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warpaint – bvcolorstrategy 2012 forecast

Color captures our attention and expresses our unrest and concern.IMG_20111101_174355R1

The world of color is currently experiencing a time of fiery reds and ashy grays – it is inspired by the burning desire for new direction, stability and change. 2011 brought the appearance and growth of the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, the Coffee Party, the Free Tibet movement, Japanese anti-nuke campaigns and European anti-austerity protests. 2012 promises to be an even more contentious year, as we see these global demonstrations and debates continue to gain momentum. The volatile global climate will cause colors to explode!

Established bright liberal blues and fiery conservative reds will continue to do battle, but many people in the middle are becoming tired of the conflict. They are tired of retreating to the neutral gray position.  2012 will be a time for greater personal expression and taking charge of one’s destiny. Everyone will be immersed in floods of color as people apply their tribal war paint and express their most important concerns. A social, economic and political climate such as hasn’t been seen since the  turbulence of the late 1960s will inspire brighter, multi-colored, expressive combinations. Strong, unexpected – even clashing color combinations will express individuality. The neutral gray morass will be brushed away with a few decisive and committed strokes. A dramatic multi-colored phoenix will arise from the gray ash of Middle-earth.

The fiery reds will burst into full flame. They will be transformed into bright oranges yellows and fuchsias. These hot new combinations are industrial and cautionary. They say “don’t mess with me” and “don’t you dare rain on my parade!” Clean bright glowing greens, teals and turquoise vibrate next to them. The rainbow is on fire and the secondary colors are rising to take the primary role. Bright purple establishes a new lead – it’s neither blue nor red, becoming the color of alternatives, hope, agreement, compromise and a new concordance.

The value and strength of the color story will now be more important than the hue. Unexpected and even clashing combinations will abound. Special effects will be used to add even more emphasis to the color communication. Color will be shouting as the masses go to war!

RGB color notations are used to maximize the color gamut. Set your high-definition monitor to the millions of colors mode and calibrate per your manufacturer’s recommendations
Forecast and imagery by Jack Bredenfoerder CMG

© 2011 bv colorstrategy

Download a pdf of the 2012 forecast


Are your brand colors causing your architecture to collapse?

 Try thinking of your brand as a story and its pillars as chapters instead.index.cfm

As a speaker at The Dieline Conference last month, I found myself looking more and more at how color enhances or dilutes a brand’s strength in the form of packaging. One alarming phenomenon that I noticed was that some brands are looking disjointed and losing brand strength on the shelf due to drastically different color stories across the different pillars. I have come to the realization that the actual analogy of brand as an architecture composed of pillars is the major culprit. “Architecture and pillars” are static and fixed terms. Brands are growing entities that evolve over time. They are 4-dimensional, dynamic, organic and more akin to living organisms. They are not structures stuck in time that need to be redecorated every two or three years.

I encourage designers to think of color as “the spice of design.” It seasons the forms, shapes, and textures. The unique balance of the colors along with the other design elements work harmoniously in the context of the brand story to give it meaning. Layering a good color story over a well composed brand story lets us make personal and emotional connections with consumers. Color can delight and evoke powerful emotions if it is crafted this way.

A more left brain way to use color is as a classifier: Think of the color tabs on file folders and other structures for the purpose of navigation. While navigation is important to the brand it is not the sole factor to consider when designing with color. If we think of the brand in purely “architectural” terms the navigation factor can take over and color can go totally awry. We can over-classify and segment the brand by painting the pillars with well differentiated, but loosely related, color stories. The brand gets disjointed and looses overall brand strength.

