Monday, May 18, 2015

The colour of our office space - the impact of colour on our psychology and productivity

I have written extensively on the subject of light and colour elsewhere.  However I wanted to share some thoughts here on colour and its impact on our psychology and productivity.

Light signals from the retina is analysed by retinal ganglion cells, which compare the stimulation of neighbouring cones, and calculate whether the light reaching a patch of cones is more blue, yellow, red or green. These signals travel to the brain where they are divided into several pathways - throughout the cortex. For example, visual signals from the photo-receptors pass to retinal ganglion cells, which code colour information, and then to the lateral geniculate nucleus in the thalamus (hypothalamus, which governs our endocrine system and hormones, and much of our activity) and onwards to the primary visual cortex. The primary visual cortex preserves the spatial relationships of images on the retina. Colour processing, perception building and interpretation is a complex mind function.

It’s also been shown that what defines whether a colour is stimulating or soothing is not the colour but rather its intensity. A strong bright colour will stimulate while a colour with low saturation may help soothe. Research has also shown that each colour affects a different part of us. The four psychological primaries are: red, blue, yellow and green. And they affect the body (red), the mind (blue), the emotions, the ego, and self-confidence (yellow) with balance between the mind, the body, and emotions (green).

And so back to your office….

  • If you and your colleague are doing mind-work all day consider painting your office blue; however introduce some yellow or orange where possible.
  • For and office of designers wanting to promote creativity, use yellow to stimulate ego and spirit; This may also help increase the level of optimism.
  • Productivity of physical work might be improved by red.  It’s said that red might contribute to physical strength and stimulus.
  • If you’re in an environment where having a strong sense of balance is most important, green might just be the colour. As well it’s balanced, calming and reassuring.
Colour, like a musical note doesn't actually evoke much of an emotional response until it’s combined with other colours.

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