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Colour & Materials
Published: 18 Dec 2013

Colour & Materials Year in Review 2013

It has been a busy year for the Colour & Materials team, having attended numerous inspirational events throughout the year. Senior editor Kuan Chi Hau highlights the key  directions for colour and material in 2013.

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Digital Extremes

Digital technology is a huge influence across all creative fields; the explosion of digital media and designers experimenting with software has led to a bright and inspirational movement. An overview can be seen in our Hyperreal Design report as part of the Thinking Digitally Industry Trend. As digital technology evolves, this saturated colour level will continue with the advent of more personal interactive mechanisms such as mobile apps and music videos, as discussed in our Colour Spectrum S/S 15 Engineered rationale.

Meanwhile, on a more commercial level, throughout the major trade shows – fromMaison&Objet to Milan Furniture Fair and Premiere Vision – the digital influence is reflected in the continued presence of bright and saturated hues as a principal colour direction.

A softer digital colour level is just beginning to emerge with the pioneering combination of analogue and high-tech techniques. Our Colour Spectrum A/W 15-16 Synthetic rationale andDigital Chromatics report collates these projects; while not as brightly hued, they are still as eye-catching. 

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Renault's Twin'Z concept vehicle designed by Ross Lovegrove
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Io Echo: Ministry of Love
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Everest Textile, Premiere Vision A/W 2014-15
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Nike: Lebron x MPV Shoe
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Wingårdh and Saksi:Stockholm Pavillion
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Reed + Rader: Brave New World
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Tomas Saraceno: Poetic Cosmos of the Breath
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Blow: Astrobrights Packaging
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New Resin Series by Jo Nagasaka for Established & Sons, Lond

Everything is Light

Technological advancements were a huge influence for both colour and material this year. The rapid development of digital technology is probably influencing the rise of projects that principally use light as a medium. Mesmerising imagery is used to form more illusionary and soothing installations. Our Colour Spectrum S/S 15 Play of Light rationale and review of the Light Show exhibition exemplify this theme.

Lightweight continues to be a theme for materials, with new technology forming ever thinner and lighter products. Our Seamless rationale and Stillness & Suspension report identifies the projects that utilise materials in pioneering new ways, showcasing delicate forms and cunning products that belie their strength and integrated properties.

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Reality Show, 2010, by Iván Navarro
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Untitled, 1969, by Doug Wheeler
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Zaha Hadid: Floating Staircase
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Christo & Jeanne-Claude: Big Air Package
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Sadie Williams: MA Graduate Collection
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Philippe Starck x Kartell: Aunts and Uncles
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Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP: Optical Glass House

Responsive Materials

One of 2013’s most significant themes was the growing use of materials that can adapt to their environment or possess an integrated function. Our Materials Focus rationales Distortion andResponsive both explore the application of smart and reactive materials – from visual trickery, to experimental production processes.

It’s a subject fascinating many – for instance, at technical textile show Techtextil, standout fabrics incorporated additional heat-retaining or protective properties. Our Under the Radar report highlights the new innovation for camouflage – from ‘invisible’ architecture, to stealth clothing. Continuing our exploration into adaptive materials, the Magnetic Potential report highlights the versatility and functionality of magnetic materials – from clever adaptive products, to experimental fashion.

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MVRDV: Glass Farm Shop
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Hussein Chalayan A/W 13-14 Rise Collection
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Alessandro Brighetti: Cyclothymia
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Claire Lavabre: Reflet Mirror
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GDS Architects: Tower Infinity
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Iris van Herpen x Jólan van der Wiel: Magnetic Dresses
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Estudio Guto Requena: Noize Chairs
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Adam Harvey: Stealth Wear
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Yiannis Ghikas: Magneto Table

Ultra Surreal

The antithesis of all the groundbreaking digital technology is a trend for the familiar. At Milan Furniture Fair this year, many iconic products were reissued in new colourways. One key example is Swiss furniture brand Vitra, which commissioned Dutch designer Hella Jongerius to recolour its iconic products in sophisticated pastel shades, successfully refreshing its product range.

The Colour Spectrum S/S 15 Ultra-Surreal rationale revolves around the idea of nostalgia. It surveys the designers and artists who create imaginative visuals reminiscent of bygone eras, emphasised with colour palettes in semi-saturated and earthy hues. For product and fashion, however, we saw a more dynamic approach to the familiar; we explored the appreciation of exaggerated prints and material textures in our Turn up the Texture report.

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Paul Hiller: Theme Parks
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Paul Hiller: Theme Parks
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Rebecca Reeve: Marjory's World
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Stone Design: De Los Austrias Chemist
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Vitra
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Kenneth Cobonpue, Maison & Objet, September 2013
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Eric Trine & Will Bryant: Alley-Oop
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Xiao Lo, RCA graduation collection, Summer 13
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Tortus Copenhagen, London Design Festival 2013
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Domestic, Maison & Objet, September 2013

Reworking & Sustainable Materials

The perception of sustainable materials saw a major shift this year is as their aesthetics become ever more sophisticated and well designed. Young creative and designers are reworking waste materials by using ingenious low-tech production methods, devising crafted products from humble materials with visually compelling results. Examples seen throughout the year at various graduate shows and events include yarn derived from milk protein at Techtextil, and tables made from old flip-flops atMilan Furniture Fair.

Even everyday plastics are reinvigorated; common plastics like polyurethane and polypropylene are being manipulated into new textures and archetypes. Our Materials Focus 15-16 Repurposerationale expands these ideas further. Next year, we will see ever more complex and unexpected material examples as we race to find alternatives to conventional raw materials.

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Aagie Hoekstra: Coleoptera
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Dave Hakkens: Precious Plastics
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Qmilk
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Diederik Schneemann, Ventura Lambrate
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Dafi Reis-Doron: 75% Control Series
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Altered Appliances, Piet Zwart Institue, Willem de Kooning A
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Central Saint Martins Textile Futures at MOST

The New Luxe

New ideas of luxury continue with the appreciation of craftsmanship as reviewed in our Revising Tradition rationale. Designers and craftsman are combining their expertise and knowledge to push the boundaries of materials, forming incredible products. Our Precious Craft rationaleacknowledges these growing ideas of luxury, including humble materials being honed into beautiful opulent pieces. Meanwhile, rare and unusual materials are beginning to inform a unique and exclusive direction, as seen in our Monument rationale.

Luxurious marble was a big story this year; the use of computer numerically controlled and water-jet techniques form new patterns and sinuous curved forms, defying its weight and hardness. Because of these techniques, we saw the use of marble move into tabletop products. Furthermore, other colours and rare marble qualities have appeared, as well as products being decorated to mimic this opulent material.

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Michael Anastassiades and Henraux, Wallpaper* Handmade
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Bethan Gray x Lapicida: Marble Project
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Budri
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Sedimentation series by Hilda Hellstrom
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Campana Brothers x Fabio Salini: Dangerous Luxury
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Henry Bertrand, Premiere Vision A/W 2014-15
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Etat Arkitekter: The Sea Library
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Snickeriet: Havet Cabinet
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Holly Fulton S/S 2014
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Balmain: S/S 2013
FUTURE INSIGHTS
In 2014, we will see more projects utilising unexpected waste materials and low-tech production methods, leading new ideas in sustainable materials.
Luxurious and precious materials will continue to fascinate. Honed by craftsmen and designers, humble or rare and unusual materials broaden the idea of luxury.
Advancing production methods for stone and stone composites are pushed to their boundaries to form lighter and more complex forms.
The bright saturated hues inspired by digital technology will continue, but we see a subtle colour aesthetic evolve.
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