Sherwin Williams’ most popular paint color is Agreeable Gray. The most common vehicle color in the United States in 2018 was white (26 percent) followed by black (19 percent), grey (18 percent) and, finally, silver (13 percent) [Autolist.com]. One of the most popular house colors is Behr’s Greige...a grayish beige [Consumer Reports].
These facts seem like they are straight out of the movie Pleasantville. But like spunky Mary Sue questions in that film; “what’s outside of Pleasantville?”
When I was in college my suite-mate was from Mongolia. When I asked her what her first impression of America was she told me that she was shocked that everyone wears gray. This is something that never occurred to me, but she was right. She motioned to my rack of clothes that were 50 shades of gray (much less exciting than the book, I assure you) and then grabbed my hand and guided me to her closet. It was an explosion of color! She told me that everyone in her culture dresses in bright colors to express themselves. The fact that we all draped ourselves in neutrals seemed like a missed opportunity. I agree!
Whether it’s a gray wall, car, or sweater - everyone likes a good basic. But that’s just what it is - BASIC! Throughout my years in graphic design I have come to realize that one of my biggest challenges is to get clients to step outside of their comfort zone, especially when it comes to color. Instead of picking a bright color palette or bold design they feel much more inclined to focus on shades of gray.
This gravitation towards neutrals could easily be taken as symbolism for our struggle to be bold. Many companies fear to take a leap of faith with creative marketing and design because they don’t want to come off ridiculous. However, what’s the worst that can happen? By not choosing to be bold you are also choosing to blend in. So the next time an idea is brought to you that is too bright, too different, or too daring, take a step back and look around. You could choose to drive a gray car, live in a gray house, and wear a gray cardigan and be just as content as all of the characters at the beginning of the film. However, you might want to think about what could happen if you take that leap and dare to be bold! Nothing exciting ever happened inside of a comfort zone, anyways.
- JESSIE NIELSEN