Sunday, September 26, 2010

The State of Color

I love receiving the Stir publication produced by Sherwin-Williams. In the most recent issue called “The State of Color.” I found the article called “The State of Color STIRvey” very interesting. The STIRvey reports that some common themes emerged in a survey of over 1,000 design professionals nationwide, including:

  1. “Color is a barometer of our times, and the economy continues to have a major impact.”
  2. “Many design clients appear to be developing a more sophisticated understanding of what color can do and they are getting more adventurous in their choices.”
  3. “Travel and the Internet are erasing geographic color boundaries, fueling the emergence of a global palette.”
  4. “And the green movement’s influence continues to spread, tinting the color landscape in both predictable and unexpected ways.”

Here is the link if you want to look in-depth at the colorful charts illustrating the results of the survey (see pages 22-25). Otherwise, I will do a short summary of the results for your easy reference!

The region with the greatest number of responses to the survey was the Midwest—yeah! The Southeast came in second and the rest—the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, South and New England—all tied for third.

The survey asked the question: “Do you believe that your region has its own distinct color palette?” Pacific Northwest designers had the highest percentage responding “yes” with around 80%. Southwest designers came in second with 75% and Midwest designers were third at around 65%.

Another question was: “How would you describe the palette of your region?
• Midwest: earth tones and neutrals
• Pacific Northwest: warm, nature-inspired
• Southwest: natural beach and desert colors
• New England: colonial and seaside colors
• Southeast: light coastal colors, tropicals, blues
• South: warm neutrals

I am beginning to see a trend. Four of the regions use the word neutrals, nature or natural. The other two regions name colors that are influenced by the words seaside and tropical, namely blues, greens, sand and sky colors!

The color trends are being influenced by two G phenomena: global and green.

The survey asked, “Which hues do you believe are gaining the most influence? Neutrals and greens came in first with blues a close second. The survey then asked, “Which hues do you believe are losing the most influence? Reds and purples took the lead. What a difference a few years make. Several years ago I wrote about plums and purples becoming trendy, and now they are on their way out!

The survey also asked, “What was the biggest color story of the past 12 months?" The leading response was sustainability’s impact on color palettes. The influence of metallics came in second. I also learned this from Stephany Eaton, of Painted Ambiance in my recent article Stripes Galore!

The last part of the article included some great quotes from designers around the country. Some of my favorites are:

  • “More vibrant hues are becoming stronger and more widespread. Influences from new media technology are making more intense colors acceptable to the retail market.” —Monte Lona, of Medina, Wash.
  • Color is always emotional, so in this economy we might see color purchases in bright, happy hues to lift our spirits. Neutrals have a role as well: to calm jittery nerves.” —Connie Angelo of Algonquin, Ill.
  • “As we move into a more frantic time, people seem to feel the need to nest more, feel calm and need a sanctuary. With urban dwellers, I see a huge need for grounding, more nature-inspired palettes.” —Michael Reper, of Portland, Ore.
  • “I think green is going to be the new black, not only because it’s become the basic color of the environmental movement but it’s so universally accepted now as a classic color.” —Patricia Spicuzza of Abita Springs, La.
  • “Designers have always known intuitively that color is powerful! It has the power to change how people feel, how much they perceive pain, and it influences their choices. Now the rest of the world is catching on. This is changing the use of color, away from safe neutrals to fearless, bold deep colors.” —Amy Richardson of Louisville, Ky.

I share Amy’s opinion. The STIRvey may show that neutrals are still prominent in clients’ choices, but there is hope for bolder, deeper colors!

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