BBC News

The people who know what colour you'll like in 2019

By Katie Hope
Business reporter, BBC News

Published
image copyrightWGSN
image captionAs director of colour at WGSN Jane Monnington Boddy's remit is to know what colours will be in demand in the future

Korean retailers don't mind you taking lots of photos in their shops, says Jane Monnington Boddy.

For Mrs Monnington Boddy that's a good thing. Before her trip to Asia last month she bought a new iPhone 7 with the biggest memory available.

It wasn't so she could take loads of holiday snaps, but so that she could record the kind of things people on the other side of the world were buying, wearing, watching and doing.

Mrs Monnington Boddy works at WGSN, a London-based company that offers information on current and future trends in fashion, interior design and lifestyle. "Know what's next" is its tagline.

As director of colour Mrs Monnington Boddy's specific remit is to know precisely what colours will be in demand in the future.

In her week-long work trip she attended Seoul Fashion Week, Hong Kong's Art Basel art fair, as well as several other exhibitions.

All the time she was carefully gathering information: taking photos, recording videos and taking lots and lots of notes.

It is these kind of regular trips and her industry experience that help the 45-year-old to work out the next big colours.

"I think about where colour has been, what's popular and take that into consideration when I think about where it will go in the future," she says.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionPink has become hugely popular for both men and women

Twice a year she takes part in the company's trend summit days where team members from across the world, including Brazil, the US and China, get together to share information.

"At the end of it you feel like your head's going to explode," she says. But it is these gatherings that form the basis of the firm's six-monthly predictions on the key upcoming trends.

Currently she is working on the firm's colour forecasts for spring/summer 2019. These will be announced in June, giving firms enough time to fire up their production lines.

One trend she's followed closely is that of pink. Once seen as a hue just for small girls, it has now become popular for both men and women.

"It takes a long time to become a colour that hits the masses and makes retailers a lot of money," she says.

While working out what colour is going to be popular in future may seem like a niche pursuit, it's actually big business.

Every industry around the world uses colour. Manufacturers of cars, vacuum cleaners, phones, toothbrushes, coffee machines and other household goods all have to choose a colour range for their products.

Getting it right can help boost sales. Apple iPhones, KitchenAid mixers, Beats headphones, Kate Spade and The Cambridge Satchel Company have all used colour to make themselves stand out from competitors.

Some companies have even trademarked the branding colour they use, protecting themselves from would be copycat rivals in the same industry.

Manufacturing firm 3M's canary yellow post-it notes and Tiffany's egg blue box colour, for example, have all been trademarked.

image copyrightPantone
image caption"Every colour conveys its own message and meaning," says Pantone's Laurie Pressman

"To sell something you have to first get someone's attention. Colour helps to clarify a product's identity," says Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, which provides colour consulting services for brands and products, as well as trend forecasts.

Popular colours often reflect what's happening culturally and socially, she says.

The growth of the sharing economy, in which people rent beds, cars and other assets directly from one another, means lighter colours such as pale blues could come into fashion.

"Sharing means lightness, you don't want to be bogged down so you're not looking at a heavy palette."

Colours such as brown, which a couple of decades ago was linked to the earth and dirt but is now associated with coffee and chocolate, reflects the growth of those industries, she says.

image copyrightPantone
image captionPantone chose "greenery" as its 2017 colour of the year

Pantone is best known for its colour standards which provide a unique identifying number for each shade.

These numbers mean firms can clearly communicate the precise shade of the particular colour they want to their suppliers.

Pantone also provides formulations for manufacturers to make sure the correct shade can be reproduced consistently in different materials.

"Making sure the colours are easily achievable is critically important," says Ms Pressman.

What the colour is called also matters. "Peasoup" was almost chosen as the firm's 2017 colour of the year instead of "greenery", but Ms Pressman said it wouldn't have created the right feeling.

"Every colour conveys its own message and meaning," she says.

But can colour really make you feel something?

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionHow a colour makes you feel can differ according to what country you're from

Recent research found that ice hockey teams wearing darker-coloured tops were more likely to be penalised for aggressive fouls. One possible conclusion is that referees had an unconscious bias against darker colours, linking them to the idea of a "black sheep" and bad behaviour.

Another study found wearing the colour red could increase the probability of winning sporting contests.

But it's hard to find any large-scale scientific studies proving a direct link between colour and behaviour. This is because perceptions of colour are subjective, differing according to your own personal experiences and culture.

In China, red is a happy or lucky colour, but in the UK it's typically linked to anger or power.

Yet anecdotally at least certain colours are associated with particular feelings. Looking at a bright colour such as yellow can make us feel more cheerful, even if it's fleetingly, while blue is often seen as a calming, reassuring colour.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionGrey became popular in the aftermath of the financial crisis

Mark Woodman, a product consultant and a former president of US-based colour forecasting trade body Color Marketing Group (CMG), says the money firms invest in getting the right colour for their products prove it is important.

He has consulted on colour for paint manufacturers, a medical office equipment company, a porcelain manufacturer and even a company that makes the springy shred material used in gift bags and boxes.

"Colours have to connect with the zeitgeist of the times and that is what we work so hard at discerning," he says.

He points out how the "vast movement of grey" began to emerge after the 2008 financial crisis.

Similarly during the 2012 US presidential election, undecided and neutral states began to be identified as purple by the media - a blend of the Democratic blue and Republican red colours. The result was that the colour became more popular.

"Colours have to make sense to the living environment," he says.

Related Topics

  • Companies
  • Global trade
  • Trade