Sherwin Williams Speaking in Color 1

AI Tool Transforming Voice into Custom Paint Colors Wins Cannes Lions Grand Prix

An AI tool interpreting places, events, and feelings as paint colors has won the first Creative B2B Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The Speaking in Color campaign created by paint brand Sherwin-Williams and agency Wunderman Thompson mimics artistic inspiration by selecting and refining colors based on anything the user says. The project encourages describing memories and dreams, no matter how subjective or strange they might sound. Desert weddings at sunrise, fishing with a dog on the Hudson River on a beautiful day, the Miami Art Festival, and more will all produce a color that can be further refined by voice.

Speaking in Color

Speaking in Color relies on natural language processing to interpret what people say into colors by searching millions of images with optical recognition technology to pick out common elements and make a color palette. The AI then adjusts the color from follow-up requests voiced by the user, whether making it shinier, more yellow or whatever else the user desires. The Speaking in Color web app is available for anyone to play with, but a more complete and powerful version of the AI is available just to architects contracted with Sherwin-Williams and those in the company’s high-performance coil coating paint business. The web app is helping improve the AI, however, as every use feeds into the program’s color attribution datasets. The campaign organizers claim this can provide a deeper understanding of how color is interpreted based on geography and culture, and even predict future color trends.

The Cannes Lions judges clearly agreed Speaking in Color’s reality fits at least some of the rhetoric. The Creative B2B category was added this year to highlight creative products and services produced for business purposes. Though Sherwin-Williams and Wunderman Thompson also took Silver in the Creative B2B category, a Digital Craft Bronze Lion, and made it to the Innovation Lions shortlist, earning the inaugural Grand Prix for the category likely garnered more than the usual interest from those watching the awards.

“Sherwin-Williams is redefining the color experience, making it possible for architects and like-minded innovators to find the perfect color to match their vision,” Wunderman Thompson’s global lead of creative data Jason Carmel said. “This is just the beginning of their quest to create one of the largest data sets of color attribution in the world, so we’re delighted to receive such a high accolade at such an important stage of our journey with them.”


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