Color in Environs

Color has a profound psychological and physiological impact on the human experience, and in particular on users of the built environment. The goal of IACC-trained professionals is to use our understanding of the full nature of color to create beneficial and user-supportive, as well as beautiful, environments.


Color and architecture go hand in hand. Form first reaches the human eye through color, and, as a characteristic of perception, color cannot be separated from form. Color is the language of form and is also the language of emotions. As the architect Professor Sune Lindstrom pointed out, With every particular architectural product is the spontaneous emotional reaction that is of importance to us. Through exterior color we influence our townscape and interact with our surroundings by way of both the cultural and emotional associations of color. Exterior colors can:

modulate a building’s appearance and bring it into harmony with its surroundings,
differentiate, contain, unite, equalize, and accentuate elements,
make a building appear pleasant or oppressive, well-proportioned or distorted, stimulating or monotonous,
give individuality to buildings that exhibit the same or similar design.

Restaurants and Food Service

In the restaurant business success rests on four conditions: food, service, price and ambiance. As long as the food and service are good and the price is fair, the more inviting restaurant will always be more successful. The more inviting restaurant is the one that arouses the appetite through multi-sensory stimulation. Studies show that color appetite behavior is stimulated and dependent on smell, the thought of food, and most of all by sight. We eat with our eyes, as the saying goes. Therefore, the uses of color in restaurant design should emphasize color’s psychological association with appetite, as well as smell. Color may be used to stimulate the appetite, as well as present the desired restaurant image such as: chic bistro, family restaurant, or fast food establishment. Psychological appeal, distinction, the feeling of harmony and sense of identity are always linked to products that sell, and this also applies to food service establishments.

Industrial Work Environments

Studies, including those conducted in the field of industrial psychology, point out that poorly designed conditions in industrial work environments can lead to monotony and boredom, resulting in fatigue, lack of motivation, negative interaction and accidents. This affects not only the overall work climate, but ultimately the quality and quantity of production. Although manufacturing-oriented businesses are as diverse as the products they produce, the functional principles of color regarding vision and safety are common denominators for a purposeful use of color in industrial environments. Correct color specifications will:

improve perception, thereby protecting the eyes from unnecessary strain,
increase efficiency and minimize errors by reducing monotony, irritation and premature fatigue,
increase safety and improve orientation,
partly compensate for specific environmental problems, such as noise, heat, cold, odor, dryness and moisture through the subjective influence of color.


It is evident that the efficiency of office employees is directly related to their work setting. Employers should provide an environment that is physically and psychologically supportive of their employees. Satisfaction with the work environment is closely associated with job performance and overall job satisfaction. Modern, efficient offices depend on experts in the field of human factors, whose recommendations are critical in regard to such ergonomic factors as space planning, noise, lighting, etc. However, it takes the color specialist to set the correct mood and image, using objective guidelines to create an office that is also a tool which aids employees in their task. It is the color specialist who pays close attention to the relationship between color, visual efficiency and comfort, which is essential in today’s technology-dependent workspaces.

Homes and Personal Living

The pace of modern life is fast and stressful and requires that today’s home provide rest and relaxation. What constitutes rest and relaxation for one person might be different for another. When planning colors for a living space the color designer should explore the individual client’s personality, his or her relationship to color and his or her response to visual stimulation, as well as considering lifestyle needs. Designing a personal living space demands knowledge of color psychology because color is a key element in personalizing the living environment. The designer trained in color psychology is able to gain greater understanding of his or her client and apply that knowledge to the color design. Color’s psychological effects can then interact with the individual personality to support the function of each space within the home.


A school’s physical environment has a powerful psycho-physiological impact on its students. Appropriate color design is important in protecting eyesight, in creating surroundings that are conductive to studying, and in promoting physical and mental health. Many cases of irritability, premature fatigue, lack of interest, and behavioral problems can be attributed directly to incorrect environmental conditions involving poorly planned color and lighting. In addition to the physiological factors operating in the relationship between color and visual ergonomics, consultants consider the psychological factors related to different age groups and their individual development stages. The successful design of ambient conditions within an education environment should always be based on the scientific knowledge of the psycho-physiological effects of color and light.


In 1978, the United States Department of Commerce-National Bureau of Standards workshop on Color in the Health Care Environment stated, Medical facilities represent perhaps the most critical category of buildings in need of proper criteria. Dr. Thomas Sisson, who headed the workshop, concluded that the way color is often specified in hospitals is inconsistent and potentially detrimental to the feeling of well-being by the patient. Today a substantial body of knowledge exists to ensure therapeutic color specifications. Color plays an important role in one’s experience of a healthcare facility as competent, efficient and caring. Color can enhance the healing process and inspire user confidence only when specifications are based on interdisciplinary knowledge, not on changing design styles or variable tastes. Correct use of color in healthcare environments can:

Facilitate medical diagnosis and surgical performance
Maintain a stimulatory balance
Support the healing process


Marketing is the activity involved in moving goods from the producer to the consumer, including selling, advertising and packaging. It also includes the promotion of services, which means communicating a successful corporate identity and image. All marketing requires communicating effectively to arouse the desire to buy a product or use a service. Experts agree that non-verbal communication, including visual communication, accounts for the highest percentage of communication. Color is a powerful non-verbal communicator because of its symbolic, associative, attention-drawing, and mood-creating effects. Color can communicate the nature of a product and its effectiveness, or present the image of the trust-worthiness of a service. Color can visually satisfy consumer expectations to gain consumer acceptance. Marketing without color is unthinkable, and marketing without an understanding of the psychology of color is ineffective.

Cesar Chavez Middle School; Kathy Davis
Red Envelope; Jill Pilaroscia
Herman Miller Before & After; Jill Pilaroscia
Rolls Royce Energy Systems; Karen Collins
Personal Residence; Amy Wax
Mountain View High School; Kathy Davis
Wilhelmina Hospital; Jan de Boon