A Post occupancy overview on Color, and its Intentional use in a Commercial Design project

Mary Dennis, EDAC
Evidenced Based Designs Accreditation and Certification
Dean of Design, The Conscious Design Institute
Intentional Feng Shui Design Consultant and Educator
President Emeritus, International Feng Shui Guild

Color is the first and most important means of creating a relaxed and harmonious atmosphere in our interiors. It can completely change the appearance and feel of a room. Color can make a room look larger or smaller, warmer, or cooler, welcoming, or uncomfortable.

A Colorful World

Color is a physiological and psychological response to the vibration of the wavelengths of light entering our eyes. The color you see is the result of the light which strikes the object and is reflected by it. Sir Isaac Newton proved that when all the wavelengths of the visible light spectrum strike your eye at the same time, white is perceived. Color affects us physically and emotionally. We are reacting to color while we are awake and while we are asleep. Color is a force in and of itself which penetrates every level of our being.

Color is the quickest way to transform and influence the feel of any environment. Every color gives off a different light vibration and elicits an emotional response. Therefore, most of a color’s influence is subliminal. University of Rochester psychologist Andrew Elliott, studying color as a powerful communicative tool to signal action, influence mood and cause a psychological reaction, says, “It is fascinating to find that something as ubiquitous as color can be having an effect on our behavior without our awareness.”

While perceptions of color are somewhat subjective, there are some color effects that have universal meaning. As an example, red, orange, yellow and magenta, the magnetic warm colors, can evoke emotions ranging from warmth, joy and trust to anger and hostility. Red is a high vibration color and brings out strong feelings, even hunger. Red can stimulate, activate, and arouse. That is why most restaurants will use red in the color scheme of their design. Even McDonalds emphasizes the red behind the golden arches. As intentional designers we would avoid the use of red, a fire element, in a conference room where negotiations were the objective. It would be best to incorporate hues of green, blue, and indigo, the cool, calmer wood element colors. The tones of blue can be sedate and produce a calming effect. However, it is also important to understand an overabundance of the blue shades can also call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference. In addition, blue being a low vibration color, can invoke the feelings of peace and calm. That is why blue sheets and patient gowns are used in the operating rooms of most hospitals.

With intentional design, we evaluate a space based on many factors, including it’s positioning in relation to the sun, the size and direction of the windows, the purpose of a building and the ways in which human responsiveness and interaction is supported. The use of color is incorporated with specific intention to mitigate, or support required human qualities, such as focus, or collaboration. However, most importantly, we make color choices that strongly support the goals and intentions of the group consciousness. We use color for the qualities it promotes.

When consulting on the design of the Orlando headquarters, we suggested colors which would represent specific human characteristics. Values such as safety, trust, comfort, collaboration, and speaking up appropriately were all important attributes to incorporate into the design of the open work environment. For example, the Orlando headquarters was a five floor, all glass building, and held no sense of balance or stability. The use of the terracotta color, which represents an earth element, was specifically positioned within the design of all the new workstations. Its purposeful placement was to create a visual horizon line. The earthy color was purposely placed to encourage a sense of equilibrium. We used the color white, a metal energy, to promote a sense of fresh ness and sustainability. White also encourages quality, clarity, and new ways of communicating clearly, and effectively by providing a clean slate. The use of the sage green color, a wood energy, emerges in a variety of places throughout the intentional design. Its purpose was to support collaboration and transformation, through growth like the trees in our forests.

The proper use of color in an environment can also save energy. Each color has a light reflective value.
Check on the back of a Sherwin Williams color chip that you can pick up from your local store. It will have a reference for (LVR) or light reflective value. The scale runs from 0, which means that it does not reflect any light but absorbs it, all the way to the other end of the spectrum with a value of 10 which means that it reflects all light. So, if you want to save on energy costs of lighting, you should choose colors with more LVR closer to white instead of dark saturated colors that do not reflect as much light.

“When color comes in contact with our eyes our personal energy is affected, creating a chain reaction in our brain. Within the human body, the brain has several functions. One area of the brain controls our physical behavior, another stimulates our emotions, another part controls our speech, while yet another helps our thought processes. Whatever we look upon and see through our eyes will, through our optic nerve, send sensory signals to our body to react to what our eyes see. “As a result, the colors of everything our eyes come in contact with will influence our temperament, physical movements, language and thoughts- in short our lives.”nProfessor Lin Yun

Using the LVR along with the emotional response presented with a color, we all can make the perfect choice for our environments. By being aware of these connections, we can choose colors for ourselves and clients that help us among other things, feel energized and happy, calm, and reflective, healthier, and more connected to each other and our goals. If you are curious to explore how colors influences our lives, try the on-line Luscher color test at www.Colorquiz.com. The results may surprise you.