Now that it’s finally spring here in Boston, with bright sunny days and tulips in every garden, it seems like a great time to talk about the IDSA Northeast conference that I recently attended. I was particularly excited because the theme of this year’s conference was color! Although I regularly attend color and trend focused events, they aren’t normally from the perspective of fellow industrial designers, so I was looking forward to hearing how other designers approach color.

Color excites me; it’s what catches my eye and draws me in. Little shifts in hue have a profound impact on my perception of design, quality, and brand. Often times color is difficult to translate through the design process and we are relegated to ‘safe’ colors. Chris Murray, of Bresslergroup, presented an almost scientific approach, a way of removing the emotional factor of color and making the color decision process more rational. On the opposite end of the spectrum was our friend and frequent collaborator, Karen Reuther, who in my opinion best expresses the joy of color. She talks about the power of color to connect to users and presents it as an opportunity to further reinforce a brand’s relationship to their customer. Although of seemingly opposite approaches both speakers grounded their decision-making process in a rich understanding of the user.

A little off topic, but still valuable were the talks by Tiffany Vailchik of Material Connexion and Gary Natsume of ECCO Design. Tiffany, obviously talked more about materials than color, but it was fascinating to see new material development being tied to the same trends that drive color. She also presented a more holistic approach to color, material, and finish, which is normally one of the final stages of the development process. Instead, she proposed using materials to inspire and drive innovation. Gary Natsume presented the process of designing for other cultures, as a Japanese designer living and working in New York. His projects focused on both American and Asian markets, which was a fascinating look at how another culture approaches design. Specifically, he referenced how the Japanese color preference has shifted to pink (which symbolizes hope and peace in Japan) and lighter more optimistic colors in the wake of the shattering earthquake and tsunami in 2011. This seems fitting given how beautiful and uplifting our spring colors feel right now.