Colour Trend Analyst, Leatricie Eiseman, Declares 2012 the Year of Tangerine Tango

Interview with international colour forecaster, Leatrice Eiseman

Credit: Pantone Inc.

Leatrice Eiseman forecasts colour trends that influence fashion, art and design

2012’s going to be a tangerine year. Tangerine Tango, to be exact, at least according to Leatrice Eiseman, often referred to as “the international colour guru.” Her colour expertise is respected around the world and her choice of colours set the trends in fashion, design and decor. Lee is executive director at the Pantone Color Institute and head of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training.

Colour Reflects the Zeitgeist

As a colour forecaster, Lee has the trained ability to sense the mood of the consumer collective and interprets those emotions into tangible colours that she knows will resonate. “It goes beyond fashion,” she explains. “Colour reflects the zeitgeist – it strikes a chord, it generates excitement. Even the naysayers see that more and more people understand how colours are an intrinsic part of our lives and lifestyle.”

Lee selects the 10 top fashion colours twice yearly for Pantone and Women’s Wear Daily.

She’s influenced by everything that surrounds her. “We [in the industry] have this ability – we have sort of an ‘antennae’ – that helps us pick up on clues.” These clues she finds in art collections, new movies, stage shows, advertisements. Nearly all things creative find a place in the formula. “The economy as well,” Lee remarks. “People are typically more cautious when the economy is dicey or when there’s great concern.” The colours remain the same, but it’s the scale or focus that changes. “Big ticket items become more neutral and accents become more colourful.”

Why We Love Colour

With a background in psychology, Lee has an erudite theory on why we love colour. Going back to our childhoods, Lee believes that our first formative experiences were intrinsically tied to strong colour associations that left lifelong impressions – remember your first box or crayons? Or that scratchy school uniform? Or your favourite beach toys? These impressions transcend time and even words. These are the visceral reactions we have when we scrunch up our noses at navy blue, smile at grass green and simply must buy that sunshine yellow shirt.

Eventually as we grow older, and especially so for boys, we don’t work with colours as much, and when we do it’s typically in increasingly restrictive ways. “We lose that excitement,” Lee explains, “but it’s in our psyche and given the chance we all want to express ourselves with colours and release ourselves from the learned ‘rules’ of colours. Given the opportunity,” she believes, “people love to express themselves in colour as long as there’s no judgement.”

And that’s what Lee does. “I’m giving people permission to express in colour in a way that makes them feel good.”

2012: The Year of Tangerine Tango

So back to Tangerine Tango.  Why is it the perfect colour for now? If you break this colour down, like all orange-based hues, it’s a blend of the two primary colours: red and yellow. “Red is the adrenaline-pumping, sensual aspect,” Lee explains. “Yellow is the warm, welcoming sunshine and cheerfulness. Marrying the two results in a complex and beautifully expressive colour. It’s a colour that’s exciting, and when we’re living in a time where there’s general malaise and financial concerns, you need a colour like this to give you a jolt. Tangerine Tango reflects the optimism and warmth; it reaches out and gathers us in. This is precisely what we’re looking for in 2012.”

To hear more about Lee’s ideas on how future colour trends will impact all colour and design decisions, join her at BUILDEX, where she’ll be presenting a seminar on Wednesday, February 8, from 10:30am to 12:30pm. She’ll also discuss the origins and drivers of the trends, followed by a question and answer session. BUILDEX is one of Canada’s largest tradeshow and conference for those interested in design, construction and real estate management.