Custom-made colors: The ideas in the making of “Forbidden Red” ― 

Ever since the appearance of cars, architects have been fascinated, and many have had their designs informed by the dynamic shapes and pioneering technologies at work in the car industry. Up to now, this seems to have been a one-way relation, but soon we may witness closer synergies and creative cross-fertilization of ideas.

Cars have been considered as objects of desire from the very beginning: Far from being mere means of transport, cars are first and foremost a declaration of character. Their design involves countless hours of research and experimentation because the objective is for them to be not only effective, but emotionally engaging.

The BMW Concept 4 coupé, presented to the public in September 2019, belongs to that exceptional class of concept cars, developed precisely for making a statement. Its muscular geometry and racy character is highlighted with a spectacular, custom-made color, that was developed in partnership with AkzoNobel as an integral part of the car design: “Forbidden Red” encapsulates all the passion and dazzle of driving the Concept 4, using color properties to touch upon our deepest longings.

BMW’s Head of BMW Colour and Trim, Anette Baumeister, joined the company as a designer coming from a background in textiles, but was not confined to interior upholstery only: Soon, she applied her skills and expertise to cars’ exteriors as well, and one of the most exciting and prolific parts of Annette’s tenure at BMW has been the creation of new colors. The idea of a new color is a matter of inspiration and empathy, of course, but its translation into actual paint is a much more demanding part. The immersive color for the BMW Concept 4 is a product of psychology, as much as it is grounded in chemistry and science.

When it comes to design, AkzoNobel collaborates with OEMs in a range of ways – from initial car concepts to materials, structures and finishes. Our Global Color Design team offers various innovative design tools to help OEM’s find the perfect look for their project. Our designers keep on top of the latest trends, translating them into a yearly ColorSurfaces trend collection featuring the latest color & material trends and exciting finishes used by the world’s leading color and material experts.

Whether you’re looking for a whole new concept, or to inject some extra wow! factor into an existing product line, ColorSurfaces is where the design partnership begins.

Looking at the latest trend collection, E16, a rich and bright red is the highlight of the powerful palette of the first of four themes, representing courage in possession of a strong identity.

Red is a hue easily associated with confidence, excitement, and determination, and this makes it a staple among race cars. “Forbidden Red”, however, is a much more subtle and alluring color, in the sense that it is not just about an impression, but about a process; what makes the color so special is that it is interactive, and it requires constant engagement to be brought to life. Forbidden Red is a shimmering, metallic red, featuring eight layers of paint (when the standard for cars is only two), including gold pigments, a black undercoat and clear coats on top. As one moves around the Concept 4, the color shifts from a candied-apple glossy red under bright lights, to deep crimson, to almost black in the shade. This way, color makes the curved geometry of the car stand out, remaining consistent its principal feature: Motion. “Forbidden colors” are colors that our standard “eye hardware” can’t normally perceive – at least not without help. Such “forbidden” or “impossible” colors include reddish green and yellowish blue. Back in 1983, visual scientist Hewitt Crane conducted an experiment showing subjects parallel, adjacent blue and yellow color strips. Eye tracking technology kept these strips in precisely the same position on the test subjects’ retinas. As the color receptors on each part of the retina tired, users reported that the border between the colors had melted away, giving them the sense of a new, never before seen color – not a green but a “yellowish blue”. It was like seeing purple for the first time and calling it “bluish red”.

The dazzling, metallic effect of Forbidden Red, with its changing hues, is achieved with a painting process called “multilayer coatings”, which involves multiple layers of coating, each adding to the properties of the others. As a color designer, Anette Baumeister has an inclination towards “two-colors-in-one”: What is really interesting about this effect is that it can only be achieved in three dimensions, because it needs to catch the light from different angles. The hue that she developed for BMW is very precise in intent and explicit in emotion: it evokes desire, gratification and exhilaration. Its purpose is to work hand-in-hand with the car’s geometry, engaging the users to interact with the car in many ways, and its production has been a challenging technical feat, requiring all of AkzoNobel’s expertise.

Multilayer coatings with powder coatings are already feasible, and they feature prominently in product design, including architectural components. Architects understand the properties of form very well, but they could certainly benefit from closer observation of developments in the car or textile industries, especially when they may ask for colors that are particular to the requirements of a project, or a location, and may not even exist yet. After all, design cannot, and should not be compartmentalized. As long as design objectives are clear, and expertise is available, we are confident to see many creative developments in the future.

(source Yatzer: A conversation with Anette Baumeister)