Special Effects, Ambiguous Colors -- The 2002 palette is a kaleidoscope of watery, metallic and iridescent effects. Featured colorations elicit specific feelings and responses from consumers. The neither-brown-nor-red Cocobola shade (lower right) has been described as a "chameleon color" that creates a relaxing and warm ambiguity. Tuscan Clay (upper center) is a peachy, tinted terra cotta color that will increasingly be seen in home products, decors and paints. Photo courtesy of Formica and the Color Marketing Group.

Whether you sell floor coverings, home furnishings or just about any other consumer product, don't be surprised if someday soon a customer comes to you demanding goods in pearlescent and nature-inspired hues.

This prediction is based on the 2002 Consumer Color Directions Palette assembled by the Color Marketing Group (CMG), an international non-profit association of color designers who identify and forecast color trends in consumer products. Consumer color preferences in the coming months, CMG says, will trend toward "lighter, softer and more complex" tones.

Incorporating input from more than 700 CMG members, the group develops cross-industry, short- and long-range color forecasts. The association's annual forecasts serve as a guide for designers who develop colors for new and existing product lines. Various industries are represented in the color forecasts, including those in the transportation/automotive, communications/graphics, interior/exterior home, and fashion categories.

Floor Covering Color Trends -- The orange-based, weathered brown hue of Autumn Oak laminate flooring, from Formica's Heirloom Collection, takes its coloration cues from CMG's 2002 Consumer Color Directions Palette. Photo courtesy of Formica Flooring and the Color Marketing Group.

High-tech influences balanced with natural tones

CMG maintains that technology affects and accelerates the rate at which color evolves in the marketplace, and blue continues its high-profile position as the most important color of the decade. Orange is projected as the color of "optimism and happiness" in 2002, and CMG estimates that orange hues will be popular across all age groups.

CMG also acknowledges the deep-rooted influence of nature on the 2002 palette. This influence counterbalances the profound synthetic effects of the technology revolution. The often-competing dynamics between technology and nature reflect modern man's desire to balance the sensory overload of technology with the more organic environment of nature, CMG says.

Aquatic blues continue to be important nature-inspired shades, but botanical blues will begin to emerge in 2002, as well. Yellows and greens will also exert a strong influence on the palette. The newest yellows are inspired by the organic qualities of fruits, vegetables, and grains, and the greens recount the colors of meadows and fields.

Social, cultural and economic trends also play a role in the process of identifying future color trends. A strong Latin flavor - with additional influences from Morocco and Italy - is a consistent theme for the 2002 Consumer Color Forecast that's reflected in the palette's vibrant reds, yellows and oranges. As a result of these varied influences, "romantic and passionate earth-connected colors" will also be popular, the group says.

Technology's influence on 2002 color directions has made the relationship between color and finishes an important issue in the forecasting process. New advances in the field of color and design are driving the development of new pigments, materials and products. These allow designers to innovate with texture and special effects like never before. Because of such advances, most of the colors forecast for 2002 will be just as important in a pearl finish as they are in a flat color.

Special-effect finishes add dimension to any color and, because consumers are increasingly intrigued by products and spaces that heighten the sensory experience, pearlescent, iridescent, metallic, and textured finishes are growing in demand. Such finishes add a perceived value and are becoming a product attribute that consumers expect, CMG says.

Featured colors for 2002

Among the numerous colors featured in the 2002 Consumer Color Directions Forecast are Rosa Roja, a multicultural, non-synthetic red with a strong Latin influence, and Tiger Lily, a complex and multidimensional orange that combines the vibrant florals of nature with the glow of a soft fire. CMG describes Lemoncello as "a hybridization of nature and technology into a sophisticated yellow that has a calming green influence." Mesa Verde, which is strongly influenced by a blue undertone, is a true green that heralds the move away from the recent acidic lime greens.

Other colors in the 2002 palette include Blue Bayou, Essence of Lilac, Moon Shadow, and Sycamore. Blue Bayou represents a shift from classic navy towards an updated techno-version of blue with a metallic, water sheen. An extreme, pale botanical blue with a hint of lilac, Essence of Lilac supports the desire for translucency across all market segments, whereas Moon Shadow moves away from technological themes and reflects society's fascination with atmospheric grays. When combined with other hues, Moon Shadow serves as a neutral that allows other colors to retain their individual appeal. On the darker side, Sycamore represents the evolution of a classic neutral brown. CMG describes Sycamore as "edgy but luxurious."

Color surrounds us and reflects the way we live. It occupies an important place in society - from the blue tones used in films and videos to create surreal atmospheres, to the technologically-driven demand for metallics and iridescents. Color forecasting is undertaken to give manufacturers a glimpse into the future. By anticipating what customers will be drawn to and what they will most likely buy, these companies can turn a trend into a tool that increases demand for their consumer products.

More information about CMG and its 2002 consumer color palette can be obtained on the World Wide Web at www.colormarketing.org.