More Than Materials hosts Dallas and John chat with Corian® Design Color Expert and passionate interior designer Mark Woodman about the journey of a material color launch. They take a deep dive into the inspirations and trends that brought the 7 new Corian® Solid Surface and 10 new Corian® Quartz aesthetics to fruition.

To connect with Mark, you can follow him on Instagram: @mark_design_color

Full Transcript

Dallas (00:07):

Welcome to More Than Materials. I’m Dallas Gabriel, President at Willis.

John (00:12):

And I’m John Topic, Director of Marketing.

Dallas (00:15):

Each episode we’ll be joined by special guests and dive into material design trends and solutions.

John (00:20):

We’ll discuss exciting design ideas, inspirational concepts, technical aspects, and so much more so let’s explore.

Dallas (00:31):

Hey everyone. We are excited to have Mark Woodman, design and color creative consultant, brand ambassador for Corian Design with us today. Mark assists the global marketing team on color trends that impact both residential commercial and industrial design. Mark is also a passionate designer, writer, design trend analyst, and celebrated international speaker. Mark, do you want to comment just briefly a little bit more on your background?

Mark (01:03):

Gee well, hi and thank you for having me first off. It’s delightful to be here and gee, more my background – you covered it pretty well. Although I think one thing that’s important and has really been nice for us in what I’m doing with Corian is that I’m a practicing interior designer. So I’m actually sort of in the trenches with people every day and what they’re looking for for their homes to create spaces that they want to come back to every day. And that is create something really marvelous, not only within the space itself, but all the aesthetics that are involved in it.

John (01:35):

That’s fantastic because you get the chance to hear you know, the consumer voice and feedback from the industry on what’s happening. And like I said, that feedback is very important to bring back to companies like Corian Design and show them what consumers are looking for.

Mark (01:55):

It really is great. And it’s interesting sometimes when you find out it’s sometimes just really a small little thing that you will sit back and go, oh yeah, big picture. It’s easy to kind of overlook that, but small picture, like really, really kept under the details of a space. It’s like, yeah, we do need to look at maybe more reveals on the edge of a countertop. You know, that’d be really cool. Let’s think of some new things that we can do with that. And it’s just, it’s a little things like that, but it winds up in conversations with people.

John (02:24):

Yeah. Like they said that the details are the design, right Mark?

Mark (02:28):

Oh, clearly. Yeah.

John (02:30):

So I’m just as excited to have you here today. We’re going to discuss today a look into the journey of a materials color launch. So more specifically the recent launch of seven new beautiful Corian Solid Surface aesthetics, as well as, which I’m even more excited about, 10 Corian Quartz aesthetics that have just been launched into the market as of just last week. And we know most designers are really eager to see new colors. It’s an exciting time of the year when a manufacturer brings out new colors, because it usually represents new trends for the coming years. So Mark, tell us a little bit how a manufacturer really starts with a color launch.

Mark (03:15):

It’s ongoing. There’s never really a start to it. As far as the aesthetics are concerned, it really is an evolutionary process. And I guess you could look at a start thinking at one point, like when is the ideal for this or when do we feel we have it right. Which is probably a really good thing to think about and when it came off. So, and maybe we can come back to this at one point. So as we’re talking, remind me about that with one of the new Solid Surface materials or aesthetics, I should say.

John (03:47):

So, sorry. Are you saying that, you know, you’ve got these colors kind of in the queue and just really need to wait for the right time or a year to launch?

Mark (03:56):

Some of it is that way, yes. Because we’re always doing research. So I tend to be looking out with some of the organizations I’m involved in as well as my own research looking a good two to three years out as best we can to see what’s happening in a macro sense to society, what’s happening. And we look at, we look at food and travel and entertainment, sociology, what’s happening in politics. The world stage is our, is our little research bowl in a sense. And so you’re always looking in there thinking like, oh, we’re sort of going this direction, but oh look, this just zagged in different ways so let’s move it that way. So that research winds up moving so many different things, not only in color, but also in the aesthetics itself. Do veins have to be larger and bolder or smaller? And we had a lot of small particulates for a long time and we know what’s been going on with that. So we have like the new Terrazzo the Alabaster Terrazzo that just came out of Quartz, which is a larger, bolder one because there was demand for a bigger statement in pieces, not like statements we were talking about before, but we used to have just huge, massive areas, but just something that made a more natural statement in a really good way of looking at that. So you’ll look at nature, how people are living with that, how they’re commuting back and forth with it. And all those elements, you just keep connecting dots every day. You’re connecting dots from something to see where it kind of winds up and eventually translates to a surface. How do we translate what we’re looking at into a surface? So for instance, on the new ones we’ve been watching and I’ve been watching for the last couple of years now, the warming of color and the importance of, to putting quotation marks, the importance of beige which is actually just the center point of a much broader palette of warm colors from a fairly light. If we’re looking, we’ll talk about in coffee terms from a fairly light latte to a deepest espresso and beige sort of landing right in the middle of that, with this sort of mid range, cup of coffee with about half and half of milk and coffee in it. And knowing that we thought, okay, what are we doing with that? How do we bridge that? Because we know how important gray has been in cool colors have been for quite some time, they’re starting to warm up. So how do you bridge that? How do you move it? Because we know that everyone is not going to say, oh, great, warm colors. Now let’s toss everything that’s cool and put in everything that’s warm. So you watch that happen as a larger trend and then start looking at smaller ways. Is it a veining that goes into a piece? Is it cool with warm introduced into it? Is it background color? Is it a small fleck of a particulate? And all those things are just continual conversation.

