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Exploring Classic and Modern White

Hello everyone! This week, I thought I would write about a noticed trend that has become increasingly popular over the last couple of months – white on white. Embellished, metallic, diaphanous, textured, layered – everyone seems to be putting a twist on classic notions of white. No need to adhere to those stale rules about labour day either! Is it just me or did the red carpet of last month’s Academy Awards look like some sort of mass wedding? While vibrant orange and tropical colour palettes are ubiquitous this year, white is a hot trend in its own right. I love that two such opposite colour sensibilities can be equally popular and intertwine beautifully. I’m admittedly colour bonkers but I love white for its power and purity. It is serene and sublime on its own and brilliant when paired with colour. White is an ideal shade for retail because it can provide a feeling of quality and luxury, act as a classic branding choice and become a fabulous canvas for a shop interior. As a noticed trend and ultimate design classic, let’s ponder white! – Chloé / plenty of colour

In 2012, White on White has burst forward as a big trend but in truth, it is a hearty classic across many types of products and design. Pure white often makes things look more expensive and luxurious. Just think of lace — pure white lace can look far more expensive than a poorly selected red version! That being said, material choice and quality diligence is essential when using white as it hides very little.

Using white as a cornerstone of white can be a wise choice. It is particularly useful in professions where a “clean slate” look is necessary (designers, photographers, wedding planners). For fashion and accessory brands, white can often evoke luxury and create a blank canvas for products to be highlighted (imagine a bright blue scarf in a pristine white box). Companies focused on edible products can also benefit from white branding as it gives that clean, white dinner plate feeling. Really research your target market as branding focused on white is not always the best choice (e.g. children’s toys).

Consider creating a more graphic look by adding black typography, using white type on black pieces or using all white branding except for a full colour logo. If you do decide to choose this pristine look, make sure you do not skimp on paper stock or materials. There is nothing worse than a white business card that feels like it was printed on fax paper…

White branding and products can benefit from extra dashes of detail like white foil, gloss effects or special papers. Explore all of the ways more dimension can be added to white on white and beyond.

Similarly, consider blind embossing, debossing and letterpress. They not only look great but are wonderfully tactile. I notice this look used a lot in fashion look books and it is undeniably luxurious looking.

While straight white packaging can be striking, I particularly like when it is a more thoughtful canvas that allows the product to show through in a modern way. A clear package with white typography or a white belly band around colour stationery – there are so many ways packaging can remain clean but still unique. This is also a great way to save money on printing while still creating a cohesive, quality-focused look.

Textured White is a big trend in 2012 and for good reason. Texture and dimension created on white surfaces injects personality and can range from soft and dreamy to sharp and modern. I love the way light bounces off a textured white object, don’t you? This is a great avenue to explore from shop walls to product collections to business cards.

Metallic and White pair beautifully and have been especially popular in 2012. In particular, the “metallic dip” effect where an object looks as though it was dipped in metal has been everywhere. Trend or not, metallics and white are a classic combination that announce opulence and luxury. Consider adding metallic accents to your product line or perhaps metallic foils on paper pieces and branding.

Embellished White is the word du jour lately (especially after the Oscars) and it refers to white featuring unique details like beading, luminescent effects, distinct layering, diaphanous qualities and so forth. One of the great facets of white is that it can handle a lot of embellishment without looking cheap or crazy. Consider white details on clear surfaces, exploring white materials that have light catching qualities (think mother of pearl), unique products like white neon and distinctive details like ornate white fabrics, paper, beading and more.

I’ve spoken about “pops of colour” before but it begs repeating that white is a fabulous canvas for even the smallest use of colour. The lining or string of a tag, a thin edge on a garment, the vent of a shopping bag – colour can make such an impact when it pops against a mostly white look.

Beyond the holiday look of snow, white is a gorgeous look for store windows and art installations. The effect is fancy and eye-catching but not distracting from products. It is also budget friendly as a window of white balloons or paper craft is inexpensive yet bold and luxurious looking. The typography above was created in styrofoam which highlights that no product is out of the question when created in white!

images via see saw designs, cavalier and A2

White is often used for styling backgrounds as it can really showcase a product. White walls and props can really bring coloured products to life in context. If your product collection is mostly white, a coloured wall can show off your pristine piece in all its glory. However, without the benefit of tactility, you need to select styling and backgrounds for online shops carefully (Rena wrote a great article on this topic).

In my opinion, shop exteriors and white can equal yikes. It really depends on your weather and location. Does it rain all of the time? Are there splashy buses going by regularly? Is it so sunny that an all-white building will blind your customers? If you can make it work, white can be the ultimate blank canvas for store windows and really promote a luxurious brand. If you have a Chanel heritage building, you really can’t go wrong (wink wink). White texture like brick and pops of colourful store signs also look fantastic.

I’ve noticed some terrific approaches to white typography on shop windows lately. It looks just beautiful on glass and does not distract from products but rather, enhances the storefront in an impactful yet subtle way. I have been drooling over Donna’s Pot + Pantry hand-drawn quotes since I saw them on Instagram yesterday.

images via referans and best top design

An all-white store interior can be a great canvas if you sell high-end or colourful products. I think it works particularly well if you sell one type of object. That being said, I think materials and finishes are critical if you adopt this look. If you sell uber expensive handbags, a pristine and sleek white interior will probably draw in your target market. In other product areas, that look can be off-putting and cold. You don’t want customers that feel like they can’t touch anything!

In my opinion, white interiors (beyond those focused on luxury) are best served by adding some industrial elements or materials like brick, natural wood or some subtle pops of colour. Plenty of natural light can also make a world of difference as you want to avoid that clinical or creepy department store feeling.

images via nakam, dezeen, indigo and west elm

Last but not least (and I could go on and on), I love the popular trend of Perforated White on White. While this look has been mostly limited to products, I think it has so much potential in shop design. There may be nothing more beautiful than the light it could cast across your shop. Consider infusing the idea into a sign or small exterior component. I would be more than happy to visit and help make holes! Until next time, I am off to the shops…

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5 Comments

  1. parker says:

    I’d love sources for these images! They’re amazing.

  2. […] Perforated – there has been no shortage of stunning new techniques and ideas devoted to white. I wrote a post on Rena Tom’s site on this topic so please take a look here if you are […]

  3. julie says:

    Love, love, love, white. . .in many different shades combined in a room or artwork. We just redid our kitchen cabinets of 22 years, in a soft white with a sea blue accent wall. The cabinets were originally light oak, which was beautiful, but the white just brightens up the room so much. I plan on creating stained glass panels for some of the cabinets that can be changed out on my whim. Whites will be one of the first themes!

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