When Laminex/Formica launched its three new colour palettes in Adelaide recently, the response was overwhelmingly favourable.
When Laminex/Formica launched its three new colour palettes in Adelaide recently, the response was overwhelmingly favourable. Neil Sookee is what you would expect anyone who lists ‘trend vision’ on his CV to be – innovative, astute and very comfortable thinking outside the box. As the Group Design Director for Australia and New Zealand at Laminex Group he’s in the business of predicting future interior trends. In Adelaide recently to launch the Laminex/Formica Colour Trends Report Sookee was forthcoming about what consumers can expect. “It’s about natural materials and a warm, earthy palette that’s not too literally interpreted. And it’s about products that last; it’s not about conspicuous consumption anymore.” Sydney-based Sookee believes the shift towards an organic aesthetic is a significant one, which is why it informs one of the report’s three major themes. The Nutopia trend takes its inspiration from artisanal practice and high-end craftsmanship; timelessness, sustainability and harmony are its main drivers. This translates into a palette of warm greys, muted greens, pale oranges and classic wood grain effects. Nutopia may have broad appeal but it doesn’t make the report’s other two themes – Purity and Clash – any less inviting. The prior takes its cue from new technologies and reflects an ultra-modern sensibility manifest in a range of cool whites, vibrant pastels and biomorphic patterns. Clash is in complete contrast; inspired by rapid urbanisation, it translates into a palette of bright reds, greens and oranges, bold blacks and messy stripes. This trend vision is the outcome of extensive global qualitative research by Formica in which Sookee was personally involved. “We engaged with the design community in blue sky discussions about materials and style preferences,” he says. “So we went in with no preconceived notions; qualitative research is actually a vehicle for designers to indicate to us what we should be working on.” The methodology differs quite considerably from a standard quantitative approach, promising more dynamic results. As innovative as the qualitative process may be, however, there are still pragmatic product management questions that have to be considered. Product differentiation in a highly competitive marketplace and the constant pressure to come up with something ‘new’ are unavoidable challenges that surround the launch of any product range. Sookee is the first to admit trend forecasting is a tricky balancing act. “For our finishes to be successful they have to be almost anonymous and not clamour for attention when combined with other materials on a project,” he explains. “They can’t be so signature that a designer will only use them once; but we do need to do something that’s different.” It’s as much an art as it is a science, with a considerable margin for error. But Sookee has 30 years’ experience under his belt and he’s learned a thing or two during this time. “The trick is to be right more times than you’re wrong,” he says. “Yes, there’s risk when you make management decisions, but if you don’t risk then nothing ever changes. It’s a pragmatic business approach; we just happen to be talking about design.” Nutopia, Purity and Clash each have unexpected characteristics but these three palettes can ultimately offer consumers successful individual solutions. “Colours mean something different to all of us,” says Sookee. “And what each person does with these palettes is entirely up to them.” thelaminexgroup.com.au