When Color Trends Matter—And When to Ignore Them
January 16, 2018
It’s a new year and Pantone has announced its official color of 2018: Ultra Violet #18-3838. The Pantone Color Institute, which has been forecasting color trends every year since 2000, says this shade of violet “communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.”
Taking it a step further, the institute’s executive director Leatrice Eiseman says it “takes our awareness and potential to a higher level. From exploring new technologies to the greater galaxy, to artistic expression and the spiritual reflection, intuitive Ultra Violet lights the way to what is to come.”
That inspirational message is particularly resonant coming off the heels of 2017—a year that saw a total solar eclipse, Cassini’s grand finale, expanding artificial intelligence capabilities, and the #MeToo movement. The world is changing and each day seems to bring about some new event, product, or technology that could impact our lives.
Trend forecasting isn’t the sole purview of Pantone. There are color professionals all over the world who gather together to predict what colors will dominate a range of industries such as paint, automotive, electronics, and fashion.
This all sounds exciting, if slightly overwhelming. So what does it all mean?
As with all trends, take Pantone’s Color of the Year for what it’s worth. Forecasting Ultra Violet’s popularity doesn’t mean making all your company’s ads purple. Capitalizing on design trends depends on your brand, your product or service, and your audience.
And, as with all things, context is key.
When it comes to your brand
Consider where your company falls within Jennifer Aaker’s Brand Dimensions framework. Following the framework, there are five core dimensions that describe a brand’s profile:
Research shows that people most positively associate the color purple—which was historically used by royalty—with sophistication. On the other end of the spectrum, the combination of purple and ruggedness produced a negative reaction.
Do you have an outdoor travel company with a target audience of nature enthusiasts who love rock climbing? Then incorporating purple into your brand palette may not be the wisest choice.
But if you’re a SaaS company whose primary persona is a C-suite executive who sends her kids to private school and drives a Mercedes, exploring a purple logo design would be more appropriate.
When it comes to campaigns
If purple isn’t in line with your brand profile, you can still utilize the Ultra Violet trend in other capacities. When conceptualizing campaigns throughout the year, consider pulling in themes that are associated with purple. On an elemental level, the cosmos itself is emblematic of the color. One of the most well-known rays is ultraviolet, after all.
Are you a tech company creating content about the public versus private cloud? A financial services company running a paid media campaign about cybersecurity in the cryptocurrency market? Innumerable topics pair well with purple and related space imagery.
When it comes to personas
A person’s interpretation of color is influenced by his or her own life experiences, culture, age, and gender.
According to Joe Hallock’s research survey, women prefer the color purple overwhelmingly compared to men. Twenty-three percent of female participants said purple was their favorite color, while 0 percent of male participants chose purple as their favorite color—and 22 percent of males said purple was their least favorite color. Purple also became increasingly popular among older survey participants compared to those who were younger.
If your primary persona is older adult females, utilizing Ultra Violet in your brand palette is a good approach. But if you want to create content geared toward young men, explore a different palette.
Again, context means everything when applying color to your brand and marketing efforts. Your industry, company goals, brand profile, and personas should all be taken into consideration when exploring colors. And remember that trends aren’t permanent. They should be used as a guide for inspiration, but 12 months from now we’ll be talking about the next color of the year.
About the author
Danielle Riley was formerly the Creative Director at SmartBug Media. She has over 10 years of experience designing for business large and small. With a background in journalism, she approaches design from a strategic and research-oriented perspective. Good design is clean, useful and serves a purpose. Read more articles by Danielle Riley.