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Colourful innovative classroom furniture at Vittra Telefonplan, Sweden

Colour in the Classroom

Colour is an important consideration in all areas of design, probably one of the most obvious is in product design and marketing. The packaging of objects or food carefully considers the use of colour to tune our perceptions of that brand without the consumer having to think about it. Such as purple packaging on a chocolate bar being assumed as more expensive and luxurious than one packaged in a green wrapper, which we may surmise as being healthier. The colour practice in these areas of design has been diligently executed, but what about the use of colour when designing a space?

Colour is an essential aspect to consider when designing a space, firstly and most obviously is to create an aesthetically beautiful space. But secondly, and arguably overlooked, is the effects that the use of colour within a space have on the people occupying it. The psychology of colour is something that dates way back to Egyptians who studied the correlation between colour and mood, as well as the many other positive effects on humans. Fast forward to today, and interior designers have access to copious studies and research to help them design holistically.

Using colour within a space is essential when creating an atmosphere. Therefore applying the psychology of colour to educational environments is vital to creating welcoming spaces that inspire, focus and motivate students. Importantly student performance has been recorded to correlate with the quality of the environment that they are studying in and this extends beyond the physical arrangement of furniture and space layout. Traditionally when considering classroom design and the roles of form versus function, function has outweighed aesthetic and colour. However, understanding the role that colour plays in the creation of these atmospheres helps designers to design empathetically.

There are many different environments within the schools that are likely to evoke different experiences, hence requiring the use of different colours. For example, an arts classroom ought to stimulate creativity, whereas a wellbeing room demands a calming environment. It is also important to note the differences between primary and secondary students, as pupils have different stimuli as they get older. This means that different colour palettes ought to be used for different age groups.

So what colours should we as interior designers be using within the classroom?

Designer and author Frank Mahnke’s research recommends the use of a cooler colour palette for older students such as those in secondary school, for example greens and blues. Being at the centre of the light spectrum means green is a colour that doesn’t require our eyes to adjust in order for us to see it, making it an ideal colour for reducing strain on pupils’ eyes. Meanwhile blue has been linked to well-being, with the different hues producing different emotional responses. For example, pastel blues for concentration, and more intense shades for decision making.

Specific colour choice aside, the use of colour within a space must be carefully curated as, on the other hand, colours can also have a negative effect on students. For example, if the colour palette is too busy, bold or bright then the overstimulation this causes can leave students feeling anxious or unduly energetic. So combined with the scientific research, interior designers can manipulate the use of colour using a multitude of surface finishes and lighting techniques to achieve the correct balance and tailor a positive and more personal experience for the user – something that we feel should be incorporated more sensitively into the classroom!