Opinion: Colour my window

Colour specification has the potential to positively contribute to a building, especially within the retail sector. Louise Tod, senior global colour designer at Dulux Trade, reviews how best to utilise colour within a retail environment, focusing on the art of window display specification.

Colour can often be far more influential to our shopping behaviours and overall retail experience than expected. Our initial interaction is with the shop window, designed to attract attention and draw passing consumers into the retail space. Once inside, both atmosphere and the natural flow of the space are led by the retailer’s choice of colour scheme. Just as signposts are designed to guide us, so too does the use of colour.

During recent years we have witnessed an increase in the use of deep and saturated colours within the retail sector. This is predominantly due to the rise in consumer confidence with colour. Darker shades of blue and green have led the way, creating a rich and more luxurious canvas for the retail landscape.

However, recently we have also seen an emerging trend within the industry to create a feeling of ‘home’ inside the retail space. This has led to more nurturing colours such as pinks and ochres taking centre stage and inspiring a sense of comfort. These softer colours may not always lend themselves to window dressing but if the desired outcome is for consumers to feel instantly at ease - then this more relaxed colour palette could be the answer.

This shift towards a more homelike atmosphere inspired Dulux Trade to announce Heart Wood as its Colour of the Year for 2018. A delicate, mid-toned warm neutral with a hint of lavender, Heart Wood captures the beauty and warmth of interior design’s material of the moment, wood.

As window display design becomes increasingly experiential, colour is an engaging tool that can be used to set the scene and help build an overall narrative. Throughout the year it is important for the dressing of the window to achieve contrast with the product on display. However, since colour can affect the way consumers feel and ultimately how they then respond to the display, windows must also match the mood of the season.

For example, in the summer, pastel colours are often in fashion and the window design needs to enhance display pieces without overpowering them. Pale blues, lilacs and soft neutrals can provide the ideal background for this. However in winter, it is metallic colours that lead the way, with red also a staple colour for garments and accessories. Due to this, it is probably one of the only times of the year when black and other deep colours such as navy and burgundy are used to set the window scene.

In addition to colour palettes, fashion favourites can also influence colour techniques that are applied within the retail sector. Spots and stripes are primary patterns within fashion and we continue to see these designs being used in paint techniques. Product design is currently all about curved lines and softer edges, so integrating these more feminine shapes into the final design through painted ellipses or circles makes perfect sense. They are ideal for creating a spotlight effect to showcase specific products or adding further interest to a display.

In contrast, striped bands of colour can add height to a retail space or communicate a change of pace on a display wall. Sometimes a subtle shift in colour for these paint techniques is most effective, staying within the same hue family or constructing a harmonising palette rather than creating a colour clash.

The changing nature of window displays allows for the designs to reflect current trends within the sector. Understanding consumer reaction to the chosen colour palette is key to the overall narrative, not only in relation to the window scene but also for the interior retail space. Whilst taking inspiration from the season, retailers must also ensure that the atmosphere created by the colour scheme enhances their products and reflects their brand.


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