Most of us have a favorite color, but few of us bother to ponder more than superficially the deep art and science of color. How can it impact our impression of products, brands and even our mood? There are others who are devoted to delving into these topics –– from researching how to ensure consistent application of colors, to different materials and substrates, to forecasting tomorrow’s “hot” shades and hues.
Judith van Vliet, a color expert
One of those is Judith van Vliet, a designer at Clariant’s ColorWorks® design and technology center in Merate, Italy. In January 2012, Judith began working at Clariant, a Switzerland-based speciality chemicals company. She has led the firm’s ColorForward® color-forecasting team, which produces an annual color forecasting guide for designers who use plastics in their products and packaging.
Prior to joining Clariant, van Vliet, now 37, did freelance market and trend research in Italy. She also worked as a product planning specialist for Kawasaki Motors Europe where she provided European color and trend reports to the firm’s designers based in Japan. While at Kawasaki, a colleague strongly urged her to attend a Color Marketing Group event that was coming up in Berlin, Germany.
She went, somewhat apprehensively, wondering how she’d fit in, but said, “Immediately there was a ‘click.’ … These people speak my language. We feel the same way, we talk about how color is in our emotional language, so I was immediately in love. And at that moment I decided that this was what I wanted to do in life.”
Van Vliet became active in the Alexandria, Virginia-based CMG (www.colormarketing.org). In 2015, she began a three-year stint as the group’s vice president for communications and public relations. Then, in January 2018, the Netherlands native was elected to a two-year term as CMG’s president. As such, she became the first European, and the first millennial, to hold that post for the 58-year-old, not-for-profit, international association of color design professionals.
Venturing into the ChromaZone
CMG is known for its research into assessing future color directions. It holds so-called ChromaZone® color forecasting workshops around the world each year, in venues ranging from Shanghai and Milan to Montreal and Lima, Peru. At these events, like-minded professionals from different sectors bring their own color trends research and make brief presentations. They break into groups and brainstorm about all the proposed colors and underlying themes. Then, they reach a consensus on the 16 color selections they intend to put forward for consideration at various regional CMG events.
This global process eventually leads to a consensus forecast of 64 colors, to be revealed as the 2021+ World Color Forecast™ at CMG’s annual International Summit. This year’s summit will be held in Tucson, Arizona, from Nov. 15-17. These color selections often prove to be hugely influential across many spectrums, ranging from consumer goods and automobiles, to fashion and interior design.
Van Vliet also was a founding committee member of CMG’s monthly Color Alerts® (www.colormarketing.org/color-alerts). Its purpose is to evaluate and validate previously forecast colors by documenting real-world applications of those projected hues.
In a telephone interview shortly after she hosted a ChromaZone color forecasting workshop during Milan Design Week, van Vliet reflected on her career path and on what she’s learned about color along the way.