Mark Woodman of Color Marketing Group, a non-profit in Alexandria that predicts upcoming color trends for the design industry, speaks about his clients which include everyone from car makers, to fashion designers and interior decorators. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

The upcoming color forecast, according to Mark Woodman, calls for red kitchen towels with a chance of matte black cars.

For 50 years, the Color Marketing Group, an Alexandria-based nonprofit of which Woodman is president, has carved out a niche in analyzing and predicting hues for everything from home paints to Post-It Notes.

The trajectory of color is influenced heavily by politics, pop culture and the economy, Woodman said. In the wake of the recession, there was a period of gray clothing and furnishings — signs, he said, that Americans were taking life more seriously.

Today, as the economy sputters back to health, pops of neon and bright shades are making a comeback in unexpected places like shoelaces and buttons.

“This year is a turning point of sorts,” said Woodman, who owns Mark Woodman Design & Color, a consulting firm in Laurel. “We’ve always been a bit color-phobic, but now we’re realizing what a great resource color can be. People are changing their towels or changing their pillows. They’re buying great colorful pieces — brightly-colored blouses or red chinos.”

Every year, about 300 industry insiders convene at 13 sites around the world to share their observations about popular colors. The Color Marketing Group then assembles regional palettes for North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia, as well as a worldwide forecast that takes all their observations into account. Nonmembers can purchase the group’s annual report for $1,600.

“You could have at one table, someone from the car industry sitting next to someone who does towels,” Woodman said. “We’ve found that people have very similar inspirations, but that they may need to tweak things for their market.”

For example, a home decorator may point out that he or she has been getting more requests for white kitchens with gray and red accessories.

“Then the automotive people will say, ‘What if we do a gray interior with red accents?,’” Woodman said. “And the towel people will say, ‘We’ll have red checkered towels because that’s a classic look, even for more modern kitchens.’ And then the paint industry will go ‘Well, we need to make sure we have red with really cool lacquer finishes to put on the walls in kitchens.’ ”

Adding color to commonplace products can also be a strategic move to increase sales, as with the brightly-colored jeans and chinos that have cropped up in stores this season.

“You can only do so many things with blue jeans,” Woodman said. “We’ve gone light, we’ve gone dark. As a customer, I won’t buy another pair of the same thing, but I will buy something if it’s new and cool and different.”

In their spare time, members of the Color Marketing Group name new colors with names such as “Dirty Bride” (a muddied shade of white) and Boyz-N-berry (a dark purple that Woodman and his team deemed gender-neutral).

“Normally there would be one really cool ‘it’ color — or maybe a couple of ‘it’ colors,” Woodman said. “But this year, more than any other time, it’s any color you want.”