We caught up with Jessica McConnell, Director, Whirlpool Color, Finish & Material Design and Katie Remaly, Senior Studio Color Finish Designer, to discover the story behind the annual color of the year and how the comfort and hope of Honey, the 2021 Color of the Year, came to life in an extraordinary year.
THE COLORFUL WORLD OF KITCHENAID
Color has been at the heart of KitchenAid brand’s success story since it first launched color products in 1955. The annual Color of the Year is an opportunity to connect with Makers on an emotional level, inspire creativity and open up new possibilities.
The selection of the Color of the Year is the purview of the KitchenAid Global Design team. The process of identifying and creating the Color of the Year begins about eighteen months before a new color is launched. The team starts by taking an exhaustive look at sociocultural trends and because the team is based in all the regions of the world there’s high-level input from every corner of the globe on fashion, design, food and more.
Director, Whirlpool Color, Finish & Material Design
Jessica McConnell, the Director of Whirlpool Color, Finish and Material Design explains that KitchenAid wants to take people on a journey with the Color of the Year, she says “…We like to tell a global story. When we were doing Bird of Paradise we placed ourselves in Brazil; we wanted to explore different cultures because that’s what cooking is about, travelling through your senses – trying new things and experimenting – and that’s an aspect of what we’re trying to draw to these colors as well.” She goes on to describe the importance of melding these global trend stories with the brand and how KitchenAid has a heart and a soul: “…it’s a very welcoming brand with a genuine side that’s warm and positive…” So whatever color is ultimately chosen will reflect these qualities.
In McConnell’s eyes, shifts in interior design, which happen every ten years or so – also play a big part in how color choices are made for KitchenAid. As far as interior design trends go, she says: “…What we’re seeing now is a lot of earthiness of every color so everything is toned down. It looks like there’s just a little piece of earth in everything, you see a lot of earthy pastels and a lot of beiges and warm tones because there’s the cozy thing going on.”
Whirlpool, Senior Studio Color Finish Designer
Once the trends have been studied and vetted, Remaly’s team comes to the table with 2 or 3 topics and color choices that are balanced against the KitchenAid color portfolio. McConnell describes how the team considers the emotional power of color to help inform meaningful color choices: “Colors are so emotional – what kinds of colors will people want to fulfill an emotional need they’re having at the time.”
Careful thought goes into ensuring that a color isn’t duplicated or only slightly different from a color that already exists in the KitchenAid® palette. The team debates and discusses how the colors measure up against current trends and how they will help tell a story for the brand with relevant recipes and content. As Katie Remaly, Senior Studio Color Finish Designer reflects: “The choice is fueled not only by the color space but also by whether or not this is a story the world is ready to hear.” Ultimately that story will always have an optimistic spin with energy and action because as McConnell explains, “…that’s what we’re about, making and action in the kitchen.” She goes on to talk more about the importance of storytelling through color: “…Tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever – that’s what we’re doing here, through color – these kinds of things are what people ‘bookmark’ in their hearts and minds. Even if they don’t buy that color, or, they buy a different color, it’s a moment where they can see that side of the brand and they can experience an emotion and be inspired.”
Director, Whirlpool Color, Finish & Material Design
By the end of 2018 the team knew they wanted to tell a story about connection and empathy for the 2021 Color of the Year. McConnell says: “This was pre-covid – everything was normal – the story we wanted to talk about was people caring and showing empathy for each other and reaching across aisles, or reaching across differences to make the world a better place, to build a brighter future.” She’s struck by how relevant this story is eighteen complicated months later: “For me it was really interesting because when you have a pandemic or an economic crash sociocultural trends change drastically and what’s important to people shifts incredibly quickly…I find it interesting that this story rings true now more than ever.”
Happily for the team, most of the extensive hands on work that goes into creating a Color of the Year with suppliers had already been put to bed before quarantine began. As Remaly observes: “The only impact covid had was the validation that this is the right story for our brand and for the times.”
After the color has been decided on, the team rolls up their sleeves and begins the process of creating and refining that color. Remaly says: “We want to make a color that our consumers are going to love.” In this case that meant sending the North America Studio Color Finish team out into the world for “honey experiences.” They visited markets, shops and restaurants. They tasted and smelled and bought different honeys from various places around the globe to get into the mindset of “honey as an ingredient on a scientific level” as McConnell explains. They lined samples up to analyze and compare hue and gloss. Remaly says: “…We had been tracking the yellow color space for a while, we had to be cognizant of what exists on our palette today so we wanted honey to be orange but yellow but brown and speak to a few different color spaces, which is something that I think is special about all of our colors of the year. If you look at Kyoto Glow we still argue that it’s yellow to me but green to Jess, but that’s what I love about Color of the Year – really being able to experience those nuances…Honey became a conglomerate of a lot of the yellows. For me it’s not so much a yellow as a yellow and orange faced brown.”
Remaly goes on to share that her team doesn’t use color psychology in the traditional sense when they’re developing colors for KitchenAid. Red doesn’t have to mean you’re angry and blue doesn’t have to mean you’re calm. She says: “When we look at color we think that any color can do that depending on the hue, the saturation, the finish, gloss level – things like that can emulate any of those feelings – for honey specifically we wanted the warmth to come through, and the coziness.”
Building on Remaly’s observation on color and mood McConnell reflects that color is key to creating the vibe you want to feel while you’re in your kitchen: “…That’s why we have so many colors, so you can choose – everybody has a different perspective and something different they want to say. We think of a stand mixer as a throw pillow or exclamation mark in the kitchen. It celebrates who you are. It shows your personality…and it should inspire you to make or do something you love in the kitchen.”
DREAMING IN COLOR
The team is already deeply entrenched in creating next year’s Color of the Year. So what does the future of color look like for KitchenAid? Remaly has this to say: “…Our vision for the future is to make these colors even more human centered as a design team and think even more deeply about the cultures of people and feelings and how we can bring more of the Maker into our stories. I’ve never thought about human centered color design before so it really changes what the future of color is going to look like at KitchenAid.”
The next Color of the Year is a tightly held secret. Only a few select members of the team know what that color will be at this point. But one thing we can predict with certainty – it will have heart, it will have soul and it will inspire people to dream about how they want to tell their own story. And KitchenAid will be right there to help them tell it, in bold, beautiful, hopeful color.