Once upon a time there was an unknown field of design called Colors, Materials and Finishes (CMF). Before 1990s CMF was not absent in consumer product or fashion design. The importance of colors and materials were not taken under consideration as their own entity. As we already know, materials and techniques should be taken under consideration from the very beginning of product development. Companies save time and money, but more importantly they get the anticipated outcome.

That is what they already figured out at automotive industry in 1920s. We can say that CMF has been a crucial part of design for decades. Harley Earl from General Motors was the first one in automotive industry who convinced that CMF, at the time called Art & Color section, was valuable asset to design process.  After that CMF was better known as color and trim design. They believed and still believe in the power of in depth trend and consumer research appliance to the vehicle design process.


The winds of CMF started to change product development, when Nokia brought CMF design to the consumer product design process in the early 1990s. At the time Nokia’s Chief of Design Frank Nuovo saw that the current design methods where deficient. The color, material and finishing decisions were made by marketing executives based on their own assumptions about what would be appealing for consumers. Nuovo had worked before in automotive industry and started to apply these methods to the mobile design process. He created a team for Nokia, that was specialized in colors, materials and trend forecasting. From there on, the color and material choices were made based on consumer and trend research. This new approach to design was soon adopted by the competitors and is nowadays used by all the smartphone manufacturers.

Nokia has been an important advocate for CMF design. Therefore, we emphasize our Nokia background and the legacy from those times. Many of today’s CMF designers are from Nokia due the fact that this field of design is not taught anywhere. We can proudly highlight the fact that we have a great group of CMF designers from Nokia times working seamlessly together. Our ways of working have developed a lot from Nokia times and we are constantly reforming our own path for maximized value creation.


The future of CMF is creating even more unique experience by data being the enabling force. Data has already widened our perceptions of consumer preferences. Before big data, trend forecasting has been more qualitative and about specific user group. In the future CMF design can be based on more meaningful data – qualitative research with more quantitative results. The data united with color psychology and cognitive psychology bridges the gap between different branches of science. Which will be meaningful for business decision making and competitiveness, but more importantly it allows us to make better products for consumers. Ultimately, we can say that CMF will create the guidelines for novel design.