What colour is your office?


I just saw an interesting article by Kim Lachance Shandrow about how the colour of your office can affect productivity. The article refers to a paper (2007) in Color Research and Application (CRA) by Nancy Kwallek entitled Work week productivity, visual complexity, and individual environmental sensitivity in three offices of different color interiors. The paper suggests that the influences of interior colours on worker productivity were dependent upon individuals’ stimulus screening ability and time of exposure to the interior colours. CRA is a top quality academic journal that is peer reviewed and so I am respectful of the findings.

However, in Kim’s online article there is a lot of stuff that I am highly sceptical about. For example, she writes that “Red … increases the heart rate and blood flow upon sight.” Is this true? Is there really any evidence for this. I have two PhD students working in this area right now and I am far from sure that colour does affect heart rate and, if it does, the effects are probably tiny. And yet we can read statements like this all over the internet as if it is a fact beyond doubt. Other things she says that I take with a pinch of salt is that “green does not cause eye fatigue” and that “yellow triggers innovation.” Don’t get me wrong – I am very interested in how colour can be used to affect us emotionally, psychologically and behaviourally; it’s just there is a danger that if some things are said often enough (such as red increases your blood pressure or heart rate) then people start believing them even though there may be little evidence.

That said, you might find the infographic fun and it is well done. See the original and full article here.

4 thoughts on “What colour is your office?

  1. Hi there,

    i am also very interested in colour, my MA is based on the emotional effect of colour on the emotional and physical self with particular reference to light passing through glass (as i am a glass artist)

    I just wanted to comment about the effect of red on the blood pressure etc – as far as i was aware i thought they had tested the effects of red and blue light on the blood pressure? I know for me personally red makes my heart beat faster and can even give me palpitations, it seems to have more energy, and my son who has adhd reacts badly to wearing red, and it would seem to make him more irritable and angry – i wonder if this is because both of us are very strong and passionate people and dont really need the vibration of red in our energy field?

    I also once painted his bedroom in bright yellow and he suffered terrible nightmares and night terrors until i decided to repaint it a calming blue, i think that yellow – like the sun is uplifting and anti depressant and signifies hope, but i excess can cause hyperactivity – maybe this is why in certain shades it is effective in the office as it is uplifting and stimulates the mind?

    I have used colour in colour therapy over the years, managed to get myself out of hospital when they were threatening another operation as they couldnt get rid of my infection – this was all very serious – and i used a shade of blue and also violet to bring the temperature down and to also stimulate the immune system, and within 48 hours i was out of hospital – the staff were amazed and were total converts to the powerful effects of colour.

    I am about to start my second year of my MA in september and wondered if at some point i could meet up with you (if you have time) to discuss the effect of colour and maybe you could help to answer some of my questions?

    I hope you dont mind me commenting on your post?

    kind regards

    Helen Robinson

    1. Thanks Helen

      Of course I do not mind. I am delighted that you are commenting!!

      It is worth looking at this. It is a summary of a paper by Peter Kaiser (University of York) who reviewed the literature in 1984 on the effect of colour on physiology. He published his findings in the journal Color Research and Application. He found only two papers about colour and blood pressure. One was a PhD thesis from California from the 1950s. I have not been able to get hold of this thesis but it was from a long time ago anyway. The other was a paper in the 1970s, I think, looking at the effect of colour on the blood pressure of handicapped children. The latter showed an effect but it would be dangerous to extrapolate and conclude that all people would be affected in this way. So it is somewhat surprising that little has been published. Even in my own University when I said I was studying this, a fellow academic said, “But surely that has already been done hasn’t it?” Everyone thinks this. So it is not just you.

      I can’t comment on your son of course, but it would not surprise me if some people were affected by colour. That is, that for some people, red made their heart beat faster. But if we want to say, generally, that red makes people’s heart beat faster then it needs to be more than one person. A proper controlled experiment would be able to conclude that this effect was found in 20%, 50% or 70% (for example) of a reasonably large population. To my knowledge no such study has been published. However, we hope to be able to publish something soon.

      You are welcome to come and visit me anytime. I would be very happy to speak with you about colour. You don’t say where you are based though. I am in Leeds in the UK.


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