Color Choices


posted on 19th of july, 2008

An interesting thread on another blog that I follow popped up this week. One of the contributors wanted to know what colors sold the most images. It's been about 4 years, but I attended a one day design workshop in New York where many top people from the design industry and software industry spoke about commercial art and color choices. The man who does the graphic design for Martha Stewart, or did at the time, spoke on color choices. A woman who writes books on color for Pantone was there, too. I can't remember their names, but I do remember the basic ideas of their speeches.


The designer said that over 60% of Americans when polled on their favorite color listed blue as their first choice. Green was a distant second with all other choices being favorites for a very small percentage of those polled. He suggested that to appeal to the largest number of people, working in blues and greens was preferable. The woman from Pantone added in her talk that often risky colors that many people didn't like would become popular. Like the use of orange in almost everything during the last 5 or 6 years. She suggested using these colors as accents rather than making them the dominant color in a design. This was hard information for me to swallow as I'm a warm colors person. I just love those reds and oranges. It's hard for me to work in the cool hues, but I know when I do images in blues and greens, that they are well received.


This is information that I've used over and over again since the workshop. It's also raised some questions for me that I doubt anyone has researched. Does color preference change by country? The bright warm textiles of Morocco and India come to mind as well as the blues of Sweden.

One other bit of information that I don't know how many of you are aware of is that there is a color board. It's a group of color people and designers from the fashion and design industries that get together and decide what colors will be fashionable. They forecast the most popular colors for several years in the future. There is a subscription service for this information, but it's out of the budgets of most photographers and designers. Color makes a progression through the various areas of manufacturing. It shows up in women's clothing first. Then it moves to men's clothing and then to children's clothing. From clothing it moves to home design such as furniture and appliances. Lastly, it shows up in the automobile industry. This happens just before it becomes "old fashioned." Here in the US, we might take a look at all of the orange cars currently being produced. Orange may have almost run it's course as a popular color.


Of course, all of this is influenced by current events. I imagine already popular green will stay popular for a long time because of the trend toward green eco-friendly products. It's the shade of green that may evolve. What amazed me when I learned all of this information is that we're all such tools of the fashion industry. While I'd like to ignore this information, it's a useful tool for anyone selling images commercially. How many of us get rid of old clothing because the color looks dated? I don't anymore but I did when I was younger and less knowledgeable.


This piece is written from memory, but I'll be doing more research on the topic and will post more information in the future.


Pat Ballard

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Photo credits: Patricia L. Ballard.

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