I encourage you to consider an alternative model for brand—the brand story. I much prefer an analogy of a story with chapters versus a concept of architecture divided into pillars. The model of story is much more supportive of an organic holistic brand, design, and color process. In it, we have a delightful weaving of different chapters that work together to create the whole final compelling story. The architecture/pillar model often yields a collection of disjointed short stories that just happen to be bound by a similar cover. Give this paradigm shift a try and see if your brand color and design strategy improves. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The art and science of color forecasting

This blog was originally posted by Jack on Jan. 1, 2011

With the arrival of 2011, Landor’s color forecast and many other expert color forecasts are now available to guide us forward into the new year. There are forecasts for fashion, home décor, automotive, cosmetics, electronics, architectural surfaces, and any other industry or product category you can think of. There are also macro regional and global color forecasts like ours. With so many different forecasts available, how can we use all the diverse information for our specific projects and industries? The answer ultimately comes down to the “science” of tracking, gathering, compiling, and analyzing the current colors, trends, and forecasts, and the “art” of identifying and “telling the stories” of the most important new consumer drivers. These drivers that affect color movement include things like the economy, the green movement, important fashion and entertainment icons, social media, technology developments, politics, unexpected events like the Gulf oil spill and anticipated events like the London 2012 Olympics and the British royal wedding. The significance of each driver can change from industry to industry and from region to region—your drivers should have the most important influence on consumer attitudes and emotions for your industry. It is truly an art to take all the relevant scientifically tracked color information and create a new color forecast by artfully applying the most important emerging consumer driver stories.

The science

Let’s break down all the new forecast and color information into a usable framework:

The first thing I recommend is to identify what color information is important to our specific project. In what industry are we working? For demonstration, let’s assume we are working in the home décor category. The first step is to seek out forecasts and color offerings for this specific industry. Paint manufacturers often have extensive trend departments and publish yearly trend forecasts that are available at little or no cost. The same is true for major home retailers, and home surfaces, flooring, and wall covering manufacturers. Track and collect all this industry specific color information. Arrange all the colors in a grid format with the source on one axis and the colors (arranged chromatically) on the other axis. The resulting color chart will show you where the different forecasts align and where they diverge. You will now have a good overview of where the industry is positioned chromatically at this point in time.

The second step is to do this same process for related industries. For example, one of my Color Marketing Group associates says: “What we wear ends up on our walls” (she tracks the color trends of the fashion industry as a leading indicator for home décor). I also agree with this practice as well as tracking technology/electronics and automotive color trends as related colors for home décor. Fashion is related to so many industries and runway colors are available well in advance of the seasons in which they will be introduced. Automotive colors are usually determined three years in advance of production and are also easily obtained from the important automotive shows. Once you have created your related industry color grids, you will not only have a good idea of what is happening in these adjacent industries, but you will be able to see where they are also aligned with your primary research industry. I especially like to look for colors that are showing in fashion and just starting to emerge in home décor. This could definitely be the sign of a new home décor color direction.

While you are collecting your colors from the various industry reports you will notice that the really good reports will support their color choices with consumer influence and driver information. You should make make notes about these drivers and look for reoccurring themes and divergences. As you become accustomed to working with different color reports you will notice that some sources are more leading edge than others. While identifying a common theme like the green movement across several sources may be of value it could also be an indicator that it is an older mainstream idea. The drivers from the leading edge sources may actually seem quite different and not in sync with the others. Don’t be afraid of these new concepts as they may be the beginnings of the next big color direction! This is where the art of identifying and applying new drivers comes into play…

The art

Art is an expression that forms an emotional and connecting experience between the artwork and the person experiencing it. It is about context and how the different design elements work together in that context to engage the mind of the person experiencing it. It creates and tells stories. Artists are masters of communicating with sensory elements. In cooking, the artist uses ingredients and spices. In music, instruments and notes are used. In literature, it’s ideas and words. And in design it’s form and color. Colors are the spices, the notes, and the words of design. Art starts with inspiration, the driver of all creative communication. In branding and marketing, the driver should be a unique and relevant inspiration that engages the consumer with an experience that ultimately results in the purchase of our goods or services. Having the right driver is key to creating the right design and color story that will sell. The driver story and the brand story should be one in the same, but some marketers view the brand story as an unchanging element that is set in stone. I disagree with this practice. The brand story needs to evolve and change with the real world driver stories. Brands are in a constant flux of change. They are living things not static objects. Brands move just as colors move through time and consumer perception.

