Julie Kilburn

Working with colour

by Julie Kilburn on October 11, 2013

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Many of us spend so much time choosing the right colours in our home, but why don’t we pay this much attention to our working environments where we also spend so much of our time?

According to research it seems obvious, using the correct colours in working environments not only aids motivation, but boosts creativity. Colours, as simple as they may seem, also have the power to affect people’s moods, with the majority of the workforce here at Cognition, like many employees, preferring to work in a more colourful workplace.

‘Warm’ v ‘cool’ shades

Broadly speaking, colours can be divided into warm and cool shades. Colours in the red area of the colour spectrum are known as ‘warm’ and include red, orange and yellow. So, if you want a room that generates energy and cheerfulness and encourages social interaction, warm colours are for you. However, these shades can also evoke feelings of anger and hostility and tend to be better suited to areas, such as entrances and corridors.

Colours on the blue side of the spectrum are known as ‘cool’ and include blue, purple and green. They are psychologically soothing and tend to create calm and encourage concentration. This is why they are mainly picked as the interior colour for production areas and maintenance shops. They can also aid with making receptions appear more spacious and welcoming.

In addition to boosting motivation and creativity, the correct workplace colours can also be the key to driving people’s performance. A survey conducted by Avery Office Products in 2004 revealed 88% of respondents agreed greater colour vibrancy in the workplace would increase morale, performance and efficiency – a sentiment that is widely shared among many global working environments.

The power of colour in practice

So, different colours can evoke different feelings. Here’s a selection of shades and the impact they can have:

  • Turquoise or purple shades inspire creativity, calm, trust, security, efficiency, intelligence
  • Red or orange colours stimulate, create drive, energy, warm, excitement and passion and are ideal for negations
  • Yellows also enhance creativity, influence confidence, optimism
  • Greens, as a good balance colour, create harmony, reduce anxiety and are refreshing, restful, peaceful and reassuring

When it comes to actual working environment examples, there are a number we could focus on. Police interview rooms are a particularly good illustration.

The majority of police interview rooms are typically decorated in a light blue or grey shades to encourage interviewees to relax and tell the truth. And some police holding cells in America are even painting their walls bubble-gum pink, as it is thought to have a calming influence on aggressive offenders.

But that’s not all. Colour plays an important role in the development of social groups and can be extremely effective at creating a sense of belonging. In the office, it can create or highlight a focal point, highlight separate teams or link different working groups together, an approach adopted universally in sports teams and school houses.

Applying colour in your workplace

It would most probably be impossible to bear all of these points in mind when deciding on the perfect office colour, just as it is equally difficult to select a scheme that is perfectly suited to every single employee. This is because there are many variations in the way that our brains process colour and the individual associations that we naturally make.

There are no hard and fast rules for colour choice, a simple approach should be adopted in optimising the effectiveness of colour in the workplace. This should include ensuring good variety and contrasts are used to refresh and stimulate, and attention is given to lighting to improve the intensity of colours.

Other than that - if your workforce likes the way the office looks, in all likelihood, the choice of colour is most probably spot on.

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Julie Kilburn

This post was written by Julie Kilburn

Julie has more than 16 years experience of designing printed and digital collateral and has extensive knowledge Adobe Creative Suite. She has worked with clients in a range of sectors including arts, environment, healthcare, industry, technology, government and sport.

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