What the future holds, when speaking of color


In the same way many of us can sense a cold coming on or a storm in the offing, some tuned-in types can spot a hot (or cool) color trend long before it arrives. These color forecasters go around with divining rods implanted in their foreheads.

When they detect a color trend, they call it out.

Unlike psychic readings at the county fair, color forecasters' predictions really do come true — partly because they ordain them. See, when the Color Marketing Group, an international association of color design experts, speaks out each year, manufacturers listen, then create product lines — from pillows to pitchers, from blouses to bicycles — in the new trend colors.

Consumers buy products in the new colors because, well, that's what's for sale. And boom! A trend is born. Whether forecasters divine the colors we want or we want what they say is in is one of those chicken-and-egg questions that makes me want to go into a dark closet and walk in circles.

When I first learned about this palette patrol, more than 15 year ago, I felt manipulated. Deceived! I felt like I did when I first learned about Columbus not really discovering America, and about the fat content of cheese.

But now I'm truly grateful for this invisible hand shaping color trends. It means when we buy a new rubber dish drainer, it only comes in five colors, and those colors will go with our new blender, which will match our new sofa and very probably our new raincoat.

With all the decisions we have to make, it's nice to have a marketplace that hits you over the head and says, "BUY THE PURPLE ONE, YOU IDIOT!"

This October, 200 color forecasters gathered in Miami for the Color Marketing Group's annual meeting. They each put a wet finger in the air and collectively said: "I feel blue with a touch of green."

Thus, the 50-year-old association proclaimed "Re-Blued" as 2013 Color of the Year. (They already know 2014 colors, too, but I'm not going there yet.)

"Blue will dominate the color movement for years ahead," said Mark Woodman, CMG president. "It's stable, comfortable and well-liked."

However, the 2013 blues will move away from previous blues, which have been more political, Olympic and traditional, he said. "New blues will be warmer and more aqueous. Tropical, watery blues with a touch of green will dominate."

The "RE" part Re-Blued plays to lifestyle trends like recycle, renew, rewind and reliable. (Of course, the new blue, or any new color trend, also prompts consumers to repaint, replace, repurchase and remodel.)

Jackie Jordan is a CMG chair holder and director of color marketing for Sherwin-Williams, a leading paint company. Like color mavens in other industries, Jordan refers to the CMG forecast when interpreting new directions for her company's product line. Last month, she released interior paint palettes for colors she sees trending.

Of the 40 colors in her line-up, she singled out a minty toothpaste aqua called "Aloe" as Sherwin-Williams color of the year. "I'm already seeing the color trending in home furnishings," said Jordon.

But why? I want to know.

"It takes people back to the '50s," she said, "a time that was a little more carefree. The color is fresh, fun, optimistic and hopeful. It's not downbeat. We're done with downbeat."

Indeed. I'll paint to that!

If you're looking to add new color to your new year, here are shades Color Marketing Group and Sherwin-Williams say are on the rise for 2013:

-Back to basic simple — "Don't expect any far-fetched colors in the new year," said CMG member Hilde Francq, of Belgium. "Because of the economic uncertainty, people need pure, natural colors, and that's exactly what they'll get." Beyond Re-Blued, you'll see more grass green, true yellow, flag red and sand brown — the colors of children's blocks. "People are hungry for something they can count on, and these colors say dependable."

-Retro glamour — The Sherwin-Williams palette that contains Aloe also includes shades Jordan calls "pastels kicked up a notch." Think of the soft but clear uncomplicated colors of semi-precious gems: citrine, peridot and amethyst. Of the four palettes, Jordan predicts one, called Vintage Moxie, will dominate.

-Mineral hues — Look for the chalky, matte hues represented in mineral deposits, sea-buffed stones and weathered shutters. "Picture a marriage between time and nature," she said.

-Midnight Mystery — Think Sherlock Holmes and Prohibition, dark shadows and secret meetings. The colors are moody, the vibe is masculine. Jordan's favorite in this palette is "Plum Brown," a dark, almost-black plum with brown undertones.

-High-Voltage — Plug the influences of pop rock and digital technology into one outlet and you'll get this blast of look-at-me colors. Designed to bring out the Lady-Gaga-goes-to-Vegas side of consumers, this not-shy palette includes such vivid bold neons as "Electric Lime" and "Gladiola."

-Always in vogue. Feeling change averse? Black and white are eternal, says Francq. "For an interior it's always safe to pick white in all its facets, soft browns and taupes." You can cheer these up with a vase in a new trend color. Or, said Jordan, "Keep what you have, but change the color of one wall, or a few pillows, and you will instantly make the space feel current."

-Remember — "The forecast colors are not a mandate," Jordan said. "They're just inspiration."

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of "House of Havoc" and "The House Always Wins" (Da Capo Press).

Marni Jameson

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press)
Last modified: December 13, 2012
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