The Future of Color

Is blue the new black?  Is retro the new future?  Are metallics now passé?  We’re not talking the latest catwalk collection from an Italian designer but window frames, office desks, kitchen tables and patio chairs.  In other words, ordinary everyday objects and backgrounds.  Powder, although it may come out of a box, is every bit as fashion-conscious about color as your clothes designer, teenage wannabee and Hollywood starlet.

But why is color so important?  “It brightens up our lives,” Russell Deane, European Marketing Manager for Architecture and Furniture, states simply.  “Without color, everything is lacking in depth.  Look around you; whether it’s packaging or furniture, it’s all a clever blend of colors.  It’s all psychological, to make things more attractive and appealing.  Even if it’s white, someone has thought about the different shades of white.”

That ‘someone’ is AkzoNobel’s Aesthetic Centre, an eight-strong team of colorists and designers based in the Netherlands and Sweden.  Established in 1992 their experts advise all of the company’s coating businesses.  “While powder is functional, color is emotional,” explains Anne van der Zwaag, Aesthetic Centre Manager.  “Because people are driven by emotion it is extremely important that Akzo Nobel has outstanding expertise in color as well as expertise in powder technology.”

To maintain the company’s reputation as a color authority, once a year an international team of architects, designers and color consultants, the Analog group, gather together at the Centre to forecast the next year’s color trends.  Their predictions are based on a wide variety of indicators that reflect the way society is shifting and feeling.

Global events, climate change, fashion, the economy  -  all these have a bearing on color predictions.  For example, following the disaster of 9/11, people were looking for signs of security, and opted for safe, neutral colors such as creams and greys.  More recently we have been happy to embrace more color.  Equally, as climate change and environmental issues made us more aware of the earth’s natural resources, we have started to look for more natural, earthy tones of greens and browns. 

The predictions for 2008 are based around the concept of ‘balancing’. “With the world becoming more and more complex, we are all searching for balance,” explains Anne.  “Balance between our private lives and our careers, urban and rural, the natural and the artificial, getting older and staying young.  Two forces that equal each other, that need each other to exist.  And where they meet, they find their balance.”

This balancing concept has been translated into six opposing themes, each with associated colors.  For example, Geometric (strong clear colors such as Horizon Blue and Informal (soft calm all-enveloping colors such as Bamboo Cream).  These trends and colors are then distilled by the Aesthetic Centre into colors and inspirational ideas appropriate for each market sector  -  such as architecture, decorative paints, furniture.

Of course, the process never stops.  Already, the Aesthetic Centre is looking ahead to 2009 and trying to work out what will be the ‘hot’ colors.  What will be the effect of the economic slowdown? Will climate concerns make us feel more in tune with the natural world? 

You’ll have to wait until next year to find out.