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Color has a meaning – it is emotion!


BASF Coatings works closely with ist customers to develop new colors for all regions, Europe, North America and Asia/Pacific. BASF Coatings is the only company in the industry who has design centers in each of these three key-markets. Michaela Finkenzeller is the designer of BASF Coatings.

What is “color” for automotive? Why is it so important?

With the trend to individualization, the body paintwork has increasingly become a distinguishing characteristic in the large number of brands and models. Car paints not only fulfill protecting tasks, they also make statements on the lifestyle of the driver; they now have a meaning. Trends and fashions are also important indicators for the development of colors in the coatings industry. Based on a dedicated trend research and the specific observance of sociocultural changes, innovations result in automotive colors that move the coating colors closer to people’s lives and create innovative possibilities for differentiation and identification. Color is emotion!

What is the role of Color Designer at BASF Coatings?

As a designer for automotive exterior paints, you primarily fulfill the role as an interface between the internal technicians and the external design departments of the car manufacturers. The automotive industry would like to produce “marketable image products”, to animate different target groups to buy, to illustrate an added value through quality, safety and aesthetics, and to ensure the worldwide acceptance of the vehicle and its manufacturer. As a result, the vehicle manufacturers establish specifications and requirements with regard to a greater variety of colors in order to meet the desire for fashion and individualization of many car buyers in various countries and cultural groups. In all these processes I see myself as a mediator between technology and design.

Where / how do Color Designer find the new color trend for automotive, where do you get inspired?

I find color and material trends, and ideas and developments, for example, at the international trade fairs on textiles, fashion, furniture or interior decoration. As the trends in these areas are much more short-lived than in the automotive industry, I filter or translate these trends for the automotive sector. After all, it does take two to three years until a color idea can then be seen on the street. One has to think very far ahead here. But of course you always also watch the sociocultural developments in Europe and the rest of the world to also make intercultural comparisons, as our customers, including BASF, are active worldwide. That means simply reading, traveling and researching a lot. And naturally you look at all the areas that affect our life and our mood. Art, architecture, politics, music, innovations. Of course, colors are ultimately nothing but codes that encrypt this overall state.

In the process, topics come up like the search for new values, the discovery of the homeland in global activity or the need for authenticity. Although they have no direct connection to cars, these topics can become design-relevant parameters when it’s a matter of establishing a color climate or giving surfaces new haptics.

How do you cooperate internally with technical people as well as with designers at OEMs to develop the new color?

Our ideas are implemented in innovative colors and realized together with the BASF chemists via the so-called color development. In the process different fields of knowledge are brought close together. The designer’s understanding of technology and the technician’s understanding of design then form the basis for successful paints and coatings. Questions with regard to the technical feasibility of new effects and pigments, as well as their costs, availability and shelf life are included in the development.
Together with my design colleague for the Asian Pacific region, Eiji Fujimori and Chiharu Matsuhara, I am in constant contact with the designers of the automotive industry. Together we exchange thoughts, develop ideas and then implement them.
In the cooperation with the car manufacturers, the customer requirements during the development of new coatings and collections set the tone. For the color design of car coatings, it is the constantly changing geometry of the car that primarily sets requirements for color homogeneity and effect control. The shape and character of the car are to be emphasized by its color. You search for a new look and you formulate statements on the color theme to be developed. At the start of a new development phase, the exchange with the car designers takes place on the level of intentions and the description of directions. For a major part of the product message is ultimately transported in the customer by the color. So this needs to be well formulated. A shared basic understanding, close cooperation and the development of a common language are the prerequisites for designing the look of a vehicle holistically. Flops, gloss effects and color nuances are developed in a large number of approaches until finally the geometry of the body and the color result in a harmonious overall picture.
The design claim for car paints always requires closeness to the customer, whether it’s only with regard to close cooperation with the manufacturers, who now the profile of the customers, or in the context of the social trends.

What is BASF Coatings’ strength in color development?

Successful color development is primarily based on the closeness to the customer and the knowledge of its specific requirements and needs. In interdisciplinary teams we consult the customer on a design, technical and strategic level. Each color is individually developed for each customer. To achieve the perfect color and guarantee the technical feasibility, up to 20 suggestions are developed per color in several loops. We’re not 100 % satisfied until the customer is.
Regular trend presentations provide out customers with an additional overview of the colors of the future, sociocultural developments, pigment innovations and general design trends. Annual trend collections and trend books serve to inspire the designers and we see this as an important service for our customers. Many new developments and innovations come out of our design studios and laboratories. However, quality and reliability is still the first commandment even for the latest creations. Color is our passion, and you can only be successful on the market with top performance.

Michaela Finkenzeller

2004 - 2007 Design, BASF Coatings AG, Muenster
2004 Color/Material Project, Siemens Mobile, Seoul
2003 Design Management für Rijkswaterstatt, YD + I, Rotterdam, “Best Design Manager”
2002 Diplom (topic: Design in Shanghai, China)
1997 - 2002 Study of Design, Cologne/Germany International School of Design
1997 Apprenticeship Frog Design, Altensteig
1996 - 1997 Diploma in Foundation Studies of Art + Design, University of Hertfordshire, UK
1993 - 1995 Public Relations-Traineee, Ketchum Public Relations, Munich/Germany
1993 Baccalaureat
1974 born in Munich/Germany

BASF: A major international player in coatings

BASF Coatings, the Coatings Division of the BASF Group, develops, produces and markets a high-quality range of innovative automotive OEM coatings, automotive refinishes and industrial coatings as well as decorative paints. BASF has significant market positions in the Coatings sector in Europe, North America, South America and the Asia/Pacific region. In 2006 BASF Coatings achieved global sales of about 2.3 billion euros. The internet address of BASF Coatings is

BASF Automotive Solutions. Performance Passion Success

BASF – The Chemical Company – is a leading-edge source of intelligent sustainable solutions to automotive manufacturers and their suppliers worldwide. With a full portfolio of technologies that include coatings, catalysts, engineering thermoplastics, polyurethanes, pigments and colorants, coolants and brake fluids for a broad array of exterior, interior, chassis and under-the-hood applications, BASF – The Chemical Company - develops and delivers the innovations that help the automotive industry improve the quality, appearance, safety, cost competitiveness, performance, comfort, fuel efficiency, sustainability. Website:


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