Dallas (06:53):

Certainly sounds like it’s a very complex process. And also too, I mean, I just love the fact that you were able to give us some of those key indicators, you know, that you really look for within the industry outside of the industry and what really impacts the color trends. So once you sort of decided on that and by the way, I’m happy to hear that things are warming up a little bit. What happens when a color palette is decided on, you know, how do you work with the Corian Design team to, you know, develop samples? Is there a full process to that? Are you developing like a sample plaque? And then you kind of, you know, you move on from there. How is that decided?

Mark (07:35):

We do actually, and that’s very time-consuming because you work at it, cause it doesn’t always come out the way you wanted to the first time, but that’s with almost everything that we do, certainly in design, you kind of work through and plan it through further. So yeah, we work with R and D. We also, almost simultaneously are working with our distributors. We will be talking with, with customers, with architects and designers, our salesforce. So we want all the information coming from every possible resource to help you define your direction and narrow down the scope. But in the meantime, you’re saying, okay, it’s great to have this and that’s really good feedback, but we still have to have a sense of drama, a moment of excitement. So if everything is just, you know, it can’t just be beige, it’s gotta be beige with something that makes it visually interesting and that ideally sets us apart, or it becomes a great jumping-off point. So for instance Beige Royale, which had been worked on for, oh, probably, well actually almost since Ashen Gray came out, we were already looking at what’s our next step on that. Ashen Gray Quartz being a phenomenal success and Beige Royale is based on that. So we took the aesthetic of that, knowing the aesthetic was very successful, so that, okay, now, now what do we do with that to shift this in a warmer direction, as things start to change, but people like the look of it, but we know the color has to shift slightly. So that was part of that, knowing what was incredibly successful in the field and what has been a big winner, how do we make it new and fresh and modern or more modern and give it a longer life without taking away from the one that will remain successful. So now they get to sort of work in tandem. It’s also one of those, what people want in choices. And we know that one of the things we found is that it’s fairly broad, warm, cool, light and dark. And then you find, you try to find a middle ground in between. So it’s working with people who down the road work with the aesthetics and then backing up and going to R and D or research and development and saying, here’s what we’re looking for. Here’s sort of the aesthetic. We’d like, here’s some real life samples. So here’s a picture of a marble that was extracted from the ground that looks really, you know, perfect and spot on. We don’t want to copy that, nature does that well enough on its own, but how do we get the essence of that in a material. And sometimes it comes from something else. So when we looked at, for instance, the cements and concrete and aggregate aesthetics that we have, we actually looked at things that weren’t actually cement and aggregates to start with, but they had the visual texture and the depth of them. And it’s sort of like, I would see I had some photographs that I had taken that was just sort of a cloudy sky one day, but the way the clouds were moving and it was all kind of a gray sky, sort of a tone on tone sky. And the background reminded me of what cement sort of looks like as it’s drawing in different phases. So believe it or not a photograph of a gray sky and clouds was part of an inspiration board for the background to a concrete or a cement aesthetic.

John (10:56):

Woe, that’s pretty impressive. So what you’re saying is that, you know, through real-life samples, imagery, different textures, you’ll supply the DuPont R and D team to say, Hey, here’s kind of what we’re looking at in the feel and look, and you know, you talk about background colors and foreground colors and veining. Then that R and D team kind of captures all that data, and without giving away the DuPont secret sauce, really comes back to you with… do they show you pigments? Do they actually create a sample at that point? What happens kind of in that timeframe of, of real R and D?

