Colors for 2019 Muted, Complex and Humanity-embracing
An Inside Q&A with a Color Forecaster
In our increasingly complex and distracted times, consumers want to regain a sense of control and reconnect with their humanity and creativity. Clariant’s ColorForward 2019 report, released in January, predicts that this global sentiment will be reflected in more muted, dark and layered colors.
From the serene, soft pastels in the Do not Disturb color palette to the ambiguous and contrasting tones of the Ctrl + F collection, Clariant’s 2019 picks represent a subdued, but hopeful adaptation to our technology-saturated world. “Although the palette for 2019 is still toned down and more than a little grey, we see in it a growing sense of resolve and determination to find ways to live happily in our increasingly technical world," says Judith van Vliet, ColorWorks® Designer and a leader of the ColorForward team.
Each September, Clariant’s team of forecasters convenes to produce the annual ColorForward® guide, a crystal ball glimpse into the top 20 colors forecasted a year-and-half in advance. The week-long ColorForward® workshop is a true amalgamation of trend observations and cultures from around the world. Color trend experts gather from Clariant’s four ColorWorks centers in São Paulo, West-Chicago, Merate (Italy), and Singapore.
"Although the palette for 2019 is still toned down and more than a little grey, we see in it a growing sense of resolve and determination to find ways to live happily in our increasingly technical world."
Before they even begin to discuss colors, the group spends the early sessions determining the four major “stories” guiding global culture—and, hence, our taste for color. In addition to the titles mentioned above, the 2019 stories include Made in Human, a nod to our individuality and creativity, and Umswenko, a Zulu phrase that captures the style, pride and optimism embodied in the 1.1 billion ‘Afrillenials” making a global impact.
“I think getting these four stories every year is the hardest part,” said Judith van Vliet, a Clariant designer based at their ColorWorks® center in Merate, who directs creation of the annual guide. “It’s difficult to align four regions that completely think differently and have different backgrounds. But we always manage to reach consensus.”
Part cultural anthropologist, part consumer trend forecaster, van Vliet is truly a renaissance woman when it comes to what inspires her design sense. We recently caught up with van Vliet to learn more about what goes on behind-the-scenes in forecasting the hues that will color our everyday lives.
What makes someone a really good color designer?
JV: You need to be quite a sensitive person and have an eye for detail. It’s having this feeling for color use and combinations, which in my opinion is something that people are born with. It’s this sensitivity to color and to design.
Throughout the year, you’re traveling the globe researching trends. Where do you and your team gather most of your information from?
JV: We do trend scouting at a variety of events, from the Geneva Car Show to Milan Design Week. We also go to innovation conferences to hear people speak about the latest technology and to major cities to see what’s happening. But sometimes, inspiration can strike unexpectedly, such as when your walking down the street or visiting an art gallery or museum. When visiting the Centre Pompidou in Paris recently, I was struck by how much David Hockney’s exhibit with its California color range really reminded me of our upcoming color trends. It’s interesting that colors in his paintings from the 1960’s are again resonant.
Let’s get into the annual ColorForward® workshop. Once the group has reached consensus on the four stories, how do you decide the colors?
JV: Once we’ve decided our four big trends, we split into two teams and create mood boards. We go through the internet and magazines to find imagery, keywords and titles that bring the stories to life. Sometimes, people even get creative and build prototypes. Then we ask everybody to pick out five colors per story and they have to present why they have chosen the particular color. When you talk about a story for four days at a certain point, colors just pop into your head. Then it’s a matter of narrowing it down to the right one and having the group align.
Tell us about some of the industries that rely on the ColorForward® guide.
JV: Our clients come from a wide range of industries ranging from consumer goods to automotive to home appliances. I was also recently invited to present at a major European beer brand and at one of the largest chocolate producers worldwide. Colors on plastic chips are not directly related to these food and beverage businesses, but they love the colors and stories. We talk about how people are feeling, how they’re behaving, and we make sensible color choices that speak to that.
Can you tell us the backstory behind some of the colors picked for 2019?
JV: For the first time ever, we’ve included a color that was made by a 3D printer, called ‘ColorWorks, Untitled, 2017, ABS on ABS, 9x6 cm.” It’s a canvas-beige color with a brush stroke of purple to symbolize the humanity in this machine-made sample. And from our Umswenko story inspired by African youth, a jade-green color ‘La Sape,’ was inspired by the flamboyant style of young Congolese men, who despite living in crushing poverty, spend lavishly on colorful suits to assert their individuality and dignity.