Consumer Tech insights: three tips for successful CMF design

Nice phone graphic
WGSN x Lucy Hardcastle
Sep 10, 2021 By WGSN Insider

Colour, material and finish can be key differentiators in a crowded market, and understanding how to use them on an emotional and symbolic level can be important to create lasting and prosperous relationships with your customers.

To celebrate the launch of WGSN Consumer Tech, we spoke to Chloe Jerrard, Global Senior Consultant at WGSN’S consulting division, Mindset, who has years of experience guiding design and tech clients. Here, she identifies three areas of opportunity and challenges for CMF design (Colour, Material and Finish).

Build emotional connections

CMF is an instrumental driver of desire, which many brands are learning to leverage, so we’re seeing increased demand for our expertise in this area. Using the right design cues to create cultural alignment will increase product and brand relevance for consumers. 

During a time when many design teams have been cut off from the culture and people they are designing for, we’re often being asked:

  • What will appeal and be relevant to our target consumers?
  • How can we create newness for key regions?
  • What emotional and sensorial aspects translate to CMF?

I've seen clients use a range of interesting practices to become more culturally relevant, including exploring the local market dynamics of colour, analysing cross-category shifts in colour and observing the semiotic and symbolic meaning of colours.

Validate CMF design with science

Surface tactility and colour can completely transform perceptions and are the basis of our surroundings. However, CMF design is, unfortunately, largely still perceived in some industries as decorative. Designers are often questioned on research integrity for CMF directions, meaning they need to validate the concepts they create through strategic research practices. 

Brands working through this challenge are working with us to:

  • Provide strategic reviews and assessment of internal practices
  • Leverage data to validate future potential colour and material decisions
  • Identify gaps and highlight opportunities to stay ahead of competition

Cultivating an internal culture that welcomes and embeds insight into CMF design practices requires taking a deeper look at the market by benchmarking and segmenting colours and materials. It also involves forecasting the evolution of colour and using predictive analytics to create evidence-based directions.

Thermo wide against purple background
WGSN x Lucy Hardcastle

Aspiration in the new normal

Interestingly, this third point is almost the reverse of the others, because sometimes too much insight can stifle the design vision. Unfortunately, over-focusing on research and product testing can take very interesting concepts through to a homogenised aesthetic that follows the overall trajectory of the industry rather than carving a distinct look and feel. Questions I would encourage teams to ask themselves are:

  • How do our CMF directions compare with competitors and the market?
  • What should our CMF strategy be to create newness while considering longevity?
  • What messages will consumers respond to about the materials we promote?
  • How do we give more clarity on the sustainability credentials of our materials and processes?

Focusing not only on aesthetic impressions but also the values imbued through CMF can enhance the understanding of visual perceptions in consumer testing. Many of our clients are looking to formalise this by setting out a more refined roadmap of research throughout their product portfolio creation.

For more information about WGSN’s consulting services and capabilities with CMF, click here or reach out to your Account Manager and Client Services contact. WGSN clients can find out more about our new Consumer Tech product here, including our Colour, Material and Finish Forecasts for 2023

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