The trend sleuths

A look over BASF Coatings' designers' shoulders

(PresseBox) ( Münster, )
The designers at BASF Coatings have ideal working conditions at the new Color Design Studio Europe. But how exactly do they discover and compile new trends? We took a look behind the scenes.

"We are constantly on the lookout for new color trends that we can evaluate for the automotive industry and translate into up-to-date collections of paint colors with innovative effects and surfaces," explains designer Eva Höfli. Höfli, Mark Gutjahr and Katja Pauli make up BASF Coatings' Design Team. The three designers see their role as partners and consultants for the automotive designers. Color, paint and its texture accentuate the contours, the way the form communicates and the character of the particular car model, and so they have to fit all these attributes. These elements allow car buyers to express their individuality.

The designers are inspired by architecture, product design, fashion, art, consumer habits and many other social trends. Constant research in specialty publications and fashion and design magazines is equally as important as attending car and furniture shows and fashion trade fairs. "At the shows, we can do our jobs as trend sleuths and get new ideas too," says Höfli. Once their research is complete, it is used to produce BASF Coatings' annual trend collection, which is presented to the carmakers at so-called color shows or trend presentations. If a car manufacturer then decides to go with one or more of these color ideas, the wheels are set in motion. At the BASF labs and application test facilities, the colors are tested to ensure they meet the particular customer's requirements and the paint formulas are adapted to the technical conditions at the respective production sites. The results decide which colors can even be realized in the first place. "Of course design needs its freedom," says Höfli. "But what good is an idea if it can't be implemented?" For this reason, the color designers work at different levels to achieve a "golden fit." In specific terms, this means that while they have to be ahead of their time with their ideas, they can't lose sight of the technical side of things.

However, many of the new colors stem directly from the automotive designers - for instance, in the planning phase for a new model. It's not unusual for the automotive designers to bring along color samples, moodboards and other "conceptual snippets" that the BASF Coatings team then translates into actual suggestions for new colors. This translation is one of the crucial steps in the design process. "Our customers want to offer their buyers models with a color palette that is as individual as possible but at the same time technically feasible at competitive prices," explains Gutjahr. This interplay contains a major design challenge.

Due to the wide range of test procedures, it takes between two and five years until a new color is actually seen on a car. "As you can see, we are way further ahead of our time than our design colleagues from the fashion industry, for instance. They work about a year ahead," explains Pauli. "But that's where our challenge lies. Figuring out today what the favorite colors will be in the distant future," she adds.
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