Designer Diaries: Old Navy’s Laura Shirreff talks Color Design  

by Gap Inc.

Old Navy

July 25, 2023

Welcome back to Designer Diaries, where our talented roster of creatives here at Gap Inc. join us to speak to how some of our customers’ favorite products are made. 

Hi! My name is Laura Shirreff, and I am the Color Designer on Old Navy’s Concept and Trend Team. Color is always top of mind for us here at Old Navy, and across the retail industry as a whole. Color choice plays a huge factor in our final product offerings, and a big part of my job is ensuring that our seasonal color palettes are on trend for our customers.  

Our current Summer 2023 assortment centers joy, delight and celebration with bright, bold and juicy citrus shades combined with cool yet vibrant aquatic hues. It’s refreshing and inspiring to see such vivid and lively colors set the tone for this season. Just check out all the pops of color in our Back to School assortment

Color design is a fun process that involves both analysis and art. Let me tell you a little bit more about what I do and what my job accomplishes for Old Navy. 

A Colorful Career 

I have always been passionate about color! From an early age I loved watercolor painting. I especially enjoyed the translucency of the paint and how colors would mix and flow as you layered them on top of one another. Later down the line in college, I majored in textiles and would dye my own yarn for weaving projects. Then when I was working as an industry textile designer, it became clear that I had a natural “eye for color.” My current role involves creative research, planning and precision, and I feel like a true specialist in what I do.  

Staying on Trend 

At Old Navy we are fortunate to have access to excellent trend and color forecasting services from across the globe that we work with ahead of each season – our pre-season color planning begins over a year ahead of time! 

We utilize these specialty forecasting services to create a ‘color map’ (over 300 swatches) that informs the key color messages of the season. We then work with our Technical Color Team to identify gaps in our color library, ensuring that trend-right colors are thoughtfully developed. And alongside this analysis, we keep an eye on macro, social, fashion and runway trends that may inform color trend shifts. For example, we’ve recently been tracking pinks – from the rise of “Valentino Pink” from the Fall/Winter 2022 runway and the #barbiecore sensation that recently emerged ahead of the Barbie movie release. It’s important for us to know when a color craze will reach its peak. 

It’s a Team Effort 

Color in the retail industry is a balance of creativity and strategy. We work hard to establish the key color direction each season while communicating this information with clarity and inspiration to cross-functional colleagues. We dictate the color direction and final palettes against key themes alongside our product design peers, ensuring that the holistic seasonal trend messages are registering across our shop floors.   

Our Technical Color team also supports us with translating our direction into useable color tools for Old Navy’s design and print teams – from physical chips to digital color files that work for print and 3D product design.  

Looking Ahead 

Next summer, I think we will be seeing a lot of red – bold, flame red but also earthen, red-toned browns and corals. I love the combination of these bold and rustic red tones contrasted against cool and vibrant turquoise and jade. Warm apricot hues and cool orchid tints are other trends I'm looking forward to. There’s always something to be excited about when it comes to color! 

Interested in becoming part of Old Navy’s Production and Design team? Check out these open roles. 

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