Showing its true colours: Using AI technology to create a colour collection

02 May 2023

PPCJ spoke to Stephen ‘Paddy’ Dyson, Marketing Manager and Rebecca Jennings, Creative Marketer at HMG Paints, to discuss the company’s latest venture – a collection of paint colours developed using ChatGPT AI technology. 

The collection, named Nature’s Embrace, was launched on World Earth Day and crafted to capture the beauty of nature. Can AI technology capture the essence of nature and how does it do it? What benefits and challenges arose? Are all of our jobs at risk or is human input still necessary? We decided to find out more:

How did the idea come about, to use ChatGPT technology to create paint colours?

SD: The idea came about as we were looking at various new sites about other companies launching colour ranges. We know from our own experience the development of a colour palette can take teams months to curate and develop a theme. At HMG, we don’t have a dedicated person or team to develop colour trends so the idea came about to see if AI, the hot topic of the moment, could assist us with the process and create a range of colours.

Can you talk us through the process, in terms of what stage/s the ChatGPT was involved with, what kind of information it was given and how much human input was also needed?

SD: ChatGPT was involved throughout the process, from suggesting the colours to even assisting with the assets that were sent out with the press release and used in our marketing campaign.

The initial prompt for ChatGPT was to come up with colours and corresponding names that would be popular for interior design. This created a list of 10 generic colour names and their corresponding CIELAB colour space values. The only human intervention came on two of the colours where they were very dark so we just asked ChatGPT to provide a few alternative CIELAB values and we chose from the regenerated options.

The next step was to test the creative side of ChatGPT, as we prompted it to regenerate the response with new and improved colour names and combine them in an overarching theme. This was when it developed the concept of ‘Nature’s Embrace’ and the names that are in the collection. It was then we quickly realised that Earth Day was only 10 days away and we set ourselves the challenge of launching the range in time for 22nd April.

Once we’d settled on the colours and names that it provided, we then asked it to write a press release for the launch of the new range. This is where we had to have a lot of intervention and the final press release was a 50/50 mix of human and ChatGPT. One issue we encountered was retired members of staff were used for quotes throughout the copy, so we rectified this manually and added in some quotes from our team about the range.

The final stage of the process was utilising two AI image generators Midjourney and Dall-E to see if it could take the descriptions and CIELAB values and create publication worthy imagery to support the release and it successfully did for a number of the colours. We then utilised our inhouse skills to develop the rest of the marketing assets. We’ll let the reader guess which assets are AI and which are real photographs.

"Colour collections can take months to develop and launch and with the help of AI, we were able to launch this within seven days"Stephen 'Paddy' Dyson, Marketing Manager, HMG Paints

Was it a big change to the normal way that you create a colour collection or was it similar to using other digital technology?

RJ: As a paint manufacturer, we still use many tried and tested manual methods as we craft our paint by hand and machinery. So, utilising a different kind of technology was worlds away from the norm to us.

The process of developing colour collections is often one that takes months of back-and-forth and tweaking. Normally, it would take a team to research current trends and ensure there is a coherence between the colours with a complementary palette. With this collection we put our faith in AI and were very happy with the results.

There is a range of colours within the collection. Did the ChatGPT choose that there would be a green, a blue, a brown, a pink, etc, or was it given that specification?

RJ: When we prompted ChatGPT to create this colour collection, we gave no indications as to what colours we wanted. Our prompt specified that we wanted colours inspired by current decorative trends and then we let the AI technology work its magic.

What other applications do you think ChatGPT could have in the paint manufacturing process?

SD: I think AI in general and not just ChatGPT is going to have a wide variety of uses in the paint manufacturing process. ChatGPT, for instance, is a conversational AI and we can easily see it being utilised to assist with customer questions and queries. The key will be identifying the correct AI tools for the right function. We can easily foresee in the future being able to utilise AI to generate initial product ideas and suggesting outline formulations which our R&D team can use as a starting point for new products. Another area where we see potential benefits is on preventative maintenance and to improve our production efficiency.

As someone who has worked with the programme, what do you think are the main pros and cons of ChatGPT?

SD: The main positive of ChatGPT is the speed in which it can assist in turning ideas into fully fledged concepts. It is great for presenting several ideas that marketeers can then develop. As mentioned earlier, colour collections can take months to develop and launch and with the help of AI we were able to launch this within seven days.

The major con is a big one, and one many users miss. ChatGPT can often give you the wrong information and answers, so its output should always be checked. For example, in this project when it wrote the press release it noted our Chairman John Falder as Marketing Director, a position he has never held.

The use of ChatGPT is a huge topic at the moment, in the media as well as in manufacturing. Do you worry about programmes like this replacing people and jobs?

RJ: AI technology such as ChatGPT are fantastic tools for people to use across various industries that can make certain tasks more efficient, such as content creation and research, although it cannot replace the human touch. We’ve already seen plenty of mistakes in the written content it has produced, whether this be grammatical or fact finding.

HMG has always been about the people of the HMG and they will continue to be focus of the business. ChatGPT and similar AI’s will be utilised to assist them in their roles and we’re excited to see how it develops over the coming years.

The collection is being launched on Earth Day. Do you think there are any links between AI and sustainability?

RJ: AI has the potential to contribute to sustainability efforts by providing data-driven insights, optimising resource management and supporting decision-making processes for more sustainable practices in various domains. However, it is important to ensure that AI technologies are developed and used in an ethical and responsible manner, taking into consideration issues such as bias, transparency and privacy, to maximise their positive impact on sustainability.

Is HMG currently exploring the use of AI in any other part/s of its manufacturing process?

SD: We’re always exploring ways to innovate at HMG and AI is definitely part of this. We actually did this project under the radar at HMG with only the COO being told about it the morning before we released the collection to the public. This has since prompted many discussions internally about how we can integrate AI into all areas of the business from Customer Service and Quality, to Production and Logistics. AI on its own won’t dictate the future of HMG but allowing it to assist our staff with their jobs and improving our customers experience it is going to be a huge asset to the company.

HMG Paints is the UK’s largest independent paint manufacturer. 



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