Seeing red?

Ever wonder why certain colors become popular? How paint, appliances, even fashion, seem to gravitate toward the same tones and hues?

It’s probably a response to trends forecast by the Color Marketing Group, a prestigious international organization that meets yearly to discuss color trends and issues. As one of 1,700 members of that organization, I attended the fall conference in Dallas, where we discussed upcoming color forecasts and new business opportunities linked to color selection.

World events always influence color selection and trends, and this year is no exception. The somber nature of the attacks on Sept. 11th clearly had an impact on forecasts, but this was not the only influence.

Striking a balance between the conflicting issues facing older consumers and the impatient, demanding younger generation is also a factor in color forecasts. This translates to the older generation preferring darker greens, blues and burgundies, while the younger generation will demand special effects and brighter accents on short-term products.

Also, look for flag reds and true blues to gain in popularity, as the U.S. public becomes more patriotic.

The slowing economy heralded an interest in colors that represent a good long-term investment, like neutrals that are practical and more cautious.

As a principal in an interior architectural firm, I was assigned to work with representatives of contract industries, including office products, architecture, transportation, recreation and technology products. Color and the selection of color are big business, because companies place heavy emphasis on their ability to attract customers and sell products.

In general, colors in the red, yellow and orange families tend to energize and are good choices for lunchrooms and creative spots in the workplace. Blues, greens and purples are more soothing and relaxing. However, today’s colors are not true primary colors (e.g. blue, red and yellow) and tend to be warmer, more earthy and neutral.

One color never fits all. For example, strong reds and yellows are not choices for the health care industry but work well in the hospitality area. And, while women respond well to purple and pinks, men are less enthused. A pale yellow evokes a very different response than a school bus yellow, so choose with care.

This year, the search for new color experiences will be strong as designers and manufacturers look for opportunities to use color in different combinations or for different effects. An emerging color industry called special color effects allows designers and manufacturers to create new color experiences, such as iridescence.

Another strong color trend is “flop,” which is when an item viewed from one direction appears as a totally different color when it turns 90 degrees or more. Applications of flops are being used by the commercial upholstery industry in simulated leathers and by Parker ballpoint pens in a new line called Frontier.

Color is so important that a new industry is emerging to prevent color counterfeiting. There are now inks and dyes with imbedded codes — almost like color DNA — that prevent others from duplicating proprietary colors.

This new technology is used by the United States and more than 70 other countries to protect currency and is expected to expand to those who want protection from forgeries of their signature product lines.

The Color Marketing Group has been forecasting color trends since 1962. Today’s teal wall covering is tomorrow’s dated office. To keep your business looking current in everything from paint to furniture, always consider life span as you make color decisions.

Color may seem subtle, but its role in our lives and business is enormous. David F. Cooke, a Fellow of the International Interior Design Association, is a principal of Design Collective Inc. in Downtown Columbus. He can be reached at 464-2880.