The Age of Hard and Soft: The Muted Colour Palette

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Judith Hauesler / Cultura RF

Judith Haeusler / Cultura RF

Have you noticed the sudden wave in muted colour palettes? OK more of a modest shrug and nod. Art Director Sarah Perkins explains the drivers behind this trend and what it means for brands

When did ‘muted’ colour become ‘a thing’ And why? At one level it’s another line of visual thinking working with the idea of ‘authenticity’.

Sofie Delauw / Cultura RF

Sofie Delauw / Cultura RF

Muted colours are being favoured due to their ability to neutralise busy images, allowing for more depth of field and ‘imperfections.’ Whilst this aesthetic is quite often achieved in postproduction, Image Source Art Directors will intentionally use muted colours when styling a shoot.

A great example of this is the “Power Women” shoot, art directed by Siri Vorbeck and shot by reheadpictures/Leonara Saunders.  By incorporating interesting angles and shooting through objects and people, the images feel contemporary and subtle, rather than sterile. In this shoot the muted colour expresses a different sensibility and mood to more boisterous business images and attitudes.

Cultura RF / Redheaded Pictures

Cultura RF / Redheaded Pictures

This muted colour palette is adopted by influential magazines such Cereal and Kinfolk, it’s a kind of post-minimalism that sits with an idea of simplicity while at the same time enabling texture to feature in the image.

Janie Airey / Cultura RF

Janie Airey / Cultura RF

The most striking example of its commercial expression in the UK was in the widely talked about Sainsbury’s Christmas ad where they used muted colours to provoke reminiscing, much like old photographs do.

Cultura RM / Magdalena Niemczyk – ElanArt

Cultura RM / Magdalena Niemczyk – ElanArt

And of course it sits on the Craft spectrum, where the notion of ‘reminiscence’ also signals the values of tradition, heritage and a the kind of humility you associate with craftspeople who respect the limits of their tools, their materials and their own power.

Kate Ballis / Cultura RF

Kate Ballis / Cultura RF

 

 

 

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