few months ago, the Pantone Color Institute announced its 2015 color of the year: Marsala. According to Pantone, this "naturally robust and earthy wine red" will be all the rage when it comes to everything from fashion to home furnishing. Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone's executive director, even went so far as to claim that Marsala "enriches our mind, body, and soul, exuding confidence and stability." Now that's a pretty tall order for any mere tone, and critics have responded with overwhelming dissention and distaste.
The Atlantic, for one, likened the color to blood, specifically "the freaky dried kind whose iron content has been exposed to the air long enough to evoke a dull brick." And a Slate.com
headline summed up the general consensus: "Everyone Hates Marsala, Pantone's Color of the Year."
Regardless of your opinions on Pantone's prediction, there's no denying that colors ebb and flow in popularity. Consider the psychedelic tones of the 1960s and the earthy avocado greens of the '70s. Furthermore, there's an undeniable psychology to the world of tints and shades. We've known for decades that reds evoke excitement, while blue tones often elicit feelings of loyalty.
But before you redesign your booth around any single tone it's important to note that, trends notwithstanding, psychological perceptions are influenced by social, political, and even religious affiliations. And according to the book "Global Graphics Color," there are virtually no universal connotations associated with color.
Having said that, if you're in love with this year's anointed hue, there's no rush to redesign your booth. The exhibition industry tends to lag 18 to 24 months behind Pantone's predictions. For example, 2012's color of the year was a deep orange called Tangerine Tango. Two years later, show floors were awash in orange exhibits. But not every color trend makes its way to the exhibit hall. That's because brands become somewhat myopic when it comes to color, sticking to corporate-approved hues and never tasting the rainbow, so to speak.
Will Marsala make much of an impact on the exhibition industry? I doubt it. In the context of exhibit design, I believe color trends take a distant back seat to arguably related trends in textures and finishes, which are infinitely more adaptable and accessible to myriad brands, target markets, and industry sectors. And, generally speaking, the connotations associated with finishes appear at least marginally more universal. So rather than simply criticizing Pantone's pick for color of the year, I'm offering an alternative: EXHIBITOR magazine's finish of the year.
Likely fueled by related trends in retail and interior design (as well as a resurgence in eco- mindedness), wood grain first appeared as an undeniable trend at EuroShop 2014, and continued to gain traction throughout the first quarter of 2015. Used as a primary exhibit-design element at shows catering to practically every industry, the trendy texture has been spotted by our writers and editors in countless forms — often introduced as an exposed building material, through the use of rustic furnishings, or via wood flooring (faux or otherwise). I've even seen tensioned-fabric exhibits printed with such realistic wood-grain graphics that they practically give booth visitors splinters.
Granted, wood grain may not possess the soul-enriching qualities of Marsala, but it does have the ability to evoke sustainability and imbue spaces with a little warmth and an earthy authenticity. While my crystal ball's admittedly no more magical than Eiseman's, I'd bet a bottle of red wine that unfinished wood will make a bigger mark on the industry in 2015. And unlike the mark left by Marsala, it won't resemble a crime scene.