“Forecasting requires understanding the market,” says Andrew Klein, Backbone co-founder (and former designer). “Color trends manifest for various reasons, and it’s imperative to have your finger on the pulse with how trends shift in order to have the colors your customers expect to see in your store. Thus, capitalizing on sales.”
How it works:
“Creating a color story involves choosing a palette of color swatches that make a cohesive statement throughout a collection — while also differentiating themes within that collection’s statement. Each theme is delivered at different times throughout the year to create a constant flow of newness, which requires an understanding of how different colors interact — as well as the colors already being sold to prevent duplication and imbalance.
It typically starts with a mood board to build out your themes and color story. Mood boards can be physical (such as foam boards) or digital (such as Pinterest) and can be made up of images with color inspiration, actual color swatches, or outfits that include your color theme. From there, the inspiration is whittled down into palettes of color that best convey the themes and mood, which ultimately inform the color story. The color story, at the end of the day, is the backbone of every collection (no pun intended) as all product categories use it to create consistency within an assortment flow.”
The way it was:
“The traditional, analog process of color swatching requires managing a wide range of color standards from various sources. Most people have heard of Pantone, a global color system (and, today, a Backbone partner!). When I was a designer, I’d work with my team before each season to determine various themes for a collection before creating the color story for each theme. I’d choose actual paper Pantone color chips in a color room with different types of lighting to ensure the compilation of colors I chose captured the themes and were well balanced to the eye.
Not having a central point where everyone can access the final version of the color story often created ambiguity — which, with color being the most important aspect of garment design, could ruin the designs. Lack of consistency within a color story can leave the customer confused and overwhelmed. Or it might result in duplication of color (introducing a color too similar to one already in the collection) or in color imbalance, affecting the impact of the collection and, overall, the sales.”
The way it should be:
“Adopting a digital strategy for forecasting color, color swatching, and building color stories is a huge opportunity. Color selection, like many other aspects of the design process, goes through several changes. A big benefit of going digital is ensuring everyone referring to the color story and color palettes is using the latest version of the color compilation.
Another benefit, from a more technical perspective, is the idea of a color library. Databases are better suited to handle massive amounts of color records, which makes storing, sharing, searching, and compiling colors into new subsets of color exponentially easier. Users can compartmentalize colors by season, delivery, product category, or any other company specific-category, which makes working with near-limitless color combinations much more manageable.
There are also downstream benefits, too. Creating reports that indicate where and how colors are being used presently and historically is significantly easier. (Done with the simple click of the mouse, too!) Having a deeper understanding of which colors you’re coming off of helps you forecast where you should go. Similarly, the ability to easily generate line sheets of products with colorway data gives a bird’s eye view to gauge whether the line is balanced, on-brand, and optimized to perform well in the market.”
The Backbone difference:
“Backbone aims to supplement the process with sound digital infrastructure. Physically matching a color that inspires you to a physical swatch will always be done in real life. However, once that color is chosen, it’s converted into a hex color standard to be used in digital renderings, and the source color is then added to a digital palette in Backbone. That color can then be added to products, reports, line sheets, and shared across all key stakeholders with a few clicks, avoiding user errors from typos and other blunders.
What clients love most about color management in Backbone is the ease of use, error mitigation, and color data governance. Color standards often have multiple names and reference numbers. For instance, a Pantone has a name appointed internally by the color system. Oftentimes, for marketing purposes, companies will create their own internal moniker for the color. Managing data across a large volume of colors over long periods of time can grow unwieldy if not managed efficiently. In addition, it’s a better user experience for design teams to compartmentalize or section off the colors through Backbone’s palettes than have them work in vast libraries made up of 1000s of colors.”
Author | Richie Dow