Friday Finds: Ugly Color

Hirshfield's Peach Paint


Hirshfield's Peach Paint


“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” spells out the meaning of “ugly colors”. There is a place for every color in today’s broad marketplace. I once was told that there are no ugly colors, just ugly combinations and therein lies the truth. Usually an ugly color is identified by someone that just doesn’t like the color and is badmouthing it only to find out that it may be placed on a product that can handle it nicely.

Ugly colors in the clothing industry are probably non flattering colors that nobody looks good wearing. The automotive industry had introduced ugly colors occasionally and leaves us to wonder what they were thinking. I once saw an ugly color on a car in the showroom and asked the dealer why they chose that one to highlight in a place of high visibility. He stated that they couldn’t sell it so it took up space in the lobby instead of being featured outside.

The paint industry has the advantage of not carrying inventory on most colors as they are tinted at the point of sale. Because of this flexibility a dealer does not have to choose the color but leave that decision up to the customer. A place to find good color harmony in combinations is to find a print with several colors in it that appeal to your personal taste. It can be a fabric used for pillows or furniture or a combination found in a carpet or rug sample. I have identified good color blends in paintings and accessories as they appealed to my taste in those things and gave me a good starting point for a room design. Because not all of us have the same tastes in designs and color options they may be considered ugly by some. It is my job as a color designer to find the right combinations that appeal to the broadest group of consumers and weed out the ones that are questionable.

Some colors do not look good on a product because of the material or substrate of that product. For example when Hunter Green was popular in the nineties it looked great on wood or fiber but putting it into plastic made it look like a park bench. In the eighties gray was a very popular consumer color and was placed on many products but the appliance industry tested it on washers and driers and it looked like a battleship using a wrong substrate and a wrong gloss level to make them interesting and sellable.

So is it an ugly color or a wrong placement of that color? Is it a color that is wrong or a color that just doesn’t work for a particular era, is it too soon or too late? Give that ugly color a chance it probably will show up as a trend at one point or another.

Patricia Verlodt
Color Guild Spokesperson

ABOUT PAT VERLODT: Pat has been involved in the world of color for over 40 years. As an advisor to dozens of building products companies – including paint systems, GAF roofing, Alcoa siding and more – Pat shares her expertise in color design, forecasting and trend analysis. Pat has the unique ability to explain color technology to the novice and to combine the scientific with the aesthetic. Pat is a past president, lifetime member and senior chairholder of the Color Marketing Group. Ms. Verlodt makes presentations at trade shows, corporate sales meetings, conventions, seminars, web conferences, and on television and radio. Whether speaking about color trends and where they come from, she gears her talks to the product mix and the audience and has presented all over North America, Europe, China, Australia, South America and South Africa. She has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Better Homes and Gardens and in Harold Linton’s, Color Forecasting, a book about the methods of various color forecasters.


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