Decoding color, Material, finish ( CMF)
  • 22/02/2022
  • 10

Decoding Color, Material, Finish (CMF) design principles

Decoding Color, Material, Finish (CMF) design principles

CMF (Color, Materials, Finish) is an industrial design discipline that focuses on the chromatic, tactile, and decorative character of goods and settings. Whether a product is designed for consumers or industrial users, its appearance, feel, and behavior will impact its functional and perceived value. Color, Material, and Finish (often abbreviated as CMF) are the three characteristics used to develop products.

CMF Designers collaborate with industrial designers to add color, material, and finish to already well-designed items. Their responsibilities will also include producing trend and material boards, presentations, color matching via the human eye, and the use of measurement devices such as spectrophotometers and gloss readers.

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CMF is about using a product’s aesthetics to elicit an emotional response, improving a user’s brand experience. It is more than just a final production design. CMF inspires design from the start; it permeates every aspect of a project and is woven throughout the whole development process.

CMF works in parallel with the design process, whether it’s researching materials and colors, or producing a palette, either digitally or as a physical collection, to show a pattern, texture, and color depth. We can advise where and when CMF design is required and contribute value because we are woven into the design process.


Color is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a product. The Pantone Matching System and the RAL Color System are the most prevalent tools for achieving color standards. The Pantone Matching System is popular among designers and engineers in the United States, but RAL is still widely used in Europe. Manufacturers who work with international clients are likely to be familiar with both systems.

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Color is usually introduced into prototypes by painting or constructing pieces that have inherent color. Direct printing or RTV casting of pigmented urethane, silicone, or epoxy resins are the principal ways for creating parts with color built-in.


A product’s material specification has a significant impact on its functionality and its final cost. 3D printing is beneficial for manufacturing parts that feel like natural, final production materials since photopolymer resins can be made to have a wide range of mechanical qualities.


Industry standards, like color systems, have been evolved to assure consistency in surface treatments. Surface finish standards are specific to manufacturing processes or classes of materials; for example, a plastic part might use SPI (Society of Plastics Industry) standards, whereas a metal part might use ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) or ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards (International Standards Organization).

A bridge between design and engineering

CMF can act as an essential interface between design and engineering. We have a strong understanding of materials and color, allowing us to specify materials that are appropriate for the job. We make sure we understand what we’re delivering for, such as the product’s lifespan and how and where it will be used.

Defining Smoothness

Standards vary by manufacturing technique or material when determining the desired smoothness of a final product. SPI requirements for specifying the surface treatment of tooling used to make final plastic components are the most frequent standards for plastic parts.

Choosing the SPI surface specification to employ for each component is a critical step in part design, as it has a direct impact on part performance and tooling costs. High gloss items may need to be coated with protection films during assembly and shipping. Molded parts with extensively rough surfaces will require more draught on the tool.

Defining Texture

To improve ergonomics or cover visual defects from manufacturing, handling, or end-use, plastic part designers frequently utilize textured finishes to simulate another substance (e.g., leather grain textured interior panels for automobiles). Micro surface textures are also used by part designers to decrease glare and produce hydrophobic material characteristics.

Many firms offer their unique textures for plastic tooling, or an engineer might collaborate with a tooling engraver to create new textures.

Adding value

When it comes to brand planning, CMF design is an essential instrument. It can enhance a brand’s perception into something more upscale or suited for a specific target.

CMF Designers are in short supply. Those with business aptitude are even scarce. Why? Because they realize that color is just one piece of a giant jigsaw, or imagine one of the circles in a Venn diagram produced with a Spirograph if you prefer a visual. Consider each circle to be a distinct corporate function. Manufacturing, engineering, QA/QC, purchasing, legal, supply chain, color, material, finish, and so on are all critical considerations.

Also Read: Applications of Color Theory By Top Brands

Why would a designer want to learn about functions outside of design? The solution is simple: it will aid in selling your design. When we make a conscious effort to study, we can now “sell” our ideas based on tangibles that we can control in specific ways.

CMF Design is a combination of art and science

CMF design is a skin-deep mindset that has been carefully considered. It’s neither a show nor a democracy. It’s deeply embedded, from ideation alongside designers to trend research to storyboarding, visualization, and hands-on customer interactions to Supplier Collaboration for Material research, prototyping, and buck development.

It ensures that the stunning, glossy image is brought to life using simple techniques while staying within manufacturing and timing limitations. It is led by creative intuition while also paying close attention to production processes, part complexity, standardization, inventory, and scheduling.

Future trends of CMF

Forecasting future trends is an essential component of CMF development. Designers ensure that they are on top of trends by conducting material research, establishing close working ties with suppliers and materialists, maintaining an enormous database of existing, new, and experimental materials, and attending online events and exhibitions worldwide.

Collaborating with the materialists of the future

The future relies heavily on relationships with academia and industry bodies. These provide an opportunity to strengthen ties between design practice and education, contribute to the future of material innovation, and challenge the next generation of design leaders to apply their knowledge to real-world problems.

At Strate School of Design, we conduct regular masterclasses as a part of our Industry-Academia interface. Students from our Year 3 and Year 4 Transportation Design batches recently got a chance to immerse themselves in the weeklong workshop where they created CMF concepts for Rimac’s first hypercar Nevera.

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Through the Masterclass, students proposed interior and exterior CMF designs for the Rimac Nevera. It also included a one-on-one sketch and feedback sessions with discussions on themes and moods. It culminated with each student presenting their effort to a panel of designers from the industry.

For more details on the admission and fees, visit our website Our academic counselors can guide you through the program details and admission process.

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