Mark (11:40):

Well, sometimes what we’ll actually see samples they’ll work things on if we can work from coloring we know we have. Other times I will, and I work with Massimo Fucci in Italy as well, in Milan. So the two of us who team together from the two sides of the Atlantic from the aesthetics development, and then we’ll wind up looking at a common ground of color that we can use. So for instance, I’ll go back to the Onyx is when they were first introduced, I wound up working with a colorant or a color company that they can match. So our R and D got the fan deck from those. They had, they already knew them in Europe. I have them. So we could look down, I could say, here are a number of greens we’d like to experiment with for Jade Onyx. And we all could open up the fan deck and look at the exact same color and know what we were all talking about.

John (12:36):

You mentioned Europe there and, you know, Corian Design being a global brand, that must be pretty challenging trying to create aesthetics both for the North American market, but also, you know, European and global. Is there a challenge there or any limitations to that thought?

Mark (12:56):

There are, although Massimo and I just separately went to three different design shows. He too, in Italy and I was, I was at one here in the US and we sort of compared notes afterwards, and we were finding similar things happening. I find this, I am still very involved with Color Marketing Group, which is an international color association. I’m the former president. And we have also found that a lot of our international meetings. So we have North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, and they work independently of one another during the year, and then come together towards the end of the year to sort of share what they came up with, this final pallets of color. And this is just talking color right now. And it’s astounding to find that around the world independently, we come up with very similar stories and very similar color collections or color forecasts. Massimo and I have found something similar as well. We do our own research and compare notes. And then often find that we’re kind of on a similar track because the world is kind of seeing the same things happen around the world, almost instantaneously. And then we have to, again, have to interpret it. So we see all these things coming through and now we’re looking at affirmation and saying, okay, here’s what we’ve done. And how are they, how are they sort of trickling down? And what did we produce that works with them? So we were very pleased to see at these three major shows things that were coming in the marketplace, where we fit perfectly into the aesthetics that we found showing up at those shows.

Dallas (14:33):

Yeah. And Mark, do you think that that is because of, you know, social media and we’re so connected globally now – is that maybe what’s having an impact on more similarities than differences?

Mark (14:46):

That’s a major component. It’s a major component of that. Because people can do the research, what we show here is available somewhere else, and we can compare them and say, oh, we like it or not. What is sometimes interesting is the acceptance and very slightly differently between what happens in Asia or Europe or North America. And I’ll sort of compare North America and Europe a little bit more because, and then lifestyles changed a little bit. The sense of ease that we see in North America is slightly different than the sense of formality that sometimes shows up in Europe. Which is always fascinating. And it’s great. And it’s something that we tend to be fairly well known for is a sense of ease and kind of easy-going attitude for the most part. And I think sometimes the, the acceptance of aesthetics roll into that, but then we talked with them, we talked about it at one point and the ease can be translating across the line. So you can have flowing veins for instance, which has kind of a, you know, invites your eye along the surface. And it can be reminiscent of water flowing, even though you’re not showing water, but it’s kind of that, that thought process. As a matter of fact, some of that went into Artista in kind of a flow and a comfort from nature when you look at it. And so it’s easy-going and comfortable and natural, but at the same time, it has a nice formality depending on how it’s used, how it’s fabricated and what space it’s in.

Dallas (16:23):

Yeah, that’s very interesting. Another question for you too, Mark. How does, a major world event, like what we’ve experienced with the pandemic, how does that play into color trends? Is there an impact there?

Mark (16:38):

There has been. Part of it is, when I talked about the warming and the beige very specifically that family, but the warmth of that people really, really, we looked at this, we’re needing this comforting, this constant sense of comfort and of I’m going to say ease because they want everything to be a little easy because there was so much stress going on on the news. No matter what you did, it was like, oh my gosh, you know, what’s going to happen today? What’s the next news report? So that was part of the biggest one. And when we looked at that at wound up color collections that had a bit of recognition and tradition to them. So neutrals in a broad definition, both warm and cool light and dark came to the forefront because they were easy for consumers to look at it and embrace. But at the same time, they still need our energy. They can’t just curl up in a ball of, you know, of beige, it had to have something going on in it. And what I think we’ve seen with these new collections, what we were really trying for is that they’re neutrals that stand on their own. By definition, neutral doesn’t have a lot of say, it sits in the background. It’s pleasant. It’s nice. It doesn’t cause any troubles. We wanted to create things that have a neutrality to them, but they could stand on their own and be exciting. So there’s pattern and texture. We’ve added texture. I mean, when you think about it, the new Quartz launch, 60% of those colors have a matte or textured finish to them, or leather texture.

