Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo

Purples, pinks, greens, blues…

Metals, fabrics, woods, plastic….

Shiny, matte, sparkle…

With so many finish options available, how can customers decide which is the right look for them? And how do retailers and brands show all these options without the customer feeling so overwhelmed, they run out of the store.


As brands target younger generations, they feed off their need to be individuals. Countless articles have been written about the “Me, Me, Me” millennial generation and narcissistic personas of “look at me.” But there’s more to this generation than self-absorbed, selfie-obsessed snapchatters. They are looking for meaning and not just meaning in their environment but especially within themselves. How do they define themselves, who do they want to be? Where snapping pictures can turn anyone into an influencer and making ridiculous short videos can turn them into a worldwide sensation. They can be whatever they want.

One of the first steps to curating this individual persona is by opening their wallets and purchasing something that defines them. And what better way to capitalize on this trend than providing the same core product in a myriad of finish options. Take for example the Amazon Alexa, now available in 6 finishes, ranging in color, materials and price. Or the apple watch, not only varying in generations (series) but also, colors, metals, and watch bands. At times, there are so many options, how can the brain even process the combinations without systematically going through each. But really, who has the time to do that. And in today’s on-demand culture, consumers want, what they want, NOW!

So the question is, how do you give customers a range of customizable options while creating an enjoyable shopping experience.


There are over 1,800 solid Pantone colors alone. This doesn’t account for patterns, textures or gradients. But an easy way to digest the multitude of options is to scale the samples down. 

For example, the color watches on octagonal discs seen above. While they are used to represent the available finishes, they also become an interactive work of art on their own. Beautiful groups together but also easy to isolate and examine further.

What’s also great about this color sample display, is the environment that it’s placed in. It becomes a conversation piece in a small intimate setting of 2 – 3 individuals to discuss it’s usage.










Sample books have also been a tried and true way to present options. For example Desso’s fabric sample trays that are grouped in like color schemes. Creating an ombre of blues, yellows and reds, the puffs of fabric are easy to transport and fun to handle.

Keeping the samples small may not always be an option. Especially when showcasing patterns or textures, maintaining a visual consistency by coordinating colors is even more essential.

By arranging the samples, (wood, fabric, paints) from dark to light, vibrant to dull or solid to patterned; it allows the mind to focus without the added effort of unscrambling the diverse assortment. This method is ideal for a large array of choices and when a small sample does not suffice.

A brilliant technique for showcasing a variety of color-coordinated options is a peep-a-boo cabinet. While presented as a rainbow of samples, these large fabric samples are hidden behind cabinets with cutouts.

By maintaining an overall white background with just a hint of the sample options, it allows the eyes to not gradually view the swatches. It also keeps the space open and undistracted.



Showcasing the available colors or materials as individual swatches are great for solid prints or colors but combining materials present a whole new set of challenges.

As professionals in the design industries work, they group together complimentary swatches. This allows the materials to be seen side by side to determine if it’s the right combination of colors and materials.

Like in the showrooms above and to the right, layers swatches become an easy-to-digest spectrum of options. Taking it to the next level would be to associate lifestyle images along with finish or material combinations so that the customer can associate a certain combination with the lifestyle that represents their identity.


It can be difficult to find the right balance of customizable options without having the customers wanting to pull their hair out. But with a few visual tricks like keeping the samples miniature, grouping colors or creating combination examples, customers can feel at ease as they select the right look and feel for their lifetstyle.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on presenting customizable options below.

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