“Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment” Claude Monet
Understanding colour schemes, studying consumer tastes and predicting what will be popular is the job of the colour designer. It’s a role that requires creative flair, attention to detail and complex data-crunching.
“Colour design plays an important role in giving concrete shape to Toyota design,” explains Toyota colour designer Keiko Shishido. “But a colour designer is not an artist – because we’re developing a vehicle, we have to think within fixed parameters. Thinking from the customer perspective enables one to grasp customer sensibilities from contemporary trends, in-vogue colours, and the mood of the times.
“Using professional skills means that you can work on the colour design while at the same time making clear-headed appraisals of marketing data and past sales figures and meeting the unique requirements of the vehicle. You can be outstanding at one of these, but unless you have both abilities, I don’t think really good colour design is possible.
“Is this really the style of colour and material that customers are looking for? Is this really the car they want? I always make sure to run these questions through the filter of my own experience and then go back to work again on the design.”
Making sure colours work together both inside and out is a crucial part of colour design. A car’s instrument panel and steering wheel, seat fabric, ceiling, carpet and other interior fittings are made of a wide range of materials, and it is the colour designer’s job to make sure they coordinate.
“I sometimes think that what I do as a writer is make a kind of colouring book, where all the lines are there, and then you put in the colour” John Irving
Car colours reflect trends in fashion and design, with manufacturers analysing what colours are popular in those fields around the world. For more than a decade, silver was the most popular UK car colour, accounting for 36 per cent of all cars sold here, according to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. But thanks to what has become known as the ‘Apple Effect’, white has overtaken it in the sales charts, reflecting the huge success of the Apple brand. After massive popularity in the '80s, white cars were distinctly unfashionable 10 years ago – making up less than one per cent of new cars sold. Today the figure is more than 22 per cent.
“Our everyday environment abounds with colour, in the clothes we like to wear, the interior décor we choose to relax in, and the colourful foods we like to eat,” says Shishido. “Letting people exercise the same kind of preference when they choose their cars is what Toyota’s colour design is working toward.”