The future looks bright—the future of color palettes at special events, that is.
In the latest online poll from Special Events, respondents say the hippest color palette for special events this year glows with neon colors. Next come monochromatic palettes or variations on a single color. Third are palettes based on colors found in nature, followed by those featuring metallics. Palettes based on neutral tones and on primary colors tie for the fifth spot, followed by pastels, favored by a scant 2 percent of respondents.
Event design experts have their own take on what color palettes are trending today.
FORECASTING COLOR'S FUTURE
The team at Chicago's Kehoe Designs is now at work on boards for 2012, says creative director Bridget Johnson, who is a certified color consultant.
While an effective color palette for a special event depends on the event and the client, Johnson says, "We do forecast themes that are up and coming, and if clients are looking to have a forward-thinking design, we can provide it for them."
Two of Kehoe Design's strongest color palette designs for 2012 are what Johnson dubs “Chicago Classics” and “Istanbul Style.” "'Chicago Classics' includes jet black, gentleman’s gray, shadow gold and white opal with accents hues either in garnet red, Turkish blue or emerald green," she explains. The "Istanbul Style" palette "is not the typical traditional palette," she says."Instead it is restyled and modernized for 2012, focusing on azure blue, Indian pink, pearlized turquoise, copper gold, petrol blue and ruby red. This look is more theatrical, exotic and glamorous than in previous years."
FROM RUNWAY TO TABLETOP
Fashions in special events often follow—not surprisingly—fashion itself.
"We follow trends and forecasts from the fashion, automotive, paint and furniture industries, to name a few," says Greg Jenkins, partner in Long Beach, Calif.-based Bravo Productions. "The color palettes for the event industry are often a reflection of other industries. In addition, the mood of the country and economic climate event often dictate colors that are popular for events."
Jenkins notes that natural colors and neutrals are hits with today's cautious clients. "These hues project a feeling of simplicity, understatement and refinement," he explains, at a time "when many clients want to project a cost-conscious approach to their spending." These palettes can also function as ideal backdrops to build in significant accent colors, he adds, perhaps the colors of the client's brands.
CHECK WITH THE CLIENT
A healthy 18 percent of respondents to the Special Events poll say the hippest color palette this year "is whatever the client says it is." And design experts are inclined to agree.
"No matter what, it always depends on the client," says Nico Cervantes, head of NLC Productions in Santa Barbara, Calif. "You have to take their ideas and make them look good. In my case, they usually tell me their main color, and it is my job to add or incorporate their accent colors into the design."
"I always say there are no color palettes that are wrong," Johnson says. "What makes decor outdated are the combinations and degrees of colors used. Right now we are talking '80s themes for spring 2012. However, by restyling and combining the colors in fresh new way, we are breathing new life and energy into a palette you would never want to be brought back as it was!"
BRING ON THE SILVER LAMÉ!
Many event designers agree that no palette is out of style if it works for a specific event.
"We always say there is a time and a place for anything," says Susie Perelman, owner of linen specialists Mosaic in Pittsburgh. "You may think silver and gold lamé are tacky, but there is nothing more perfect for a disco party at Pittsburgh's very own Andy Warhol Museum. Afraid of neon? An urban bar mitzvah decked in graffiti and grunge needs a punch of acid color to spruce up the decor."
Perelman adds, "We do not have 'one favorite palette' or even 'a few colorways' that work best for a bar/bat or a wedding. Thinking outside the box, coming up with new combos, and suggesting unusual pairings is what make an event unique and adds a personal stamp to any event. Our team of design specialists aims to create something different for each client, as each client has a different vision, a different venue and a different dream."
WHERE'S THE PARTY? THAT'S THE PALETTE
New York-based Mari O'Connor suggests letting the event venue inspire the event palette.
"The venue most often dictates the color palette," O'Connor explains. "My recommendation is always to go with it; fighting the environment is not cost-effective, and I’m always looking for good design on a budget."
And if the venue is problematic, "I am a big fan of portable fabric structure rentals that allow you to design vignettes," O'Connor explains. "White or black environments form the empty canvas that allows you to stretch beyond the given environment. I arrive at each meeting with an ever-evolving story board prepared for selection of design solutions and vendors. There is always a thematic string starting with color, but it might start with something as simple as what is already in place, i.e., a fixed wall finish, a graphic on the menu or artwork at the venue. Once the vendors are on board, we can collaborate and develop the style of the invitation and event. In the end, we have color theme continuity, and the client never knew we were playing that chord."
WHAT JUST WORKS
Although design experts stress the importance of creating a palette for each specific event, several of them note that certain color combinations are perennial favorites with event clients.
"Black and white and a splash of color seems to be a 'go-to' color palette across the country," Perelman says. "A metallic--gold, bronze, copper, champagne or silver--with a color--hot pink, pale pink, sage green, navy, etc.--is always popular and always creates breathtaking decor."
For Cervantes, it's the color purple: "People love purple; I think it's one of those colors that never goes out of style."
One of Jenkins' own favorite colors for events: bright red or red/orange. "Bright red is theatrical, commands attention and communicates power," he says.
It's also a color that can practically do it all—any season, any event.
"Red can be used for corporate events where a company is reporting 'red hot' growth in sales, a bar mitzvah, and product launches and roll-outs--the red-carpet VIP treatment," Jenkins says. "It's a color that can be used in the fall with the changing of leaves on a tree, summer for the backyard barbecue and, obviously, in winter for traditional holiday parties."
CHOCOLATE, YOU CAN GO HOME NOW
With their constant exposure to event palettes, the experts list a few colors they'd love to see less of—as soon as possible.
"My least favorites are lilac, light lavender and plum; lilac is a little too 'Laura Ashley' for my personal taste," Jenkins says. He adds, "Plum is dark and reads 'black' in ballrooms. If a color reads black, even with theatrical lighting, then just get black."
For Cervantes, it's "Anything with chocolate," he says. "Tiffany blue and chocolate finally disappeared. The color chocolate is so overdone."
And while neutrals and soft tones are popular, Cervantes says, "I'd like to see some bolder, brighter color combinations; color is such a fabulous thing." He adds, "Gray and yellow can also leave."
Photo by iStockphoto.com / © Lunanaranja