The designers themselves are the stars of the show. They are attuned to and inspired by the hues they choose for a given season: they mold and manage color so that it attracts or titillates the consumer's eye.
Obviously, fashion designers feel that color is an integral element of their work and recognize the emotional tug at the consumer level. The colors that appear first in fashion will trickle down inevitably to other design sensibilities, including graphic design.
In this modern age of instantaneous global communication, the pecking order is not as rigid as in the past, when new colors were first embraced by fashion, where they remained firmly entrenched for several seasons (or years) before designers and manufacturers adapted them for other design areas. Today the crossover of colors can happen within a matter of days as graphic designers access and adapt to the latest trends.
In the late 1980s, environmentalism was gaining ground as a sociological issue. That encouraged the use of recycled paper and discouraged the use of toxic chemical inks that were used in bolder colors. As a result, nonbleached hues such as beige and off-white became the colors of the moment in consumer goods, including clothing, home furnishings, packaging, and paper.
More recently, the graphic arts industry has spawned some of the most creative and unique color combinations and outrageous images that are constantly flashing on www.whatever.com. Colors bombard the public from a variety of other venues as well—from point-of-purchase to slick magazines, newspapers, catalogs, and billboards to the ubiquitous fashion reports on MTV, E! Entertainment Television, and CNN. As a result of all this exposure to color, the consumer is savvier than ever; he or she expects to see new color offerings in all products, so it behooves the smart designer to stay ahead of the curve.
To stay on the cutting edge of what is happening in color, it is imperative to understand the events that brought them to the forefront. From a purely psychological and sociological perspective, forecasted colors are inspired by lifestyle. For example, when designer coffee became the rage in the mid-1990s, coffee browns came forward in every area of design.
The attitudes and interests of the public at large—not only through entertainment and fashion icons—and their important social concerns, needs, desires, fears, and fantasies may spawn the newest color trends.
Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the PANTONE Color Institute, is an internationally recognized color specialist. She is widely quoted in the media and is the author of several books, including PANTONE Guide to Communicating with Color. For more information, visit www.colorexpert.com.