Whirlpool Corp. Design Team Predicts the Future of Color
Senior Manager of the Material, Color and Finish Studio Jessica McConnell leads a team of design detectives who scour the globe to figure out which trends are hot, which are not, and which are here to stay. “We do a great deal of research to determine what’s going on in the world of design and color,” said McConnell. “That involves looking at fads and trends. A fad is something we watch and monitor over time to see if it evolves and becomes a trend. We don’t want to attach ourselves to fads, because the design and colors we choose for our major appliances have to be relevant for at least 15 years, since that’s how long they’re living in people’s homes.”
Color is the first thing a person sees when looking at an appliance and influences buying decisions, explains McConnell. “Color is incredibly emotional,” she said. “People are drawn to color for various reasons, and it’s usually an emotional response. They might like a certain color because it means something to them.”
The design team’s search for the next big color starts with social and cultural trends — an investigation into the behaviors and attitudes of people. Because designers are predicting the future, they look to art, fashion and architecture to gauge where trends might be heading.
“Those industries are ahead of everybody else and much more forward thinking,” said McConnell. “If you think about artists, they’re just responding to feelings they have. Those feelings later become shared amongst a larger group of people, as we’re all subject to the same factors. We all live in the same social context with the same politics and environmental issues. We have the same technology impacting our lives.”
These early adopters of color trends are good predictors of how the mass commercial market will trend. It could take years to reach that point, however. This year’s hottest color is black. Whirlpool Corporation pioneered this trend in home appliances by being the first to introduce Black Stainless in 2014. Another big hit with reviewers is the KitchenAid Artisan Black Tie Limited Edition Stand Mixer, made with all black finishes and premium materials, including die cast zinc, satin and black chrome.
“Black is experiencing a big moment right now, especially Matte Black,” said McConnell. “It’s been building for ten years. Matte Black is just incredibly sophisticated and incredibly chic. It’s really elegant and really expensive, but can be affordable. When we put it on some of our products, we can make a relatively entry-level product look really expensive. Even our version of black stainless is more matte than anybody else’s. It was designed to be that way.”
McConnell doesn’t see this trend they identified years ago going away anytime, soon, either. “That’s the thing about Matte Black,” she said. “It will literally never go out of style. If you look at glossy black, it has really had a long life in the market. We developed our first glossy black in the 80’s and we transitioned to Black Stainless in 2014. That’s more than a 30-year life span for black. There’s still a long time for the Matte Black trend to mature. I don’t know if we’ll see it live for 30 years, because now trends are moving faster with connectivity and technology, but for sure I see it lasting 15 years, no problem.”
Until then, the Whirlpool Corporation design team continues to investigate which color will emerge as the next big thing, always working to stay ahead of the curve to keep the products they design relevant and fresh.