Delta uniforms

Delta’s “passport plum” uniforms are on point with Pantone’s 2018 Color of the Year: ultra violet. Image via Delta Air Lines

APEX Insight: Color forecasting can be a crucial marketing tool for brands, but how influential are trendy tints in the aviation industry?

The designation of Color of the Year (COTY) is meant to be a conversation-starter, rather than an edict, says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of Pantone Color Institute, which deemed ultra violet the 2018 COTY. On the same day that Pantone revealed its 2018 COTY, Delta Air Lines published an online story about how “strikingly similar” the color is to its “passport plum” uniforms, which are designed by Zac Posen and will take flight on May 29 of this year.

“Whether it’s the plum, the design or the attention to detail Zac brought forward, the idea isn’t to remain in the current or the past,” says Tim Mapes, Delta’s SVP and chief marketing officer. “It’s really about the future of Delta and making a much bolder, fashion-forward statement that all of our people can be proud of for years to come.”

According to Mark Woodman, past president of Color Marketing Group and an accredited speaker on color and design with the Interior Design Continuing Education Council, dark blue is a popular hue for airline crew uniforms. “Blue commands more authority in its darker versions; hence, a lot of uniforms make use of the color,” he explains.

The psychology of color is complex, but warm pigments like red, orange and yellow may produce feelings ranging from comfort to anger, while cool tones like blue, purple and green tend to create a soothing atmosphere. But cultural differences must also be considered. “Chinese customers, for example, react very positively to rich red tones in combination with gold, as these colors stand for luck and happiness [in their culture],” says Ilona Illing, director of Design at Lantal.

Color trends play a secondary role in cabin textile design, says Judith Steiner, manager of Marketing and Communication at rohi. “When translating a design briefing into textile, our experience shows that it is more important to understand the corporate colors of the airline, as well as the culture and landscape of a country, than taking the Color of the Year into account. As the name already indicates, the color of the year changes every year. We are, however, creating premium designs that last.”

“The decision for colors needs to be long term … it involves specific needs for the transportation market.” – Ilona Illing, Lantal

Illing agrees, stating that, while Lantal does acknowledge short-term color trends like Pantone’s COTY, “the decision for colors in our collection needs to be long term, and therefore it is a forecast and involves specific needs for the transportation and aircraft markets.”

According to Illing, subtle tinted grays have emerged as a trend in cabin textiles over the last few years. “The airline industry was very much dominated in the past by blue hues; however, we do see the trend of blue changing into gray and anthracite of any intensity and brightness,” Steiner echoes.

Rohi has no plans to follow in the footsteps of roofing specialist Owens Corning and flooring dealer Shaw Floors, which declared Sand Dune and Gold Rush, respectively, as COTYs to generate media attention and push product. “Color is one important element of aircraft cabin textile design, but not the only one,” Steiner says. “When it comes to a specific project, it is key to listen to customers and to understand their needs.” 

“Setting the Tone” was originally published in the 8.2 April/May issue of APEX Experience magazine.