This week, Eric Konigsberg's feature in The New Yorker (January 22, 2007), Made in the Shade: How Wasabi Became the New Black and Other Tales from the Color Industry, captures the backstory on how industry arrives at a color palette for all we consume, from room paint to the 'little blue pill.' Konigsberg follows Leslie Harrington from the spring 2006 Color Marketing Group conference through the winding streets of a suburban Dallas subdivision, applying all she knows to resolve a siding company's color crisis.
The Color Marketing Group is an association of industrial designers, organized in 1962, with eleven hundred members that "prides itself on being no only the largest color forecasting group but the most accurate," Konigsberg says.
The article then describes the conference, the rounds of review, a "color-consolidation steering committee" narrowing choices by winnowing out those without strong cultural influences. The final palette of 24 colors announced after an all-night executive committee meeting were dominated by 'nature colors.'
The story, however, not only shows how color trends are identified and extended, its also presents a case study on how associations work. CMG's process will look familiar to anyone working in a standards-based organization. Past charges of 'color collusion' and competitors submitting 'decoy colors' illustrate issues resolved by structure and governance procedures.
In case you're interested, the 2007 outlook distilled last spring breaks down into eight hues that are fusions of yellow, green, brown; six in blue and green; and "a couple of warm earth tones, including Brokeback Bronze." Apparently the war in Iraq and India are the major influences for a move toward jewel tones.
How designers interpret these trends varies widely. In fact, purely as a personal preference, Harrington banished pinky-beige from James Hardie's siding options. In turn, I am deeply grateful for your leadership, Leslie, in bringing an end to that disturbing chapter of suburban development.