Nature’s Color Palettes: not just for earth tones

Color trends come and go. One year we’re in neon, the next it’s camo, the next might be black on black. As designers who march to the trends, we have numerous sources for color forecasting that tell us what’s in and what’s out, what we should be doing, what sells, etc…. Personally, I have always hovered around what nature brings me on a silver platter. If you immediately think of subdued earth tones, I’m here to remind you, there’s so much more. 

Look around next time you venture outdoors! It’s a big wild word out there, and it’s not just shades of tan, sage, silver and blue — which are indeed stunningly beautiful as well. The range is breath taking and Mama Nature tends to put together combinations that are both unexpected and fabulous. Oftentimes they even venture to showy. Have you ever looked at a painting of a Hawaiian sunset? It’s bold and exactly how nature intended it. No filters needed. Dig in deeper and look at our wildlife and you will really see something to behold. Chartreuse paired with eggplant and cinnamon. Turquoise, lime, yellow and orange. All shades of fire. It’s all there in all its glory and the combinations work really well. Take those palettes out of context and use them in your design and you suddenly have something that feels unique and unexpected. Memorable. Fresh. I’ve often been told that I have a wonderfully unique sense of color. My secret’s out. 

From a psychological point of view, I suspect that using these combos also feels somehow familiar yet exotic. Perhaps reminiscent of something wild but soothing. Many of us designers are trained to understand how color influences perception. How do you respond when you see orange? You might think of the fruit, and can perhaps even taste its juicy sweetness, but beyond that it feels – happy. Orange and yellow are optimism and brighter days. As that color moves into red, it also changes how we respond. Red is powerful and bold. It’s exciting! It can also mean danger and desire- somehow synonymous. Red attracts attention more than any other color, and that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do in nature. Whether to indicate that- “Hey I’m poisonous don’t eat me”, or “Hey baby check out these feathers.” Perhaps our Pavlovian responses also stem back to nature’s initial intent, and we have simply claimed that thought process as our own.

What’s better? Trend or Nature? It’s hard to say honestly. Trend is, well trend, and temporary. It’s what drives commerce, whether that’s good or bad. Some color trends are better than others, but color is personal so who’s to say what’s good and bad. It seems that currently we are in the midst of a trend that does look to nature for its palette, certainly in the outdoor and sports market. What I hear mostly about, however, are the most considered colors in nature — the tans, beiges, sage greens and dusty blues- the subdued and softer side of nature. Earth tones. Regardless, in the spirit of acknowledging that nature has more going on, next time you hear someone refer to a natural palette in reference to anything, keep in mind those crazy exotic birds and Hawaiian sunsets. 

image: shamsazizi

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s