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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Art Licensing: Christmas Trends

Christmas is the most profitable time of the year for retailers. Consumers spend more money decorating their homes and gift giving than any other time of the year. Thus, Christmas themed art on products are a huge category in licensing art. And using colors and Christmas motifs that are popular with consumers are important when creating art for products. However, trends that are predicted to be "hot" by trend experts may not be as important. As with all product categories, artists must do their homework in learning which manufacturers follow trends and which ones use traditional designs and color for their products. For instance, manufacturers that license graphic art on greeting cards tend to use more trendy colors and motifs than manufacturers that produce fine art greeting cards. Below are discussions about color, motif, and word trends used in Christmas art.

Color Trends
There are several trend services that predict trends for different product categories. One is The Trend Curve and the international authority on color and design trends in home furnishings. Michelle Lamb the co-founder and editorial director of The Trend Curve attends major trade fairs around the world to help her forecast trends in color, patterns and designs. She predicted that the Christmas color for 2011 would be silver and a light shade of green as stated by Debbie of Fancy House Road blog in "2011 Christmas Decor Trends: Silver and Green." And Interior Holic agrees in "Christmas 2011 Decoration Trends." Most likely Michelle Lamb saw this trend at the spring Frankfurt Germany's huge trade show Christmas World. In fact, these colors are big in the Netherlands according to Marianne Songbird from the Netherlands in "Christmas Decorations Fashion Trends 2011."

But, even if silver and light green are "hot" 2011 Christmas colors in Europe are they in the United States? I sure did not see it THIS year. Some of the articles that I read suggested that retail stores would be decorated with these colors. I do not remember the decorations at most department stores but Kohl's used red and gold. And you would expect that store window displays in New York would follow color trends. But the colors used in the store fronts varied depending on the theme displayed and products shown. View "Christmas in New York 2011" to see fabulous window displays. Look at the side bar on the website to select various department store window displays.

So just because a trend expert predict certain colors to be "hot" for Christmas does not mean manufacturers and retail stores follow them or can even implement that year's predicted trends because of the long lead time in their production schedule. Also most consumers cannot afford or wish to redo totally their Christmas decorations each year just to have the trendy Christmas colors in their homes. Perhaps Margery Stewart Baxter of Pro Flowers in "2011 Christmas Decorating Trends You Want to Know About" best states the use of trendy colors. ". . . A trend does not make a mandate. Stores are happy to satisfy Christmas shoppers of all styles, even the markedly "untrendy." And Beverly Fabrics blog proves that in "2011 Christmas Trends" because they show an array of Christmas decorating options and colors that should satisfy every consumer.

Motif Trends
When searching the internet, I could not find any articles about trends for Christmas motifs. So I used the old standby and looked at Christmas products in retail and internet stores. Popular motifs seemed to be the ubiquitous Santa, snowman, reindeer, poinsettia, holly, candy cane, pine cone, cardinal bird, and snowflake. Also used were Christmas trees, gingerbread men, polar bears, penguins, ornaments, stockings, mittens, wreaths, and various birds and flowers. None of these motifs are new and have been appearing on Christmas art for years.

Word Trends
As with a lot of art on products in todays market, Christmas art often incorporates words of hope and good feelings such as love, joy, celebrate, hope, and cheer. In recent years, the words "Merry Christmas" has been replaced with "Happy Holidays" on much of the art. This change is an attempt to make products appeal to a broader spectrum of consumers. America has become more religiously diverse and many non-Christian religions also celebrate around the end of the year. By using a more generic term such as Happy Holidays, products appeal to consumers that do not belong to a religion, belong to a non-Christian religion, or belong to a Christian religion.

Should artists follow trends?
While it is important for an artist to be aware of the current trends in Christmas art, they may choose not to use them in their art. Using or not using trends depends on the art style and product. For instance, if art is created for the decorative flag industry, the predicted 2011 Christmas colors of silver and light green is not colorful enough. However, those colors would be perfect for elegant looking tabletop products.

Artists should not depend on others to predict trends but do their own research by observing what colors and motifs are popular from Christmas to Christmas and then project what will be popular the following year(s). For example, penguins have been around for a while but they seemed to be on more products this year. Will they be on even more products next year? One method in tracking trends is to construct trend (mood) boards with retail and internet product advertisements. To see examples of trend boards, check-out UK's Advocate-Art licensing agency blog post "Christmas Countdown Has Begun ! Advocate Defining Christmas Trends (2012)."

Make sure that you read the comments to this article.  They are very informative!

Comments are welcome. Post yours in the comment section (below).


  1. As always Joan, well done. Lz

  2. Joan, I did not see ANYTHING exciting the Christmas-silver and green would have been nice. I was completely UNMOTIVATED by everyone suggesting traditional themes of red and gold to design around. Yuck, Be there done that. I felt like it was a a big MISS to ask artists to stick with traditional during tough economic times-I want an exciting reason to buy what I ALREADY own, Christmas decorations! Red, gold, traditional, same old thing is not it. I think artists have to bring fun, exciting, elegant themes themselves to Christmas presentations to wow manufacturers. This is the opportunity to really be unique because everyone is a bit frightened to try something new! Sorry for such a long response!

  3. Thanks again for a great article...I found when I had a retail store with European imports that they were several years ahead of U.S. in color trends...we should see the silver and pale green in a year or two...would probably be a good idea for U.S. artists to start to work on those colors/types of ideas now, for production next year or the following year. Maison Object in Paris usually has the color trends to watch. Unfortunately not too much coverage in media here. Thanks for all you do! Leslie

  4. Joan, good info as always. The standing joke around our studio has always been: This year’s hot Christmas colors – red and green… We have seen so many predicted C-mas color forecasts fall flat, I think because it is a traditional holiday and it just keeps coming back to the traditional colors. Blue, white and silver are always hanging around the perimeter but I wish I had a dollar for every time we’ve heard some version of “I like the design but can we get the _____ in green and make the _____ more red.” I agree with Monica that artists need to bring fun, exciting and unique themes to the manufacturers but I am not so sure that will include a new palette.

  5. Thanks Joan for this really timing article. I have been working on my first Christmas/holidays collections so I have been looking for inspiration a bit everywhere. In my most recent market research in Europe, I did see lots of silver along with green and turquoise, plus the more traditional colors. So I agree with Leslie, the European markets are ahead of the US a little. I also saw lots of colors, and not just for the holidays. New ideas are coming ...!

  6. I agree with you Jim that traditional red and green are the most popular Christmas colors. Therefore,I was surprised to license some Christmas designs that were pink / green and blue / green this year. It just shows that it behooves the artist to create designs with trendy colors besides traditional colors in order to satisfy more manufacturers. Joan

  7. Hi Joan, In my over 20+ years of licensing my art I can tell you that the traditional colors of red and green sell the best! Christmas is a traditional time for families, building memories. My Christmas collection on the market right now for Demdaco is done in traditional colors with traditional themes. While a few fashion colors sneak in now and then, to stay mainstream and get the sales volume, you need to stay with the colors that sell!

  8. I think the color palette you choose will depend on what market you are going for. Certainly if you are trying to sell the designs to Target, bolder more "on trend" colors are appropriate, that holds true for several other companies as well, but you have to look at who their core customer is. At Target for example you see a younger customer. The gift shops, what are left of them, tend to have a more mature client who has already invested many dollars into their decor and does not want to stray away from their traditional red and green. I also think color, style and design vary from the east to west coast and north and south. An artist has opportunity to design a variety of product in a variety of colors and themes, they just need to know who they are designing them for (manufacturer) and go for that look.