Colour material finish CMF design service at DCA

Feel the difference

High quality CMF - colour, materials and finish design - can be the difference between good and great product design. So says Jen Holloway, CMF Design Lead, at global product design consultancy, DCA. Here, she tells us how CMF design got under her skin, why it’s so crucial and what makes DCA’s offer stand out from the crowd.
Jen Holloway is that rare breed; a potent mix of technical knowledge and creative intuition. The result of which, as many of those who work with her will testify, is so much more than the sum of these two parts. Her unique ability to recall, quick-as-a-flash and on-cue, precise technical detail on materials, and then use her knowledge to inspire the rest of the team, is legendary across DCA and helps bring agility to projects. A kind of creative geekery that’s a big part of what makes her tick and her input on projects so valuable. It’s a natural instinct, she admits, that has definitely helped grow her reputation in the world of CMF design. ‘I have a strong feeling about what will work and what won’t when it comes to selecting materials and colour,’ she explains, ‘and I’m obsessed with the detail.’

Graduating with a degree in textile design, Jen found her feet as a CMF designer in the automotive industry. Stints at Ford, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover allowed her to build her knowledge but more importantly realise the power a good colour, materials and finishes strategy has when it comes to successful product design. If you sat behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta in 2008, then you will have experienced some of Jen’s work. Likewise, if you were ever lucky enough to hop inside a Jaguar F-Type from 2014. Every surface – seats, floors, interior panels, doors, handles, steering wheel, controls – should be considered as a collection in harmony, as well as exterior colour and finishes. In fact, it was at Jaguar that Jen developed her passion for exterior paint. ‘I discovered I had a good instinct for how a colour would translate from a small sample to the full body of a car,’ she says, ‘and could articulate how to achieve an aspiration for a colour and deliver it into reality.’

I discovered I had a good instinct for how a colour would translate from a small sample to the full body of a car.

Jen Holloway is the colour material finish designer at DCA, arranging a mix of textiles, plastic and textures
Value of emotional aesthetics

Jen is aware that there are many people who are still unclear as to what CMF design is. She explains: ‘I tell them it’s about using the aesthetics of a product to create an emotional response, which can enhance the user’s experience of a brand. Anything you can see and feel on a product should have the touch of a CMF designer. A good CMF strategy will consider every surface and element in fine detail, how they reflect the brand’s values and meet its consumers’ needs.’ Consumer and brand must be the foundations, insists Jen, ‘The starting point is always with the customer: we ask how we want them to feel.’ She goes on, ‘CMF was relatively unknown 10 years ago. But because consumers are more discerning and want more choice, they’re now more demanding, and so brands and manufacturers need more support to create a higher quality user experience. We can do this through the use of world-class CMF.’

CMF design is a vital tool when it comes to brand strategy at DCA. ‘We use it to elevate the perception of brands into something more premium or appropriate for a particular audience,’ Jen says. ‘We also harness our knowledge to work out when to spend money on CMF, where to hold out, where to compromise, of course depending on product, brand or sector.’

It’s about using the aesthetics of a product to create an emotional response.

Integrated inspiration

Itching to broaden her horizons beyond cars, a speculative email brought Jen to the attention of DCA just when it wanted to expand its own CMF capability. That was three years ago, and since she joined the company, Jen has developed a distinctive CMF offer and team that has played a major role in bringing in new projects. So why is what DCA offers so different to competitors? ‘CMF is at the heart of how we achieve high quality design here,’ explains Jen, ‘We use it not only to achieve a design in production beyond the glossy rendering, but also to help inspire that design in the first place. It’s not just a finishing touch, it reaches every part of a project and is very much knitted into the entire process. We get involved in a project right from the initial ideation stage, through to design development and then production. It means we can advise where and when CMF design is needed or can add value.’ As a design is developed, Jen often works in parallel, researching materials and colours, creating a pallet either digitally or as a physical collection to show depth of pattern, texture or colour. ‘Making sure a designer can recreate CMF recommendations accurately in the CAD work is also very important,’ Jen emphasises.
Colour material finish CMF Service provided by DCA Design. This is a box of sample materials, fabrics, wood, leather, moss and sustainable composites.
Bridging design and engineering

Because of Jen’s technical expertise, she can act as an effective intermediary between design and engineering. Put her in front of a sceptical Research & Development team or manufacturing partner and she will reassure and advise with her plain-spoken, technical knowledge, on the workability of a design concept. ‘You do need that engineering head,’ she says, ‘You’ve got to be technically-minded to sell a design concept and bring it to life for the engineers who are responsible for its feasibility.’ She’s also just as happy in a room full of industrial designers, helping them understand the possibilities or limitations of a particular material. ‘We ground ourselves in knowledge of materials and colour which means we are able to specify materials that are fit for purpose. We make sure we know what we’re delivering for, the product’s life span, for example, how and where it’s going to be used. This rigour is what makes CMF at DCA so special,’ she explains.

Rigour is what makes CMF at DCA so special.

A dedicated team

Jen maintains that CMF also has the edge at DCA because it’s people, experienced in CMF design, researching, developing and delivering to briefs whilst curating a physical resource. Jen expands, we don’t just own a static materials library gathering dust in a corner, that clients are whizzed past on an obligatory studio tour. And it’s not a few samples hidden away in a designer’s drawer either, DCA has everything it needs to create a CMF strategy in-house. Our materials library is a dynamic one, a vital resource that Jen and her team are constantly evolving and have developed significantly so that it’s now at least five times the size it was before she joined. ‘It’s a really valuable collection, and woe betide anyone who takes something and leaves it lying around their studio!’ she warns, ‘We use it all the time, it makes the CMF role easier and more efficient.’
Colour material finish CMF Service provided by DCA Design. This is a box of sample materials, fabrics, wood, leather, metal, resin, glass, moss and sustainable composites. Some items have a different kind of gloss, finish and shine.
Diverse value

It’s no surprise that Jen Holloway and her team are very much in demand at DCA. In different ways they are currently working on multiple projects in very diverse sectors, from medical devices to transport interiors. ‘It’s great because DCA is a full-service product design agency,’ she says, ‘we have all the disciplines needed to bring high-quality new products to market, from the technical knowhow and brand strategy to the creative front end. CMF is crucial to delivering this, which makes a CMF role so much more interesting.’

Every day in CMF is different at DCA. ‘One minute we can be talking about the interior of a cruise ship, the next about a toothbrush. I can walk out of a very technical meeting on a colour or material, straight into a brainstorm session or a new business meeting.’ She says it’s this diversity that means she’s continuously learning and growing as a designer.

In an increasingly digital world, CMF at DCA helps when things get physical.

Keeping it real

Jen finishes, ‘In an increasingly digital world, CMF at DCA helps when things get physical. We continuously experiment with real materials, and avoid just sitting behind screens creating visual themes and CAD renderings. We design actual, hold-in-your-hand products, after all. Stuff that you probably have in your home right now, for household names such as Air Wick, Sensodyne, Scholl and Veet, or high-end brands like Linn and Godiva. We live in a visceral world, not just a virtual one, and the products and devices we use every day need be relevant, useful, sustainable and beautiful. Our colours, materials and finishes speciality helps to make sure that they are.