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The state of the economy might have the largest impact on the colors consumers favor. When the market tanks, people often retreat to neutrals, says Eiseman. But lately, instead of ignoring color -- think back to the grunge trend during the downturn of the early 1990s -- people tend to be cautious with big-ticket items but add color through less expensive purchases.
"Color is a way to build up your confidence," Eiseman says. "It makes you feel better." That may be why the institute chose mimosa yellow as its 2009 color of the year; according to Eiseman, it's a hue that carries psychological overtones of change and enlightenment for consumers.
As for next year's color, Eiseman isn't telling. But she did share a few hints as to what will factor into her team's decision. "People are wanting someplace to go, somewhere to retreat to," Eiseman says. "My challenge is to come up with a color that speaks to how we can create a feeling of escape -- to get away from the problems of the everyday world. Even if it's a fantasy."