Dallas (18:14):

Can you talk a little bit about the new finish, the matte finish on the Corian Quartz side?

Mark (18:20):

That actually grew out of, there were two things it grew out of. One was industrial design, industrial design as a mover, as a category. Good word for it. It’s not going away, it’s refining itself. It’s not quite as, oh, let’s find an old car to the warehouse with greasy wheels and roughed up wood. It’s shifting from that to a much more refined, highly tooled metals and looks and stones and beautifully created where we sort of want to know the inner workings of it. So industrial has changed in that respect slightly, but it’s still there. But we also know that a lot of the finishes industrial are matte. And then if you look at matte finishes, they invite the hand, people want to touch that because it’s warmer to the eye and it feels softer to the hand. And it comes back to what we’ve also been needing the last couple of years, or I should say desiring the last couple of years, is that things give us comfort. So now we started looking at textures that offer comfort as well, and the really good way of looking at that. And it’s not just in our surfaces, it’s across the board. So I’m seeing it happening in fabrics. There is so much more velvet and suedes and suade looks, softened wool. There’s a lot of in fashion this year, both in men’s and women’s, they’ve actually taken sort of classic Shetland wool sweaters, or lamb’s wool sweaters, and they’ve actually roughed him up to pill them in advance. So they’ve got this really fuzzy, slightly worn look. So they feel like you’ve had them for a while and they’re just comfortable. And so it comes across the board and they have a different finish when they do that. They kind of, they also visually matte out a little bit more.

Dallas (20:05):

And I think it’s really interesting to you that, you know, we’re talking about Corian Quartz with the new matte finish, but, you know, with Corian Solid Surface, it’s always been recommended that, you know, it’s in that, that matte finish. And it always has had that very comforting, very smooth, silky, warm kind of feel. So it plays in really well with what you’re saying, that comforting factor and what we’re all seeking.

Mark (20:29):

It has been marvelous for that. The low sheen of Solid Surface has been very interesting. I’ve always found it kind of wild to a point where, cause it does do that. Any product will do that, but people will have Solid Surface they’ll put their hand on it and they’ll go, oh, this actually feels warm. It’s not, but it has a different feel to it. The material actually does something different to when it’s under your, under your hand, when you run your hands over it, cause it doesn’t feel hard and cold which has always been interesting. And it kind of plays, I think with a lot of the new, a lot of the new aesthetics that plays into even more so.

John (21:06):

Absolutely. I think just the texture of Corian Solid Surface as people, you know, feel it is one of its main values that brings to any surface.

Mark (21:18):

Oh, I’m sorry. Yeah. I want to say something on the leathered if I may, since we’re on time. There’s something that’s very unique that’s still happening that we’re actually kind of proud of in that the leathered texture that goes onto our Quartz, and it’s kind of a fun thing to do as a little experiment. And this came to me actually, when I was in an architect’s office for a launch our earlier launch of some leathered texture finishes and he closed his eyes – one of the architects – and he ran his hand over it. So he was not looking at the aesthetic. He wanted to see how it felt. And he ran his hand over them and he looked, he went, he said, they look like they feel. Good job. And then he walked away. He started walking away and I said, oh no, no, no, wait, come back. What do you mean by that? What do you mean by that? And he says, if I run my hand over this, as I look at this, Storm Gray, for instance, he says, there’s a much tighter of aesthetic, a little more dense, and it actually feels more pebbled if you compare that to Venetia Cream, where things are opened up a little bit further, and it feels a little smoother, there’s texture to it, but it’s a slightly smoother texture. And he said, a lot of companies will put a texture over it and it’s same texture, no matter what the visual aesthetic is. Your texture sort of matches your visual texture. So your touch and your site are very similar when you look at them. And I it’s a marvelous, it was a great observation on his point. And I think it’s an exciting thing. And when we, when we look at these aesthetics as well.

John (22:55):

Yeah, absolutely. So from what I’m gathering you know, the journey of a color launch is ongoing, which has its challenges. What would you say is the largest challenge of this entire process? Is it finding the right time to launch a color, staying on trend? You know, you mentioned forward-thinking two, three years out, working with your European counterparts. What’s kind of the most challenging part of this whole process?

Mark (23:28):

Wow. That’s an interesting question. And I’ve said interesting three times now. I think. It’s funny. It always is. I just find everything that I’m privileged to do. It’s just so…

John (23:43):

Let’s flip that around and not call it a challenge, but what’s the most exciting part of it?

