The psychology of colour in the classroom
Demco Interiors outline how colours can influence learning
Posted by Julian Owen | December 14, 2018 | Interiors
psychology-of-colour, demco-interiors, learning, hygge, signe-johansen

Few people seem to realise just how powerful colours can be, yet their influence over us is hard to deny: red light means stop, green means go; make way for those blue flashing lights; look for the rainbow after the rain.

Think back to your childhood, school days in particular. Think of colourful chalk, pastel notebooks, brightly painted walls and carpets, and the vibrant cartoons you’d watch on Saturday mornings. Your childhood was colourful, and this wasn’t an accident – a careful choice of colours can have a positive impact on learning.

Our classrooms, libraries and public spaces should be designed to encourage wellbeing and to help learning happen. Lots of factors can help: a good use of space, a reduction of clutter, the right choice of furniture, and lots of plants and natural light.

And, of course, the colour of everything – carpet, walls, furniture – can make a huge difference.

There’s no one colour that’s particularly good for learning - all colours influence us in different ways. Here, Demco Interiors take a look at some of the most powerful.

Colours for calmness and wellbeing

Stress isn’t good for learning, but many colours can help us to feel calm, centred, safe, and relaxed.

Everyone has been talking about the Danish concept of hygge, a state of mind in which everything just feels complete. It’s often associated with fluffy socks, big woolly jumpers, open fires and deep mugs of hot chocolate. But as Signe Johansen explained in his bestselling book, 'How to Hygge', colour also plays a big part in creating that feeling of snug safety.

Think of soft purples and pastels, shades of blue and earthy browns. And, speaking of earthiness, the influence of the natural world on our mood is hard to deny. You can bring the outside inside with shades of green and natural prints, helping to create an environment where everyone can feel at ease and ready to learn. Certain studies show that green is good for long-term concentration and clarity.

Colours for excitement and creativity

The psychology of the colour red is perhaps the most relatable. We all respond to red stop signs and traffic lights, and everyone’s heard of the matador goading a bull with his red sheet. A red flag means danger and, when we’re angry, we see red.

Many might associate red with stress and anxiety, but you should really associate red with activity. It inspires urgency, and you can harness this in a learning environment to create alertness and encourage creativity.

Of course, red might have a negative impact if you’re prone to feeling anxious. Luckily, you can get a similar effect, but without the negative connotations, by using yellow. In fact, bright and sunny yellow is widely regarded as being the best colour for maintaining attention and spreading positivity.

But if you really want to encourage concentration and productivity, many experts recommend going for energising shades of orange.

Get the blue balance right

Too much blue, or too dark a shade of blue, can make us feel cold, sombre and detached, but getting the blue balance right can have a huge impact on learning.

A light sky blue can have a calming effect, while using blue ink and blue paper can help with reading comprehension. And if you want to avoid the feeling of icy attachment that can come with too much blue, just look to the other side of the colour wheel. Balance your cool blues with warm yellows or oranges to create the best of both worlds – a calm environment that encourages creativity.

The psychology of colour – an exact science?

It’s important to remember that how we respond to certain colours depends a lot on our personal experiences. As mentioned above, red can be energising for some, but deeply distressing for others.

The psychology of colour is not an exact science. But still, there are studies that support the idea that colour can have an impact on our perceptions and our behaviour. As such, it makes no sense to ignore the concept of colour psychology when designing our schools. If greens, blues, yellows and browns can help even some people feel calm and ready to learn, then why not incorporate them in your design?

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