Forecasting 2013 Colors: Getting the Blues is the New Black

BLUE. Indigo. Navy. Cyan. Cobalt. Sapphire. Aqua. Teal. Denim. Sky blue. Persian blue. Egyptian blue. Baby boy blue. Robin egg blue. Electric blue. Steel blue. Cornflower blue. CMYK Process blue. Celestial blue. Imperial blue.

We have so many ways to describe one hue family. Color must be important to us!

Last month, I attended the Color Marketing Group Miami ChromaZone and 2012 International Summit at which I helped analyze the next color trends for 2013/2014. We calculated that next year’s color would be a mid-tone shade of blue with aqueous undertones. Pantone, a common color system used in print & textiles, and Akzo Nobel, a paint & coatings company, also had a strong presence of blue in their palette.

How did several organizations reach similar conclusions? Simply put, their influences came from the same world with the same historical associations, global events and industry trends.

The first thing to explore is where a color has been. Understanding the symbolism, associations, and history of a color within a specific culture can be helpful in understanding where the color might go in the future. Globally, blue is associated with bright optimistic skies, bodies of water, sadness & depression, loyalty & truth, and calmness. It is generally a very a safe, comfortable color. Some of these associations can be regional and so can color trends. For example, in Thailand blue is associated with Friday; in ancient Egypt it protected the dead from evil; and in Britain, sapphire engagement rings symbolize fidelity and loyalty. Historic color associations can become linked to new movements and that color can rise in popularity along with the movement. For instance, the color blue is linked to water, its popularity may reflect a growing global concern with the environment, specifically water quality and preservation.

The second thing to look for is current social, economic, and ecological events & trends. Keeping in touch with what is important to the masses can give insight into how people are feeling. Color is greatly influenced by feelings, which can be difficult to explain without understanding the source of the mood. For example, the economy can influence the shade (lightness/darkness) of a color. If we are in a recession, people may make more conservative decisions, be less adventurous, and choose darker or more neutral colors. If we are in prosperous economic times, people may make less conservative decisions, be more adventurous, and use brighter & bolder colors. As we come out of a recession, there are a lot of mid-tones with small splashes of color here and there. Our current economic condition suggests that we are halfway between making conservative, neutral decisions and bold, adventurous, colorful decisions.

The third source for discovering upcoming color trends is analyzing fast-moving industries such as web, media, and soft goods like fashion. Since these industries are able to change color more quickly, we can use them to predict trends. Industries that move very slowly (due to longer product lifespan or higher price point) such as medical equipment and large home appliances tend to stick to neutrals because they can’t keep up with bolder color trends and would become outdated after a few years. Fashion, on the other hand, must move fast in order to compete because clothing design is not patentable. Since fashion can be legally “knocked off”, speed, color, and 2D pattern design become essential. Though blues have been slowly rising in importance,  it is even more important for fashion to have the correct blues in order to look current.

More aqueous mid-tone blues and darker navy blues are the ones to watch in 2013/2014. In fact, you probably won’t be able to miss them. Be inspired for your next encounter with color, whether it is painting your house, branding your company’s new product line, or buying a new winter coat!  Just remember, getting the blues is the new black.