Twice each year more than 600 members of CMG, Alexandria, VA, meet to do just that. CMG members are professionals. They are involved in virtually every industry you could name: home interiors (from window and floor coverings to paint, wallpaper, linens, accessories and appliances), apparel, automotive, office furniture, toys, greeting cards and gift wrapping. What's more, they are the marketing, technical or design specialists who have a direct influence on the color of products their companies bring to market.
Each spring CMG members gather in small workshops to discuss color movement in the consumer market up to two or more years ahead. The workshops are divided by industry segments: transportation, communications and graphics, home interiors, architectural and building products, fashion, and action and recreation equipment. Likewise in the fall, members who spend at least 35 percent of their time in the contract and commercial market, including health care, hospitality and entertainment, office and retail, gather to reach a consensus on a color palette three or more years ahead.
There's a lot at stake in color forecasting. Color often is regarded as the first and last influence on a consumer's buying decision, so manufacturers want to be sure they have products in the right colors on the shelves ready to sell. This can be an especially tricky task if you are an auto maker, for example, with a three-year-plus lead time for new products. "Our members take their job very seriously," says Melanie C. Wood, Mannington Mills, Inc., who is midway through her two-year term as CMG president. Wood emphasizes the validity and accuracy of CMG's forecasts as a result of its members' professionalism and the interaction of the many industries involved.
Collective Collaborative Consensus
In April, nearly 600 CMG members met in Colorado Springs, CO, to develop the consumer color palette for the year 2000, although the process actually started well before then. Six weeks prior to the meeting, members were asked to develop individual forecasts based on what colors have been successful in their industries over the past year and on which directions they see colors moving.
A wide variety of influences merge in the creation of the individual forecasts. These influences can be anything from the economy and the environment to international politics, sports, America's aging society, new and changing social issues and cultural events. (For more specifics on the influences on CMG's color forecast for 1999, see Design Perspectives on page 48.)
The individual forecasts, made up of swatches and paint chips, arrived before the members did and were collected and posted in color groups in their appropriate workshops. In Colorado Springs, there were 21 workshops: 12 in home fashions, four in transportation, two in action and recreation gear, two in communications and graphics and one in fashion and apparel.
What transpired over the ensuing day and a half was a lengthy discussion on the importance of each color, the influences on each decision and the shifts hues are likely to take. After much talk, comparison and voting, each workshop developed a palette of about 10 forecast colors. The workshop leaders then presented the palettes to the steering workshop where the process began again, this time among the 21 workshop leaders, until eventually a consensus palette of about 35 colors was developed.
This final palette includes both emerging and forecast colors. Emerging colors are those anticipated to appear in products in a year to 18 months and expected to be evident for another year beyond that. These colors may or may not have appeared in previous CMG palettes. Forecast colors represent color directions anticipated in products in 19 months to three years or more. They are new colors, not found on previous palettes or in the marketplace yet.
This same process was followed in November 1997 in San Francisco, CA, for the contract/commercial color forecast.
What can we expect in color directions for the year 2000? In the commercial/contract market look for colors striving to reach spiritual purity, colors that will lend form, function and spirituality to design. Among the directions in which CMG sees the contract palette moving are:
• Neutrals—neutrals become infused with color.
• Soul—more sophisticated, usable, multi-purpose colors representing toned down, softened and refined hard-edged, techno-brights.
• Texture—texture becomes at least as important as color.
The CMG contract color forecast for 2000 includes:
• Bay Fog—a complex neutral with gray, blue and purple.
• Copper Leaf—less harsh than a new penny with more depth and texture.
• Frosted Jade—dreamy gray-green.
• Salsa Lito—browned red that is strong and opulent.
• Spa—Water-influenced, pure color that is healing and healthful.
• Thai Gold—rich, yellow gold from the ancient Far East.
At this stage, the CMG emerging and forecast consumer color palette developed in Colorado Springs remains proprietary information available only to members (even D&WC was not permitted to learn the final consensus palette while attending the spring conference), however, there are a few things we can expect:
• Water themes will have an important influence on the consumer color direction as the final, unexplored color aspect of "earth trends." The new millennium will cycle back to cool shades of blue in all its vast array of hues.
• People want simplicity—calm, livable lifestyles.
• Cross-cultural influences will create interest in color combinations.
• Distinct palettes will be created for gender and lifestyles. Colors will become more personalized.
• In homes, colors will be softer and cleaner.
In the emerging color palette—those colors that will begin to show up next year and continue into 2000—warm earth tones will dominate and there will be a range of blues. As for the forecast colors for the year 2000 when millions around the globe celebrate the final year of the 20th century and look ahead to the new millennium? Only time will tell. But look for blues, silvers and grays to dominate.