From Cyber Lime to Digital Lavender, the phygital colours of Gen Z take us into new dimensions and create a hybrid between the physical and digital worlds.

The rise of the metaverse has created an exciting moment for colour, with shades that morph phygitally between the physical and digital realms. Unexpected colour choices have come to the fore, made newly relevant by the moment in which we find ourselves today, where, more and more, life blends digital applications with real-life situations. Readily visible, colour clearly reflects the zeitgeist and signposts the way forward.

The saturated intensity of ‘dopamine brights’ – a recently coined term – puts a happy smile on the face of colour, while new colour names like ‘cyber lime’ and ‘digital lavender’ tint our world a brighter shade of pale.

‘Through our own ongoing research and that of our RX Global network, we’re able to map these shifts and translate them into macrotrends that are easy to understand and apply, so that interior designers, architects and homeowners can remain up to date”, says Decorex Africa’s Bielle Bellingham. RX Global is the world’s largest event organiser, while Decorex Africa, now in its 30th year, presents premier annual decor, design, and lifestyle exhibitions. Decorex Africa released its authoritative State of the Industry Report 2023 late last year, a capsule overview of major directions for the future that is free to download.

Decorex Africa recently presented an industry talk on the colour trends that visitors can expect to see in evidence at upcoming shows in Cape Town and Joburg. Highlighting colour choices for contemporary interior design to take us from 2023 into the future, Bellingham says, ‘On the whole, what we’re seeing is a mix of cautious optimism and escapism that people are craving post-pandemic, even in times of budget crunch.’

A trend demonstrating the power of newly initiated Gen Z consumers is the rise of soft, dusty shades of lavender and lilac – and Bellingham is not the only forecaster to hone in on the fluid purple-pink mix of Digital Lavender. Leading local paint brand Plascon has included it in recent seasonal paint palettes and WGSN, an international trend insights group, has spotted the shade everywhere, from Jil Sander’s fashion collections and Mercedes-Benz concept vehicles to digital artist Andrés Reisinger’s voluptuous and enigmatic virtual furniture.

Gemma Riberti, Head of Interiors at WGSN Lifestyle & Interiors, and WGSN’s colour strategist Clare Smith, both predict that the colour will dominate table-top and soft furnishings, in addition to walls. ‘It’s a sensorial shade that connects to holistic wellbeing and digital optimism,’ they tell us.

Digital lavender is a softer shade of purple than that identified by other trendsetters. Pantone, meanwhile, named Viva Magenta as its frontrunner for 2023 – a jubilant purply red that felt in line with the digital-first zeitgeist. For them, the choice aligned with ‘this idea of needing more energy, more vim and more vigour’.

Also vigorous is Cyber Lime, identified as a key colour for 2024. A punchy, almost neon dopamine bright that energises the body and mind, it’s seen as gender-inclusive and signifies the powerful connection between nature and technology. The popularity of cyber lime is easily understood in light of Bellingham’s observation that crisp, clean colours are increasing in demand thanks to our ongoing online lifestyles’.

While cyber lime tends towards the acidic, nourishing greens are also bang on trend. ‘Connecting nature and technology, green highlights the importance of developments in nature-powered bio and plant-based materials, dyes, pigments and energy sources,’ says Bellingham.

Meanwhile, as the world deals with feelings of anxiety and stress, ‘we look to colour to help soothe the mind and bring a sense of rest and reflection,’ says Bellingham. Powdered green tea is a particular source of inspiration, as it’s calming and stimulating at once, spawning the instantly popular Cool Matcha colour trend. This quiet, pacifying pale with a therapeutic quality is the perfect combination of vegetal green and mindful pastel.

Mid-tone blues taken from nature speak of a slowed-down lifestyle and increased sensory awareness. This aligns with seeking the right balance of work, the internet and possessions, representing a need for stability and moderation. The colours can be quite surreal and experiential in a metaverse environment.

Despite the proliferation of the phygital, consumers continue to remain sensitive and cautious about the future, birthing a need for colours to do more. As a result, we see shades that offer stability and reassurance coming to the fore. In contrast to the extreme brights, warming neutrals are timeless and grounding shades, while colours that connect to nature and well-being remain key, with restorative shades bringing a sense of calm and tranquillity to spaces. These shades also work in perfect harmony with each other and can create a complementary palette when used together.

To see these contemporary colours expressed in the latest local and international designs and decor accessories, head to Decorex Cape Town (22-25 June 2023 at the CTICC) and Joburg (3-6 August 2023 at the Sandton Convention Centre).