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There are only a few things you can say without fear of contradiction when it comes to color forecasts. First, color is among the most powerful tools for communicating a message and selling an idea or product, and understanding broader color trends, however complex and uncertain, is vital to success. Second, color directions are evolutionary, not revolutionary, so movement is extremely gradual and very subtle, and no single explanation — "the environment" or "9/11" or "economic recovery" — can fit. Looking at the various sources for color trends, this year's seem somewhat less cohesive than in the recent past. But here is a broad overview. Brighter and more vivid colors are emerging after a longish period in which understated, calming and natural colors have dominated. Metallics are on the rise, as well as neons and vivid citrus brights.Why? Among the theories: the embrace of high-tech, less fear and nesting as 9/11 recedes in the collective memory, anticipation of better economic times, assertive ethnic colors in a multicultural society, the individualistic desire to stand out, eyes trained to look at bright hues on computer screens, and, as the experts at Pantone so nicely put it, the "wonder" of fantasy, engineering, scientific exploration and personal rediscovery.

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