02 · 14 · 2018
Psyched for Color
As a species, we humans have a long fascination with color. In fact, the September 2017 edition of Home Accents Today carried in article that gave this indication of the length of that fascination:
Inextricably tied to the human psyche, specific colors are associated with certain emotions and feelings almost instinctively and usually subliminally … [and] can be traced all the way back to the early Chinese and Egyptians.
But because we’re human, our tastes, our styles, our perceptions, our individual and collective psychologies, our consciousness, and our perceptions of and reactions to color are ever-evolving. We can see that evolution in a number of other articles and publications.
In 2005, the University of Minnesota published an article by Nancy Kwallek, Ph.D., professor and director of the interior design program in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, about psychological perspectives on color. The article said this, in part:
The experimental evidence to support these views is sparse, contradictory, and of limited usefulness in predicting the effect of color in the interior environment on office workers’ productivity and mood.
In that 2005 article, Professor Kwallek also wrote: “The impact of color on a given individual’s mood may not be relevant in maximizing performance.” Nevertheless, on November 6, 2014, the Huffington Post published an article seeming to contradict that notion. Citing a study by a psychology professor at the University of Rochester, the article said:
Exposure to the color red lead [sic] to distraction, worry and a reduced ability to focus on mental tasks.
As if those mixed signals weren’t confusing enough, Fast Company published an article on April 7, 2015, which also seems to contradict Professor Kwallek’s conclusion from 10 years earlier:
Three groups of people [were given] clerical tasks to complete in three different rooms, each painted a different color: red, white, and aqua … high-screeners had no difficulty working in the red room, while low-screeners tended to be distracted by the color. Both groups, however, made more errors when they worked in the white room.
We’ll give the last word to yet another article, this one from April 13 of this year in Work Design Magazine. It seems to get everything just about right — open-minded, well-balanced, and fully allowing for all of the variables that need to be considered in creating workspaces conducive to the work that needs to be done and the people who need to do it:
Certain colors can positively contribute to happiness, productivity, and even physical health in a workplace. However, we cannot rely solely on a coat of paint to reach these objectives alone — it is the combination of color, lighting, and other environmental features that can make a space the most supportive for employees. [It] involves finding the right balance between customizing the space with unique company attributes, and ensuring it is a comfortable and enjoyable place for people to work effectively.
Paul McCartney may not have been talking about workspaces and color, but he definitely dispensed the right advice.
Image by geralt, courtesy of pixabay.com.