I know that the concepts that I have presented above may be a bit difficult for some to grasp. This disconnect is often why many people do not understand how true trend forecasting works. For many people, it is just about the science of tracking the trends and formulating a current record of where we are in time. While this science is extremely important, it is only half of the story. The real crux of forecasting lies in the creative art of projecting and applying the influence of the emerging consumer drivers. As professional forecasters, designers, and marketers, we must constantly look for the next big things that will evolve and change our color and brand stories. It is not enough to track current trends. We must identify what will move them to the next level if we want to be trend leaders.

Color Strategy


As designers and marketers we are often asked to supply rationale for our color choices. These rationale and the discussions that happen about them can become very subjective and emotional. Color is an extremely sensory design element, and everyone has an opinion about it—especially our clients and colleagues! So how can we avoid falling into subjective and unproductive conversations about one particular color or combination of colors?

I’ve found it helpful when presenting a color recommendation to first design with a formalized color strategy, then rationalize the design using the same strategy.

To develop a strong strategy, I suggest building your color rationale around the following five aspects of color:

Fads, trends, and cycles
Directional aspects of the color and forecasting

The physical aspects of color involve the academics of color theory and color physics. Will the pigments be compatible and durable for your product? Will light affect the color? What type of printing, media, or production methods will be used, and what is the gamut of the colors available for the process? Is the color design balanced? Does it even need to be balanced?

The cultural aspects of color consider regional and group color concerns. Are the colors inappropriate due to established cultural meanings and associations? Is your product regionally sensitive to color? (For example: are you selling soccer wear in Italy in colors reminiscent of the French national soccer team?)

The psychological aspects of color can facilitate a connection with consumers on an intuitive and emotional level. Color can bring back memories and stimulate other senses. This emotional connection is unique for many consumers, and context is the key to communication. How the color relates to other elements of the design, its environment, and the viewer is critical. Many of us color designers cringe when we hear statements like: orange is happy, yellow is sunny, and blue is calming. This may be true in many contexts, but it’s not absolute. Think of when orange is utilitarian, yellow is old, and blue is frigid. We must understand the context and the audience before we try to connect on an emotional level.

Qualitative research about color messages can be helpful if presented in the design context and preferably, in the environment the consumer will experience it. Never, ever research colors out of context and as sole swatches for design purposes! Because color can connect emotionally with the consumer it can help support the brand story and define the brand character and architecture. Color can also add surprising delight if used in an unexpected place.

Fads, trends, and cycles are current and emerging consumer behaviors and purchasing patterns in the marketplace. Cycles last longer and are more predictable than trends, and trends are more enduring than fads. Fads come and go very quickly. While trend spotting is an important process it is often mistakenly used as a forecasting tool. If you spotted it and it is happening now—it’s not the future! If you approach design by using current trends as your only rationale you will always be a trend follower and never a leader.

Color direction and forecasting is the most often misunderstood and ignored part of a good color strategy. When we do color forecasting it is important to look at the current trends and cycles. But if you are truly going to predict where the color trends will move—what direction they are going—we must identify and consider the major influences. Influences are the important issues in the greater world that drive our decisions as consumers.

There are several long term influences that have been important for many years. They tend to reinvent themselves over time, and by region.

Consider these influences and where they may take the current trends over the next three years:

– Increased communication and the growth of the Internet
– The increasing power of the social network
– The economy
– The environment, nature, global warming and the green movement
– Customization of products
– Simplicity, honesty, trust, and authenticity
– Global versus local
– Technology developments
– Film, theater, music, and the arts
– Runway fashion
– Celebrities
– Politics and government
– Mashing, fusion and mixing of concepts
– Intuitive and spiritual (relaxation, spas, escape, rejuvenation, well-being)

I discussed how the recent economic downturn is affecting color direction in “Warmer, Fuzzier: The Refreshed Logo,” an article which appeared in the New York Times on Sunday, 31 May. This cites great examples of how major societal changes can influence the direction of trends. To make predictions, you should always search for the new and emerging influences, and be sure to indentify any that may be specific to your product category.