Peter Krueger: In addition to being the owner of Precision Intermedia, Peter is the chief technical officer, a print specialist and internet marketer. Since 1982, he has honed his skills in different types of media, specializing in strategic marketing, search engine optimization and now enjoys being at the top of his professional field.
AK: What is a color specialist?
Peter Krueger: In graphic and digital arts, a color specialist knows how colors interact with each other and the physics of colors, color gamuts, color spaces, and color models and things like metamerism, which means that different lighting conditions affect how humans perceive color. Personally I worked in prepress in a large commercial printing plant and have color corrected tens of thousands of images so that the colors that print on the paper or view on the screen look more appealing or match each other as close as possible. Other color specialists work in areas like fashion, interior decorating, psychology, marketing and architecture to name a few areas.
AK: What made you interested in and passionate about color?
PK: Color is a large part of a sighted person’s world. Even with our eyes closed, we often mentally “see” in color. This is because color is a guide we depend on (red light for stop); green mold for don’t eat that; gold star a job well done.
AK: What factors must be considered when determining popular color trends for the next year?
PK: What color will be popular next depends on how the color is going to be used. For instance, color trends in fashion are not always the same as color trends in interior or exterior paints, car colors or marketing colors. Each of those areas has its own unique color trends, each influenced by different factors. Once in a while they overlap, like in the mid-1900’s (just after World War II) the colors in clothes, cars and home decorating were all about the same (light pastel colors of pink, blue, green and yellow). It was the end of the war and a time when our Nation was healing and those are the colors go with that national feeling of the time. When the social upheaval of the 1960’s came the popular color was red and other bright exuberance colors. The 1970’s were marked by harvest gold, brown, and avocado green, all earth tones of grounded energy. Clearly what is going on in our nation and world socially, economically, politically, and spiritually influence color popularity. They are further influenced by the product they are, where in the world they are being sold (in some countries fashions in white are for mourning only; others use them for weddings, Christening and summer wear).
AK: Are color preferences across the board for all products or are they specific to a product, for example cars versus toys?
PK: This has changed a bit over time. When cars were first built they came only in black. And years ago, nearly all children’s toys were in the primary colors (red, yellow, blue). Today the rule is: there are no rules!! Cars can be orange and toys can be black. Are there preferences for color? Oh yes! Yellow is the preferred color for a house; white is the preferred color for a car; and the blonde (Total Hair) Barbie was the best selling model ever.
AK: Can you give an example of when a poor color choice made a product fail?
PK: Well, one of the biggest color choice flops in the world was white coca cola.
AK: Are there physical reasons why certain color choices are better than others, for example billboard print and the clarity in the eye?
PK: Yes. Some people are sight impaired and the size and color of print and pictures is important to them. Some estimate that about 8% of males have some level of colored blindness; as do about .5% of females. The easiest to read color combination is black print on a yellow background (especially at a distance but up close too).
AK: Where do you gather most of the information you need to predict trends for a specific product – focus groups, past sales, other?
PK: Color trends tend to come and go out of style over time, whether the colors are for home decorating, fashion or architecture. There are also environmental and cultural changes that influence color styles. Some are cyclical and some are not. Thanks to the internet and publications like this we can tap into existing studies with the power of search engines and subscriptions.
AK: What education is required to consult in the color field? Is it more Marketing or Psychology related?
PK: There are a number of fields that traditionally have studied human reactions to color and they are Industrial Psychology, Physiological Psychology and Social Psychology. However a relatively new field has evolved that combines some of the aspects of all them and it’s called: Consumer Behavior Psychology. Degrees at the bachelors, masters and doctorates level can be earned in this field and generally graduates work in marketing departments of large corporations.
AK: When launching a new product, how many color choices should be offered?
PK: Well, that depends on the product. If the product needs to appeal to different target audiences then that affects how many colors you should offer. The classic examples would be pink for girls, blue for boys and yellow for either girls or boys. If you’re launching a new yogurt product then the colors will sell more if they match the expected colors for the flavors. Colors can affect the excitement level and how the consumer reacts to the packaging so reds and fluorescents and shiny metal ink colors are appealing for action toys and in general to catch the eye of the shopper. Next time you walk down the toy store aisle or supermarket aisle take a good look at how your eyes are attracted to certain products and how even just making sure your product doesn’t have the same color as the other products in the section can make your product stand out. If your product is from an established company that has existing colors then you would use the established colors. For instance Campbell’s soups use their classic red and white labels.
AK: Why do people’s color preferences change as they get older?
PK: Studies show that as people age most people’s overall color preferences change over time. Children prefer bright primary colors like red and yellow and seniors overwhelmingly prefer blue. Psychology and environmental and cultural preferences play a part as the colors themselves relate to the stages in life. Red is an exciting color for instance and blues and green can have a calming effect. Also physical changes in the eyes that aging brings physically change the eye and can add a yellow cast to color perception. (Called the “ginger-ale affect) Also note that geography and culture play some role in color preferences.
AK: In certain cultures, different colors have different meanings. How do you take this into consideration when you are consulting with someone on color?
PK: It’s important to know who will be using the product and where the products will be sold. Ideally if the product is going to another country then you also consult with someone who knows the culture of that country.
AK: Was there a specific mentor who helped you pursue your career?
PK: In my case, no, I just liked to figure out how things were manufactured. I used to take apart the cereal boxes and any broken toaster and electronics to see how they were folded and glued and how they were put together.
AK: What advice would you give to kids who would like to learn more about color, and potentially pursue a career in it like you have?
PK: Mostly I would like to let you know that life is a long road and you will learn many things if you keep an open mind and try to learn as much as you can. As you grow stay positive about learning and exploring and commit to always keep learning. Don’t be shy about asking questions and you will never be bored and will be successful.