We’re all affected by colour on some level, from the tint of our office walls to the clothes we choose to wear every day.
Bolder primary colours make a more powerful impact on our conscious mind, but what about the other shades of the spectrum? From slick black corporate suits to bold red lipstick, how do the colours around us affect the way we work and interact, and what is the science behind it?
Here are four considerations of colour psychology and how it can be applied to the modern workspace:
1. Bolder colours make a statement
If we look at their psychological associations, colours have different effects on us depending on the way we actually process the colour physiologically. For example, bright red is the longest wavelength, and is associated with power, emotions and even aggression. Red in the workplace can also make a bold statement, such as the entrance to The New Yorker magazine’s head office in New York City, which emphasizes the publication’s status as an important cultural institution. Coca-Cola’s office in London also celebrates the qualities of the famous brand with the use of red in their workspace, often interspersed with white to ease the intensity.
2. Colours affects affect our mood and thinking
While we might not always understand why, colours affect us on a physical level, sometimes just don’t resonate with us on certain days. Psychologically, blue is associated with calmness, serenity and clear communication, but can also be perceived as aloof and unfriendly. When it comes to enhancing elements of a workspace, the use of a variety of colours can have a profound impact on the kind of work to be done, for example in the offices of company Beats Electronics in California. Workspaces in their head offices in Culver City have distinct work zones, one of which is blue, which was intentionally designed to provide an area of calm and serenity, as opposed to other zones which are red and intended to facilitate more high-energy interactions.
3. Colour enhances creativity
The combination of different colours can be used to enhance certain kinds of interactions, but also to encourage certain ways of thinking. The colour orange, for example, is associated with fun and passion, and has been credited with stimulating creativity in the workplace. In the Capital One Labs in San Francisco for example, bright colours have been used to create experiences, with the brightly yellow painted staircase that leads from one floor to the other which was intentionally designed to create a dramatic focal point. Considering that yellow is associated with creativity and optimism, this choice of colour could also facilitate the type of spontaneous employee interaction that is being encouraged in collaborative work environments.
4. Colour is universal
According to the Wright Theory, all colour is experienced in the same way, regardless of gender or cultural influences. While colours can be divided into various groups depending on how different shades of colour harmonise, colour is experienced through the way in which our eyes perceive light, so there is a solid scientific basis for the way in which we experience each colour. Green, for example, is associated with harmony, balance and the environment, which is why so many workplaces incorporate elements of nature or the outdoors into their workspace design. Wieden and Kennedy in New York City for example, use their atrium to create a sense of outdoor greenery in an enclosed space, and also use this dynamic area as a place for employees to work, eat lunch or even take a yoga class.