How Does a Paint Company Identify Colour Trends?

Wondering how paint companies create their colour predictions for the coming year? AkzoNobel, a Dutch multinational paint manufacturer – the largest in the world and responsible for the Dulux and Sikkens brands – spells it out for the design world in their annual outlook, arrived at through widespread consultations with independent design professionals from the worlds of colour, fashion and architecture.

What is interesting is their detailed and unabashed celebration of the human element of design. What is happening in society? How are people feeling? What is the dominant mood? What will be important to people, and how can this be represented in colour?

First the colour prediction: Their ColourFutures 2015 palettes pick up on the warm metals trends we have been seeing recently, with the main colour of the year being Copper Orange.

As witnessed at global events from Stockholm and Milan to Shanghai, metallic colour tones are playing an increasingly important role in modern design.

– AkzoNobel

2015 Colour of the Year

And now the reasoning behind this colour inspiration:

It reflects and complements all of the major trends that we have identified for 2015: a warmth in attitude and a renewed emphasis on sharing; the natural palette of the earth, from clay tones to sunlit highlights of yellow; the skin tones that reflect human interaction and the sepia hues of the past.

In the design world, the movement to introduce warmer, rosier hues is not new – think Pantone’s 2014 colour – “Radiant Orchid”. They’ve since followed up with their 2015 colour, “Marsala”, which is actually a warm, muddy colour, well suited to lipstick and clothing. Interestingly, neither AkzoNobel’s copper orange, nor Pantone’s Marsala are particularly “happy” colours. Think “comforting”, or “earthy”.

We’re not likely to see entire rooms swathed in these colours, at least not yet, but with the reigning dominance of neutral variations of grey, it means there is an easy background for the accent usage of these shades.

Grey With Orange


Image via Pinterest

Beyond their signature 2015 colour, AkzoNobel has created a varied palette, divided into subsections, each with specific meanings.

The moody, rich room below is from the section titled his+her, celebrating a blending of masculine and feminine energies.


How do their predictions relate to what is going on in society at any given moment? Have a look at the past ten years of colour predictions, from 2004 to 2014:

The chart above is only bands of pretty colours, until you realize the context of the sociological research and opinions that went into each year’s prediction. The video below explains:

As the New Year approaches, whether or not one finds AkzoNobel’s particular shade of orange copper appealing, let’s hope their overall optimistic outlook for 2015 becomes a reality for the world. As a signifier of much larger societal realities, colour trends are not trivial at all.


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