The Times not only “make the man,” as the cliché goes: The Times also create color trends, says color expert Laurie Pressman.
VP of Pantone, the company that has been codifying colors since 1963, Laurie traced the Role of Color Through the Ages during her Trend Theatre presentations at SURTEX 2014. Down through the 20th and into the 21st century, consumers’ color choices have always reflected current events, she set out to prove.
For example: World War I put us into greens, influenced by Army uniforms. The discovery of King Tut’s toom – “An international cultural phenomenon” -- ushered in a taste for violets and lavenders. The Great Depression put the 1930s into smokey greens and blue-greens, the drab, sad palette relieved by the glamorous satins worn by Hollywood stars and the arrival of Bakelite and other plastics on the home scene.
When WWII ended in 1945, consumers leaped eagerly into bright colors, including blues and pinks – remember “Think Pink” from Funny Face, and Revlon’s famed Fire and Ice lipstick (still a bestseller).
The 1960s went from doom and gloom drabs after the Kennedy assassination to Mod! motifs and psychedelic colors. Sesame Street introduced Kermit green; Howard Johnson, the roofs of orange that “we long associated with fast food = cheap,” Laurie explained. “The US has finally realized that orange is not a cheap color” (in fact, Tangerine Tango was Pantone’s 2012 Color of the Year).
1962 saw the Environmental Movement stir with the publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.” By the 1970s, avocado green and Harvest Gold were as ubiquitous in the American kitchen as disco bling was on the dance floor.
Trends picked up speed in the 1980s and 1990s, segueing from the merriment of Memphis Design from Milan to the black/gray esthetic of Japanese design and the “dirty” coffee colors of the Grunge movement that emanated from Seattle.
Color hit technology in the late 1990s, thanks to Apple, which introduced its first iMac in Bondi Blue and changed the whole perception of technology as inherently tough and gritty.
In 2001, Pantone named Cerulean Blue the “Color of the Century” – just in time for September 11 to bring Red-White-and-Blue back bigtime. Other color stories include the resurgence of brown: “Thanks to Starbucks, brown is now seen as rich and delicious, a luxury color.”
The blue story also began to unfold and green has become a fashion color for the first time in color history, Laurie pointed out
Moving forward from 2014, she sees gray, a natural concomitant of the economic downturn, “living on and on and on – The Guardian calls gray The Color of the Decade.”
Changing technologies and coming events will continue to affect the colors we will want in the future, Laurie reported. Ahead, she sees:
Faster music inspiring more saturated colors;
Colors that change: nail polishes that react to the temperature; interior colors that change by day and night;
Fabrics that light up;
A rage for 3-D printers (4-D printing is already on its way);
Developments in nano technology = colors that reflect light differently, as in Nature’s ages-old design for a peacock’s tail.