Mark (23:50):

The most exciting part is actually seeing ideas come to life and they’re interpreted ideas. So we’re constantly looking because, oh, this would be great, and this would be marvelous, and let’s look at this, but you don’t know what it’s going to be until it actually comes out in a sheet of Solid Surface or slab of Quartz or Endura porcelain. And then all of a sudden, there it is, in all of its glory. And it’s like, oh, it’s truly just sort of like a moment with a little hallelujah chorus.

Dallas (24:25):

That would be very fulfilling, very exciting.

Mark (24:27):

It really is. It really is. I have to say that the Cararra series in Corian Solid Surface, I sell the first plaques for that in 2017, those were from scratch and they were four years in the market before we really thought they captured the essence of carrara marble in science.

Dallas (24:48):

We’re actually hearing a lot of buzz about that particular collection. The Carrara Lino seems to really just be a popular one among designers and architects.

Mark (24:59):

It’s beautiful and amusing to say that I took the train to Philadelphia yesterday, and there’s a beautiful marble train station, downtown 30th Street station in Philadelphia. And I was looking at the columns and they remind me very much, they reminded me very much of Carrara Lino. And I thought, yep, here it is. Here’s this phenomenal building with these massive soaring columns. And there’s the aesthetic, it’s sort of within the marble, within the columns themselves.

Dallas (25:27):

Fantastic. Well, before we before we wrap up here, I don’t know if you’re allowed to tell us this or not, but you know, which would you say would be your favorite color in the Corian Solid Surface new aesthetics and your favorite Corian Quartz color?

Mark (25:46):

Oh, those that know me, that’s, that’s a Sophie’s Choice. That’s like making me pick out my favorite color of socks,

Dallas (25:55):

Like making you pick your favorite child.

Mark (25:56):

Exactly. And they do actually feel like that too. Do you know, you, you hear once in a while, like, oh, well, this one’s doing really well. This one’s not doing quite as well. Like, oh, I want to take that in my arms and say, okay, you’ll be okay. You’ll be okay. I’ll start with Corian Quartz. I think this was early on one of my favorites because it’s so unique and it’s also unique to us is the Alabaster Terrazzo. It has got so much going on. And as I was looking more to the history of it, I love that one because it has not only a modern side to it, we think of terrazzos from mid century modern, but it’s historical. There are terrazzo floors in ancient times, it’s been used forever and ever, and ever as a material. And I think having it now to translate in a material that doesn’t require all the work that the other ones do is really good, but I love the look of it. I like the larger particulates that some of them are translucent that it can pick up light in different ways. Just, I think makes it just a really exciting in that one and exciting look in Quartz because it’s so different than the other pieces we’ve had. And in Solid Surface, it’s really hard to not be totally excited about the Cararra. And I think it’s because it’s been so long in the making to finally have it come out. They’ve all been created new. The cements were created new for us. All these pieces, you know, were worked on and created for the different aesthetics. But probably for Solid Surface, I’d probably have to say the Cararra because I know the journey that they’ve been on to get there. So it’s exciting to see them. And I think they’re beautiful. Aesthetically, their colors between the warm and the cool are spot on for the times and also for moving forward.

Dallas (27:50):

Well, the entire launch on both the Corian Solid Surface side and the Corian Quartz side is just fantastic. I really believe that you and the Corian Design team really outdid yourselves and you should be very proud of, of what you’ve released. They’re going to be very popular with our listeners. I do want to thank you so much for joining us today, Mark, and again, thanks to our listeners and we really do hope that you enjoyed today’s podcast. Mark, if our listeners would like to reach out to you, how should they go about that?

Mark (28:20):

Actually there’s a couple of ways they can do that. They can certainly write me are probably one of the easiest is to follow me on Instagram and it’s @mark_design_color.

John (28:32):

Fantastic.

Mark (28:34):

They can message me there. And of course I post, it’s almost all design. I post all kinds of things about color and design and interesting things that I see in industrialautomotive, and of course, lots of neat new things with our Corian Design family of products, the entire collection. So always something interesting to see there, hopefully, interesting to see. So that’d be wonderful.

Dallas (28:58):

Thanks so much, mark. Really appreciate your time today.

Mark (29:00):

Thank you again much success, happiness and health to everybody, take care.

John (29:04):

Thank you so much for joining us for this conversation. For listeners who are unfamiliar with Willis, we are curators of premium design materials. Our portfolio includes Corian Solid Surface, Corian Quartz, Corian Endura, Lapitec Sintered Stone, Arpa High Pressure Laminate, Fenix, and Kohler branded sinks and faucets.

Dallas (29:25):

Find out more about who we are and how we can assist you in your next project. Visit us at 4willis.com.