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Solibre: Dunn-Edwards 2021 Color + Design Trends

Design Trends

What is the biggest challenge we face? This question was recently posed by Fernando Ausin, an international entrepreneur with a passion for social justice and global sustainability, during a virtual program on trends and practices to carry us forward post-pandemic. When Ausin questioned elders in his research within Mexico’s indigenous cultural communities, rather than pointing to outside influences, their answer was fear or “chicuaqui.” Described as an energetic parasite, chicuaqui feeds on our doubts, fear, anger, worry and sadness. When the fear is fed, there is a constant anxiousness.


During this pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, nature hasn’t missed us one bit. In fact, the animal kingdom has begun its healing process — and, with it, we have a gained new understanding of our Earthly cohabitants, as well as the need for long-lost need to connect with them.

The elasticity of time lets us play with anachronisms: History is no longer seen as a sacred entity. Chronology is shaken up by ongoing narratives. The digital world jolts our relationship with the past. We reactivate collective memory by rewriting it and we invent new codes.


Creativity is often forgotten when we talk about sustainability. However, we see a real evolution in the “aesthetics of sustainability.” The quest for meaning and desire to act concretely motivate us to take an interest in materials, to reconcile ourselves emotionally with these ideas and focus on imaginative,
eco-responsible processes and the virtuous aesthetics that result. In our second trends story called Solibre, we dive deeper into these concepts.


Solibre: literal translation “sun free.” Sounds like “soy libre” — I’m free

Solibre is a story of overcoming our fears and transferring these negative emotions into a new freedom of ideas for sustainable practices, self-optimization and adaptive design. A push forward to innovate on the edge of uncertain times, ideas are free to flow, liberated from fear.

Solibre puts climate issues back into the heart of restorative creation, nourished by a symbiotic relationship with nature and indigenous cultures.

Nature under threat is a subject of reflection and fascination. There is a feeling of loss as we seek to repair connections with the land. Artists, designers and scientists are interacting with nature and coming up with restorative concepts poised between ancestral know-how and cutting-edge technological developments.


How do we utilize the inspiration of Solibre to the world of design? There is a symbiotic relationship between reality and the artificial worlds as we look to innovations in digital intelligence — sensors, AI, Alexa, integrated devices, etc. — to aid in protection and preparation. Yet, innovation has moved us past fear into increased lives melding digital and reality.

Technology is coming of age with real-time interactions. Virtual advancements allow us to better ourselves through science, as well as traditional healing practices. We are pushing the limits of what the human body
can do, moving beyond our comfort zones. Solibre highlights that we can perceive discomfort of these scientific and technological developments as necessary for growth. Pushing boundaries is the gateway to new design frontiers.


Products that offer preparation and protection are key elements. Adaptive designs allow greater self-sufficiency, while expanding creative boundaries, which foster breakthroughs in technology and transformative
design solutions. The new luxury is the ability to choose refuge.

Adaptive design inspires dynamic tools that increase convenience and preparedness for the unknown. It is streamlined, displaying only the absolute essentials, which cultivates a safe haven and bolsters our courage
to discover the unknown.

Products will continue to push the boundaries of creativity and — because there will always be matters beyond our control — design will continue to give us innovative tools for additional preparation. Immersive
design experiences focus on solar energy, reconnecting with cultural heritage, and re-creating paradise in gallery form.


What architectural approach befits Solibre? Brutalism. That’s right: Brutalism isn’t dead. After appearing, then
disappearing, brutalism is back in softer, surrealist and eco-focused forms. Balance is central to brutalism, as well as future-facing design, which is crafted for longer-term appeal. This architectural style is reminiscent of the California coastline and reborn out of fire protection — utilitarian and essential.


The Solibre color palette is strong and nurturing, comforting us through uncertain times. This organic palette is reminiscent of desert landscapes, real and surreal, revealing brown and red tones that echo the Earth’s hues. Creating balance, pastels whisper the promise of new life,greens protect flora and fauna, and yellows showcase the power of solar energy. Bathed in light that radiates from all surfaces in pearly glints, ambers and soft iridescence, this color scheme is invigorated by a soft Day-Glo acid yellow.


This warm palette is influenced by raw materials, art and nature, all enhanced by yellow. Paired and gradient contrasts reinvent light and shadow, the day’s beginning and end. Botanical hues are omnipresent, greens
and khakis are filtered through the sun and polished with yellow accents yet blended with shades of dark brown.


Material and Texture

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” goes the well-known proverb, and it’s more relevant than ever. Necessity is pushing designers to reinvent materials for indestructible protection, in hyper-real finishes and
durable fibers. Self-healing and anti-viral protective fabrics are crucial materials.


Designs are organic, utilitarian and offer an artisan approach; imagine new heirlooms for future generations. Glassware is transparent, offering unusual forms. Lighting designs are pushing boundaries of form and function with a focus on sunlight and solar-light infusions — amber colors, tinted glass, light sensors, lustrous and gradated textures, iridescent weaves and light sensors. Other featured design, materials and textures

  • Themes of island life and exotic survival — plating, printed heather, raffia knit, openwork fishnet, as well as crafts inspired by Oceanic art, including exotic feathers, straw, leather, rattan — anything that reinvents tribal spirit.


  • Plastic reformation — in a blend of natural and digital manifestations, upcycled and recycled products emerge with impression of diluted and shot decoration, half-floral or half-aquatic, like new camouflage. New landscapes, aqueous marbling, imaginary island flowers, and patterns that look like Rorschach tests. Mirror-polished stainless steel adds the right touch of tech.


  • Sunlight everywhere — abundant sunshine with contemporary materials that catch or filter the light through colored glass, glossy corrugated iron, glazed textures, and interiors that open out onto nature, mixing high-tech equipment with ancestral accessories, with an exotic futuristic vibe.


  • Nature’s rebirth and metamorphosis — appreciate the richness of nature’s constant transformation. Honeyed shine, hot-foil stamping, sizzling summer heat gradations, organic mutations of plant life, raw limestone, charred cork, oak, resin, coated honeycombed knit, micro textures, beeswax, and perforated metal. Nature is influenced by environmental awareness and technological advances, and new nature focuses on discovery and understanding, from original to man-made.


  • Mutations and mysteries of nature — fantastical vegetation formations, metamorphosing flora and fruit to adapt to extremes, dehydrated shapes, botanic mimicry. There is a strange, otherworldly exoticism to decorative leaf patterns and textures and extravagant vegetation with acid accents. Add to this supernatural vision oversized botanical elements, hybrids of flora and fauna, and pearlized finishes.


In surface design, the influence of biotechnology is paramount. Patterns include speckled and gravel-coated, granular effects, along with numeric typography — rulers, bold numbers, charts and graphs. Heat-mapping graphics in bright chemical-colored prints represent escapism, as well as environmental influences. Volcanic lava spatters display the raw power of Earth, while color gradients in sunrise and sunset hues elevate design to dream states.

To learn more about our 2021 color + design trends report, click here. And to view the full 2021 color palette, visit us here.