Improving the quality of life with colour

Table of Contents

If colour is used consciously and purposefully, it changes our lives. A scientifically based colour and material consultation shows how we can work more productively and recover better. The Cham-based colour designer Martin Tanner explains the details.

Colours bring variety into life and influence the psyche: red stimulates, while green calms rather. These findings are not new. We make use of them every day when we buy clothes or put together a bouquet of flowers. Far less known, however, is the fact that colours can also produce physiological reactions. For example, colour stimuli influence the brain’s willingness to process information. Colour perceptions also affect the functions of the vegetative nervous system and the release of hormones.

The right amount of stimulation

The scientifically supported colour and material consultancy is aware of these processes and incorporates them into design projects. Far too often, the walls of new buildings or renovation projects are painted white without imagination. One ignores the fact that such a supposedly neutral design can even have a negative effect on concentration and performance. Restlessness, irritability and lack of concentration can be the result of a low-irritation environment. Conversely, an excess of colour stimuli can also stimulate undesirable physical processes and thus impair well-being: Changes in respiratory and pulse rates as well as blood pressure can result if too much stimulation takes place through colour.

The scientifically supported colour and material counselling also works with the findings of colour psychology by making targeted use of the emotional effect of colours, their symbolism and also their associative power. Finally, the synaesthetic effect of colours should also be mentioned. Thus colours not only appeal to the sense of sight, but also excite the sense of touch, smell, taste or temperature. People perceive certain colour nuances and combinations as warm or cold, hard or soft, sweet or sour, etc. Thus, certain stressful sensory impressions can be dampened by the compensatory use of colour. One example is the use of heat-emitting paints at production sites in industry, where extremely cold air temperatures are required.

The user’s needs in the centre

A successful interior design – be it indoors or outdoors – harmonises the needs of the users with the ideas of planners and decision-makers. However, the starting point of the planning process is always the needs of future users. Elderly people, for example, appreciate a high-contrast environment that takes their decreasing eyesight into account. It is precisely here that it becomes apparent that successful design does not only depend on the choice of colour. Lighting control and the use of low-reflection materials are decisive factors in minimising the risk of falls. Intelligent colour and material planning can therefore help to avoid a lot of human suffering and save high follow-up costs. Just how important it is to assess the needs of future users can also be seen in the design of workspaces. If employees feel comfortable at their workplace, there are significantly fewer health-related absences. A scientifically based colour and material design that also pays the necessary attention to the lighting has a positive effect on the working climate, promotes concentration and prolongs the attention span.

Work more productively

In the world of work, too, a differentiated design that focuses on the respective user group is extremely useful. An office is not simply an office. An accountant requires a closed and calmly designed room. Optical stimuli should be used sparingly here, without being dispensed with altogether. This environment allows quiet, concentrated and undisturbed working over a longer period of time. For a creative team, on the other hand, a high, open room is recommended in which thoughts are given free rein. Here the colour accents may be stronger. Targeted stimuli awaken the ideas of the team members. Thus a scientifically supported colour and material concept not only promotes the well-being of the employees, but also their productivity. The low investment compared to the total construction or renovation costs thus pays for itself in the shortest possible time.

Relax better at home

But it is not only in the working world, in schools, homes, health care facilities and other areas of public life that the conscious and systematic use of paint is worthwhile. The home as an important place of retreat should also have an ambience in which people feel comfortable. The high demands of the job create tension, strain and stress. The home should therefore offer an atmosphere that promotes relaxation and recreation. A well thought-out colour, material and lighting concept can make a significant contribution to turning an apartment into an energy filling station where body, soul and spirit can regenerate and the batteries can recharge. A human-centred colour consultation is possible for every budget. For new buildings or complete renovations, the entire apartment can be included in the design concept. The preferred room ambience is designed in cooperation with the residents. The colour and material consultant ensures that calmly designed surfaces and stimulating colour accents create a harmonious overall picture. If only little money is available, the redesign of a single room will also noticeably enhance the lives of the residents. 

More consideration for neighbours

The conscious use of colour is also worthwhile when designing outdoor spaces. Many building owners suggest façade paints for their buildings that often have no colour reference to the neighbouring houses. How these colours affect the neighbours is often not taken into account when choosing the colour. However, people living in the surrounding area are often exposed to this design for years or even decades. The building owner usually only sees his house colours for a short time when he leaves his house, for example, or when he returns. The remaining time he spends in the house, where he is visually exposed to the colors of the neighbouring houses.

For this reason it is important and appropriate to consider the effect of the colours available on neighbours and residents when determining the façade and exterior design. One way of doing this is to present the colour samples to the neighbours and obtain their opinion. Since around the mid-1990s, facades in many places have increasingly been dyed with paints made from artificially produced colour pigments. These houses often appear garish and screaming and therefore do not fit into the existing village and cityscapes. It is no coincidence that these buildings have little to nothing in common with the typical colourfulness of a place that has grown over decades or centuries.

Author Martin Tanner is a graduate colour consultant and designer at IACC, working in a variety of architectural design fields and networking internationally with design partners in Austria, the USA and Canada. He has his company in Cham.

Colours provide the necessary ambience in a living room.

Author: Martin Tanner
Published in: WIRTSCHAFT ZUG, March 2012 – Trade Association Canton Zug, Switzerland