Emmi Mieskes, product designer at Armstrong
Colour trends in Europe

You are engaged in developing new designs and colours. How do you identify trends, how do you know what direction to take with collections that must be successfully sold sometimes 3-4 years into the future?

First and foremost, we obviously observe the market very closely, talk with architects and our sales people, and go to trade fairs. We also stay abreast of the up and coming trends, which can be predicted up to 2 years in advance. There are special trade publications, magazines, and also international websites and forums, which cover developments in interior design, architecture and general design.

You develop collections for the entire European market. Is it hard to design such wide-ranging collections? Are there national preferences that have to be considered?

It is not very easy to reconcile every country-specific preference into a single collection. It would be nearly impossible to incorporate the tastes of North America or Asia. Within Europe, it is at least possible although there are differences primarily between north and south.

Does that mean that the north uses different colours than the south? Why?

Interior architecture in the north is characterised by clean lines and shapes, simple design, and wood is favoured. In keeping with that, grey hues are usually preferred for the floors – but in a highly nuanced manner. Discreet beige hues that go well with wood are also popular. Colourful accents with changing details are preferred in the predominately neutral interiors, a pea green pillow for example, a red patterned fabric or a light blue chair.

In the south, on the other hand, there is a preference for classic cheery colours. Pastel hues are used in a highly nuanced fashion. Multiple colours are often used in buildings, about one pastel colour per storey. France has developed an elegant blend of styles; in England dark colours such as heavy red or dark green also sell very well. These colours in turn are practically never used in other countries.

How do you bring all the various preferences together?

We try to cover all the angles as much as possible. That means that the collections have a wide range of greys, a lot of pastel hues as well as accent colours. Nevertheless, in the end we must end up with an internally consistent palette, which can also be visually presented in a single concertina book. That is the art of it.

Are there also different preferences with respect to patterns, such as Marmorette or Uni Walton?

No, there are really not any. Pattern choice is primarily dependent on the setting in which it is used. So Marmorette is favoured in health care facilities because it is robust and very easy to maintain, and Colorette, because of its colourfulness, is often found in schools and kindergartens.

You are very close to your target groups. You talk with architects, planners and end users. Is that enough to gain the practical knowledge you need?

No, of course not, we go much further than that. For instance, we recently borrowed an age simulation suit. With it you can put yourself in the place of older people: impaired hearing, restricted movement and impaired vision created by a helmet with a green visor. We then ran through the various patterns and colours and determined that people feel unsure on dark and cool colours. We also found that a light-coloured, almost white floor was rather unpleasant. Warm colours, on the other hand, engender a feeling of certainty, as do wood patterns and warm grey hues. That is important to know, especially when developing colour palettes for use in hospitals and nursing homes.

Thank you very much for this very nice conversation!