier place … and when people “feel” better, they may act better too!
After coming across the article, Social Trends Color Shade-Forecasting Business, last year, I did a little research about color forecasting. There is a small (but powerful) industry of people – color consultants – who actually study color all day long. These are the people who decide the IN colors – everything from household appliances and paint chips to vehicles and lingerie. Companies consult them to market their merchandise, and ultimately, they are the ones that determine what we will see on the clothing racks and store shelves… at least in the outer packaging.
Color card forecasts from years past (photo from CMG)
There is no doubt that colors elicit emotions, and I can see how marketers want to use this to their advantage to attract more consumers. On a subconcious level, I am sure it works. I try to stay away from most packaged goods in general, but I am not immune to the color marketing in my clothing and my craft supplies – most specifically yarn. I am not sure if the yarn companies employ these color forecasters, or if they just rely on their research data for upcoming trends, but it would be interesting to learn more on that subject…
The two main associations (in the USA) for these color consultants and forecasters are the Color Association and the Color Marketing Group, the group profiled in the above linked article. Their websites have different aims, the Color Association seems to be clearly interested in educating the general public about the history and importance of color first and foremost, while the Color Marketing Group is very focused on the business and marketing side of color. Naturally, I was drawn more toward the mission of the former group, and they have an interesting historical tidbit on their website:
Before 1915, it was the milliners, the US hat makers, who were responsible for setting color trends for the US textiles industry. Their judgments were based on the dyestuffs they got from Germany and fashion information received from Paris. After World War I cut off the means for continuing the milliners’ seasonal fashion color forecasts. the wool and silk companies, who were particularly dependent on this data to market their clothing, decided to act on their own. As a result, a committee representing the textile and allied industries, including silk, wool, thread, button, and garment manufacturers, was selected to choose colors for the following season, have them dyed and issued in the form of an American color card.
Their website also gives some great insight into how artistic and design movements used colors/color groups in their work. They cite the resurgence of Dali-esque surrealism in art and design, and share polls of people’s reactions to certain color combinations in vehicles. You can even learn more about the design movements and their related colors with their fun little trivia game.
The Color Marketing Group has some interesting facts and literature on their website too, and as stated before, it is much more for the business-minded. Of particular interest to me was their forecast trend for 2008 on “Looking ‘Green’”:
People want things they wear and things they use now to look “green,” no matter what color they are. In 2008, looking stylish means looking natural. Materials will look hand-made, un-dyed and unbleached. Products will look more like what they’re actually made of, with lots of texture and all the natural imperfections proudly showing through. Off-whites, sandy and linen-y colors, rock and soil colors, brownish-greens – the colors of nature are seriously fashionable now.
This is an interesting paragraph on many levels – I like the idea of using more natural colors and deriving inspiration from nature… These colors sooth my spirit, and I love the feel of drapey linens. HOWEVER, there is a big difference between “looking” green and “being” green. It is unsettling to me that since these colors and looks are projected to be popular this year, they are going to be hitting the racks and shelves en masse by companies who are hoping for a quick money fix rather than actual sustainability and environmental responsibility in their manufacturing process.
With all of this being said, I don’t know if this color forecasting makes that much of a difference to me – I can honestly say that I think I like all colors. Certain colors may complement my wardrobe and my complection better than others, but some may be a great look for a web design, or for a throw pillow in my living room. Some colors carry memories and emotions more than others, and they do have influence in our lives. Some colors sing a little louder in our ears than others do… and they all have their place.
Project Spectrum is a great opportunity to really explore the depth of color – every facet of these shades that we so often take for granted. In this month when Project Spectrum focuses on the FIRE element and the associated colors of red, orange, and pink, it is somewhat fitting to learn that we might be the trendsetters; the forecasters point to red as a new and upcoming color – they cite the upcoming Beijing Olympics as the cause, but it may have a little something to do with PS too