Colour Forecasting is big business. What is it? Well, if you search on the internet you may find something like this:
Design firms and retail markets utilize forecasting services to predict trends in color. Color forecasting helps designers (who work a season ahead) what fabrics and styles will be popular in future months or years. Color forecasting resources help predict trends in the fashion industry, and also home home design.
This suggests that colour forecasting predicts which colours will be fashionable in the future; for example, next year. However, I think there is another way to look at it. I am not at all sure that it is a prediction process at all; I prefer to refer to it as a marketing process. This is what happens. A group of people work very hard and have a great deal of expertise and through their activity and global network they produce a ‘prediction’ of what colour will be popular next year. Normally the prediction is not a single colour but a colour palette; but for simplicity let’s assume that it is a single colour and it’s red. The last thing retailers want is stock they cannot sell so they are very keen to find out what the colour forecasters are saying. When they hear that red is going to be popular they make sure that they purchase and stock large amounts of red stuff. Fashion magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Vogue want readers to buy their magazines and want to be seen to be on trend and so they publish story after story about how the next big thing is going to be red. Now think about the consumer. The fashion magazines are full of red and the stores are full of red. What do you think the consumer is going to buy? Can you see why I think the process is more about consumer manipulation than it is about prediction (in the scientific sense)?
Actually, that colour forecasting is not a really a prediction process isn’t even my main gripe. Rather, it is that colour forecasting (and the fashion industry more generally) encourages people to buy more clothes than they need. Do we really need to keep up with the latest fashions? Our consumption of textiles is already unsustainable and we cannot go on behaving as we have done in the past.
One of the final-year students in the School of Design at the University of Leeds is undertaking a research dissertation in this area which I am supervising. She’s running a short questionnaire and needs as many people as possible to complete it. It’s very short; please take a look here.
University of Leeds Campus
I am very lucky to be working with Sea-hwa Won from South Korea who is here in Leeds for three years undertaking a PhD in colour design. Her PhD is about …. well, I can’t tell you that yet because it might influence the answers you give to her on-line survey. She has just launched an on-line survey about colour and product design and it would be great if you would help her research by clicking on the link below and completing the survey. Later, when the survey is complete I will say something about what the research is about.
Click here to take the colour survey. It only takes a minute of your time and for that you will receive the warm glow of satisfaction that you have contributed to the advancement of colour science.
Apparently this week the Iranian navy revealed their latest submarine, resplendent in bright turquoise paint. Why would the navy use this colour since I would think it could make it easy to spot? Could they have thought that it would blend in with the sea and be hard to spot? Surely not.
“Wearing a light blue wetsuit that matches the colour of the sea will make you less likely to become the victim of a shark attack, according to researchers.
Sharks are completely colour blind and only see things clearly if they are mostly light or dark, scientists have claimed.”according to the Daily Mail.
This does not make a lot of sense – if sharks are colour blind then it wouldn’t matter what colour you wear. But later in the article the point is put better by Professor Nathan Hart, from the University of Western Australia: ‘It’s the high contrast against the water rather than the colour itself which is probably attractive to sharks. So you should wear perhaps more muted colours or colours that match the background in the water better.’
Apparently sharks really are monochromats – so colour blind in the popular understanding of the word – and so it’s really a case of matching the yoru swim suit with the lightness or brightness of the surrounding water. Don’t wear a very bright or a very dark swim suit, in short. Maybe this can lead to better designed swimwear!
When I was younger I was a big fan of Marvel comics. I loved The Fantastic Four and Spiderman in particular. I remember that US-based comics (Marvel and others) around the 1960s included the most outrageous adverts that offered fantastic products at very low prices. I always remember wanting some of the sea monkeys and also some of the x-rays specs. Though they were inexpensive, USA seemed a million miles away to me at the time and the notion of buying something from the USA and having it delivered to the UK seemed too fantastic. So I never placed an order. Probably a good thing – check out this interesting review of the 10 most outrageous comic-book advertisements. See also here for more about the monkeys!!
I was reminded of all of this when I came across an article today in the Daily Mail about the work of Peter Stults, an American artist who has taken modern movies and imagined how they would have been advertised in the 50s and 60s. Really interesting and evocative.
ps. If you like Marvel you may like to read what I found out about the colour of the Hulk.
Promotional video for the School of Design at Leeds – please take a look
I don’t know if it is related to my recent post that people, especially females buy bright colours in times of austerity, but I just came across a report that claims that women like pink gadgets and laptops.
Dr Gloria Moss, Reader in Human Resources at Bucks New University said:
“There’s a very strong tendency for men to prefer hard, rectangular and dark shapes. While women showed a preference towards more curved, and pink design. I don’t think it’s anything for women to be afraid of that women like different colours, because the roots of the colour preference take womens’ responsibility beyond hearth and home. The differences have their origins in the different activities carried out by men and women over the ages.”
Moss used a range of website designs created by men and women to test her hypothesis amongst a sample group of students at Oxford. Men preferred linear, rectangular designs, while women preferred colourful designs with large images.
I’m a man but I also like pink. So clearly the above does not apply to all women and all men.
For balance see my post on pink stinks.
In 2009 I blogged about a big row in Derby (UK) about yellow taxis. Most taxis in UK cities are black (in most other cities they are yellow). In 2009 Derby decided that their official taxis should be yellow.However, they didn’t specify exactly which yellow and they ended up in a bit of a mess with a taxi driver that they said had used the wrong shade of yellow. Good business for lawyers!
Then in 2011 I blogged about a major row in Durham (UK) where, again, there was a similarly heated row about the local council wanting to adopt white taxis in the city. It seems to be a topic that people get quite emotive about. So I wonder if there will be similar argument in Kolkata (West Bengal) where the government wants to change the taxi colours from yellow to blue and white. See here for the story.
I guess I sound like a bit of a sad geek, writing about taxi colours. Have I nothing better to do on a Sunday morning? The answer is obvious no.
But if you have read this far you might be interested in Beijing (China). Beijing is not known for its good taxis. But about 6 years ago the authority of Beijing city unified the colours to make them easier to recognise. The body of taxi is fixed to be 3-stripes-2-colors. The middle stripe is a golden yellow color while the rest of the body in another color which are commonly blue, green or red. When I was last in Beijing someone told me that the colours had special meanings but I am not sure it is true. I am going to consult my colour guru who works at Tsinghua University in Beijing and will add a comment later.
It’s possible to say that everything is designed. When we think of design we often think of fashion design or graphic design, or perhaps automtotive design or software design. But everything is designed. When we put a meal together, couldn’t you say we are designing? A chef is a food-designer!! When we are arrange our furniture, aren’t we engaging in interior design? Isn’t a chemist engaging in design at the moulecular level? Thinking like this leads to the idea that design is everything. However, if design is everything and everywhere then it is no thing and nowhere in particular. So if design is everything then it is also nothing. Discuss.
Famously Henry Ford, speaking of the Model T car in 1909, said “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”
Black is, I think, one of the most interesting colours. I recently came across a book – think it was called A History of Black – which was all about this one colour. In my 25 years working in colour perhaps the most frequent question I have ever been asked is “Is black a colour?”
One interesting aspect of black is that it is almost timeless in its ability to be fashionable. This is one reason why it is worn by lots of people who are particularly conscious of colour (because they work in fashion or interior design etc.). It seems strange at first that people who are most interested and aware of colour are more than likely to wear black. Black is a regular occurrence in the attire of my colleagues in the School of Design at the University of Leeds. Given that it’s timeless, it is also safe. There is no danger of being seen in the wrong colour.
I mainly wear brown. I wonder what that says about me?