Materials Science

BASF creative centre for automotive colours of the future celebrates anniversary

Ten years ago, the Color Design Studio Europe at BASF’s Münster site was opened as a competence center for designing new color concepts for the automotive industry. The building features an open design in the Bauhaus style. Here, the designers of BASF’s Coatings division translate technological and social trends into automotive colors and discuss their approaches with the automotive manufacturers’ design departments.

The studio offers around 300 square meters of space for work as well as for co-creation, where workshops with customers from the automotive industry take place on a regular basis. The quiet location outside the site premises offers a concentrated working atmosphere for these workshops. At the same time, the studio is close to the laboratories where the designers’ concepts are translated into paint formulations. “Each year, we develop several hundred color concepts. Then, together with the customer, we refine some of these concepts and adapt them to the specific vehicle models. Since we work with nearly every car manufacturer, we currently have over 600 colors being produced in Europe, with new ones evolving all the time,” said Mark Gutjahr, head of Automotive Color Design Europe at BASF’s Coatings division. On the large presentation area constituting the heart of the studio, the effect of the colors can be ideally presented in various light settings.

Leader in the area of color design
“The Color Design Studio clearly shows the importance of color for our business. Establishing this competence center enabled us to strongly expand our leading position in the field of color design. It has literally evolved into our showpiece in the development of color concepts and serves as the point of contact for numerous designers in the automotive industry,” said Ralf Otte, head of Marketing Automotive OEM Coatings Europe at BASF’s Coatings division. BASF’s designers aim to allow the customers to experience new colors and effects in the best possible way. To do this, in addition to their physical presentation objects coated with original paint – the “dome shapes” – they also use digital vehicle shapes. For this purpose, the Color Design Studio Europe has a special showroom for the new AUROOM™ online platform. The designers can use this technology to visualize virtual automotive paints, including complex effects, and simulate them directly on 3D variants of different bodies in order to evaluate the colors. This considerably accelerates the overall color design process and also offers the possibility to simulate different nuances of a color group through direct comparison. The realistic depiction enables the OEM designers to make decisions on automotive colors for which to date physical samples are painted and sent out.

Global cooperation for researching future trends
The designers at the Color Design Studio Europe collaborate closely with their design colleagues in the regions of North America and Asia Pacific. Together, they observe technological and social changes and use them as a source of inspiration and starting point for intensive research on future trends. Every year, they express their insights and predictions in the Automotive Color Trends, a collection of new colors that reflect global trends and developments in the specific regions.