Belinda Stening spoke with director, Kathy Demos for some insight into how it all works.

How is colour preference influenced by culture and lifestyle?

We respond to a range of influences, be they world events, economies, changing demographic and family structures and cultural issues. At times we have shown signs of withdrawal or ‘cocooning’. When we feel threatened by the world around us, we choose products and colours to reflect this mood.

More recently, we are revealing how we have come to terms with these factors and show a preparedness to live our lives to the fullest – we chase the dream of houses by the sea or in the country, products that add a meaning to our lives. Colours like yellow, green, blue that represent these elements and a sense of celebration and joy.

The significance of colour and how people respond to it is driven by our culture and lifestyle. To ignore the importance of colour in the design, manufacturing and marketing of products is to ignore these very factors that determine consumer choices

Is there such a thing as Australian colour?

Yes, in the sense that there are colours that at a given time resonate with our cultural and social values which then translate into consumer behaviour and preferences.

How do the colours of Australian products differ from those of European or Asian products?

We mainly choose from a conservative or neutral palette in Australia. But then our population size does not always support the manufacturers’ or suppliers’ range of choice that is offered in Europe.  The scale of our market cannot compare. Whether it is furniture or cars, we either produce or have access to a range of colour options appropriate to the scale of the market.

We do not see the full range of BMW car colours, for example, we have possibly one quarter of what is offered in other markets.

A market of 600 million in Europe compared to a market of 20 million in Australia – and a highly dispersed one at that – clearly suggests selectivity in what is made available.

The key consideration is how companies like BMW choose products for the Australian market. And it is at this point that an understanding of this market and those things that influence it, is so vital. This is the role that Colourways fills – with its immense pool of data, experience and research it provides accurate directions in colour preferences for local industry and importers.

Do you see any colour trends emerging in particular product categories, for example, biomedical, outdoor, sports, housewares and mobile phones?

Mobile phones are now so personalised – whether it be in the choices available in colour, ring tones, or a phone’s wallpaper. Today, phones extend into ergonomic shapes that fit the palm of your hand, like the new Motorola Pebl which takes on the evocative shape and feel of holding a smooth pebble in your hands.

All products associated with environmental issues have taken up the colour green – the green grocery bags are everywhere. It sends a strong message about the environmental credentials of any product (whether they are verified or not).

Sports, especially extreme sports, have influenced other products or apparel – the colour orange which indicates caution in a place of potential danger was taken up by marketers as a colour for youth and for daring. Orange telecommunications is one example. 

What about the increasing impact and use of the colour of light?

Light is being seen as the origin of a product’s colour, rather than revealing the colour in other surfaces. You can change the mood of a hotel room by dialling up the colour of choice emitted by light. St Martins Lane Hotel, London by Philippe Starck is a good example of this.

Are there any new ‘colourable’ materials that designers and manufacturers may be using?

The most interesting development in colour and finishes comes from our technical ability to recreate finishes. If you like leather, you can now choose to have the natural material or a facsimile of it, whether it is made of laminate, acrylic, ceramic, concrete or any other material. You can choose the look and then select the properties, (colour) or price that suits the application best.

What is the best way to test consumer/ user reaction and response to colour?

Colourways Australia only tests reactions in order to demonstrate the accuracy of our forecasts. We have a greater interest in looking forward to predict the direction of consumer’s changing preferences for colour. When most manufacturers have lead times between six months to six years, the accuracy of forecasting information is vital. It is a fundamental consideration in the design, manufacturing and marketing of new products.

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