Imagine walking into your office building. It’s a common occurrence by now, something you do nearly every day. This trek through the building to your actual office may be colourless, bland and uninteresting, but that doesn’t mean that your personal space has to be. In fact, it’s to your benefit to strive for expressiveness. Putting forth effort towards establishing a space that speaks to your sense of accomplishment will enable you to be more productive at work. The effect that colour can have on the mind is nothing to scoff at. It really does change the way that you think about a space.

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People have unique, intrinsic reactions to colours. Certain feelings towards colours serve as automatic feedback by the mind; inextricably linked to an individual’s personal relationship with colours as well as social and cultural influences, according to Leslie Harrington, executive director of the Color Association of the United States. Learned associations are those that come from life and cultural experiences. Red, for example, automatically increases heart rate. This is due to its association with fire, dating back to era of the caveman. Additionally, it has been adopted by emergency services (e.g. fire trucks, ambulances) and denotes aspects of the body (e.g. heart, blood) which associate it with alarm or danger. Blue, the polar opposite of red, produces calming chemicals in the brain. Blue promotes productivity whereas red can cause people to feel ill at ease.

Every colour inspires its own set of emotions/reactions from people. Though these vary across cultures and people, US researchers have deduced the basic reactions for each colour:
  • Black = authority, power
  • White = innocence, purity
  • Red = intense, dramatic
  • Blue = peaceful, calm
  • Green = refreshing, calm
  • Yellow = overpowering, energetic
  • Purple = luxury, wealth, sophistication
  • Brown = reliability, solid

Implementing Colour in the Workplace

When it comes to implementing colours in the workplace, it is important to consider the aforementioned information. Painting an office bright yellow probably isn’t the right choice. Even though it enhances concentration, it’s the hardest colour to look at and can cause headaches if the shade is too overwhelming. For an environment needing calmness and stimulation, it’s best to pick mentally enhancing colours which Suzy Chiazzari states in her work The Complete Book of Color are elevators of “mood, analytical ability, motivation and health.” One of the most popular colours, blue, is often chosen for its soothing effects. Other options are blue-green, pale green, pale orange, pale gold, sandstone and soft yellow.

There are some things that should be avoided totally in offices, namely bold and dark colours. Make something too bold and it can be distracting or intimidating (red, yellow-green, yellow, violet and purple). Make something too dark and it can create gloom by sheer existence (dark blue and dark green). Pure white is versatile and aesthetically pleasing when used correctly. However, bright white is soulless and stark. It can communicate a lack of personality and, when paired with fluorescent lighting, create a glare that causes headaches. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).
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