Design strategy: What really goes into creating the perfect colour palette

Creating colour palettes is an essential part of the design process. Whether for apparel, beauty or interiors, assembling colour harmonies can be challenging, due to the complex nature of working with colour. Colour perceptions can be influenced by many factors including culture, lighting, personal associations, context and of course trends, which is where we come in at WGSN.

Here at WGSN, the colour team takes into consideration many points: firstly, what influences are coming in that will drive colour trends? Once we have gathered this information, then we work out what colours fit within this message, the message may even be about a singular colour, there are no rules at this stage.

Knowing the key colour messages for the season is important, but it goes beyond that, since design industries don’t always work in such a singular way. It’s about the grouping of colours, it may be about a single tone bright with a high Chroma level (which means a very pure, intense saturation- like a bold red) standing out amongst a group of neutral colours, in this case the neutrals are showcasing the bright. Or it maybe about softer less saturated midtones all working off each other.

However one thing is key and that is the importance of highs and lows.

In creating a colour palette, it is advised to vary the saturation levels, otherwise the selection will be flat, and creating a successful collection will be more challenging. Even if the colours are of a similar hue, they should vary in lightness and saturation to create depth and complexity. Harmony will be achieved by experimenting with various levels to create the best result. Colours can be taken as high or low as desired but palettes must have broad appeal to generate the greatest commercial value.

Working all of this out can be quite a complicated process, happily advances in technology have seen systems such as the Coloro 9 segment coding system, simplfy this whole process.

Each of the nine segments works in a methodical way, connecting hues of similar saturation and lightness to enable harmonious palettes. All hues can be sorted into low, middle and high lightness segments and low, middle and high chroma segments.

This is a great tool to aid designers, and provide a more streamlined way of approaching the colour process.




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