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UK’s young crave calm colour to detox from digital world

Paper Solutions

A new study confirms the nation’s desire to separate their real lives and online personas – right down to the colours they want to surround themselves by.

Research shows that 57% of the UK’s millennials and adult Gen Zs crave their real world experiences to be calmer than those they experience online.

While people actively seek out vivid and vibrant colours in the digital world, they want to be soothed by natural colours in their own habitats. This includes the wallpaper they choose to hang in their rooms and the packaging in which they receive purchases.

The findings are part of the latest study undertaken by James Cropper. It builds on the colour expert’s Progressive Palette’s report (2019) as well as the 2021 pulse check, which surveyed designers rather than consumers. It revealed that the emergence of the Metaverse would be a crucial moment for brands, as they look to translate their colour identity into virtual reality.

The latest research, surveying nearly 4000 people aged 18 to 44, shows that there is already an appetite for relief from the nation’s digital lives and the uncertainty of the times.

It comes on the back of two disparate colours being chosen as 2023’s ‘colours of the year’ by leading experts, confirming that our digital and real lives are becoming increasingly independent of each other.

Pantone’s Colour of the Year is Viva Magenta – a crimson ‘vibrating with vim and vigour’ – while Dulux’s Colour of the Year is Wild Wonder – an earthy shade offering a ‘connecting with nature’.

Analysis of the research shows that 88% of people do not want vibrancy in their physical surroundings when it comes to colour. In contrast, 43% want to see bold hues on their screens in their online world.

Scrutinising the trends, Mark Starrs, leading colour expert from James Cropper, said: ‘We predicted scroll stopping colours would be increasingly popular in our original 2019 Progressive Palettes report. But the ongoing uncertainty which faces the population; from the cost of living to the juggernaut of the sustainability agenda; means the seas between our online and real lives have parted even further. People are craving relief from the sensory overload we are exposed to daily and so it is not a surprise that calming, safe colours are dominating the physical.’

Emma Ralphs is a brand strategist at Butterfly Cannon, a design agency specialising in aspirational brands and sustainable design. She commented, ‘This research reflects our own insights of how right now, we are seeing this split between preferences for colour in the digital world and the real world. However, it is important to bear in mind that with the intrinsic link between colour and culture, that gap could also get smaller, especially in the case of younger generations, who are not one way or another. They want to experiment with different ways of being.

‘For example, WGSN in collaboration with Coloro named 'Digital Lavender' as the colour of the Year for 2023. As a colour that represents both wellness, evoking calmness and serenity while being embedded in digital culture, it manages to bridge both worlds. There isn’t always such a decisive split between the virtual world and reality.

‘By understanding this relationship between colour and culture, brands can strike a balance and create captivating experiences across different platforms, to better connect with their target audience.’

With close to two centuries of papermaking heritage, James Cropper has established a reputation for its colour expertise. Its on-site technical lab in the Lake District has a digital library with 200,000 colour recipes, and the mill creates more than 2000 custom designed colours each year – ranging from deep black to pure white and everything in between.


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