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How the application of the Colour, Materials and Finish influences customers’ behaviour

Recent advances in neuroscience and behavioural economics tell us that emotion is critical to decision making. In this article we explore how the application of Colour, Material and Finish (known as CMF) is crucial for brands to imbue their products and services with both functional and emotional attributes.

Let’s be honest: if you were to go out and ask 100 people what CMF is, you’d be lucky to find a single person who knows the term and, if you do, they would more than likely be a designer.

In the words of one of the world’s top CMF designers, Liliana Becerra, “CMF is a specialized area of design that focuses on three elements of a surface—colour, material, and finish—to support both the functional and emotional attributes of a product”.

Moreover, Becerra says that: “to design a successful product, the functional dimension and aesthetics need to be perfectly balanced. The design of CMF tries to guarantee the best technologies of materials to ensure the functional performance of a product, but also to provoke emotions and sensations”.

Having a team with the ability to combine both dimensions of function and aesthetics through colours, materials and finishes is key. This team must have a dual objective in mind: to provide the end user with an experience that lives up to their expectations and that will be later transformed into customer loyalty and, at the same time, transmit the values and identity of the brand.

Let’s take a concrete example of how this works in the real world: Mormedi has recently been working with a leading airline to redesign its business class seat experience, and the selection of Colour, Material, and Finish was integral to the client’s strategic vision.

The importance of colour

Daniela Saucedo, Senior Strategic Designer at Mormedi, asks the following question: “did you know that 85% of consumers base their purchase decision on the colour and look of a product?”

As Daniela says, “the choice of the CMF is fundamental”.

According to Saucedo, “colour is a factor that influences us consciously and unconsciously. When we start a CMF project, we know that colour, as well as being a purely aesthetic tool, also responds to psychological and cultural criteria and clearly influences the perception and understanding of a product or space (…) Colour is another resource when designing and it can help to enhance the attributes of the product, hide details, hierarchize functions and transmit the values of a brand (…) the correct selection of colours must go hand in hand with the understanding of the material and its finishes, since when modifying these elements the final result can vary drastically”.

So, in the case of an airline, the selection of the colours must not only seek reflect a corporate identity, but must also convey feelings related to the brand and the space, as well as fulfil a functional role.

Material: a key element

When interacting with an object, colours will define the look, but the materials will define the feel. As Becerra says: “materials can be the core of the design and brand identity, therefore, their role is fundamental, and it is essential to have specialists (usually engineers) who have a deep technical understanding to make the correct choice of materials.”

Maite Pascual, Design Engineer at Mormedi, says that: “the definition of the material is crucial: it gives the product its perceived quality. It is what the user feels when they touch and look at it”

Taking the example of the airline, the choice of materials should consider not only corporate values and brand identity, but also what feelings the brand wants to convey, such as elegance, comfort, or warmth.

The role of the finishing details

If we turn to Liliana Bacerra again, she says that “the design of the finish details has to do with the final appearance of the product and is very much determined by the properties of the material and how it is manufactured”. The finish can fulfil three functional objectives: protective (e.g. to resist oxidation), ornamental (e.g. to improve the appearance of the product), and technological (e.g. to reduce friction).

In our example, the design team worked together to carefully select the finishes to transmit the desired values and that aligned with the DNA of the brand.

Part of what we believe makes our designs successful is the way in which our team of specialists—which includes engineers, designers, strategists, and researchers—work together to offer our clients strategic design choices that offer the best functional comfort for their customers and reinforce the positive values and emotions of their brands.

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