On the second to last day of IMM 2017, German architect Wibke Schaeffer, whose practice Lichte Arte works often with hospitals, physiotherapists and pediatricians, gave a talk on the psychology of color.
What it says, why it matters and how we can best use it to our advantage.
“Color has a tremendous influence on our mood; it’s a purely emotional theme. And an intuitive one. Most people can’t immediately put their finger on why one color makes them feel differently from another,” says Schaeffer, but research shows that it does. Soup in a red pot tastes spicier than soup in a green one; pharmaceutical companies make pills red because we think they are more powerful than white ones; black boxes feel heavier than white or green ones.
According to Schaeffer, there are 24 million known colors. “I can’t wrap my head around that.” Green is not just green. It is a signal to others about what you like and how you would like to be perceived. Color is who you are. Designers who actively use color psychology in their practice help clients make sure their message is clear.
In previous centuries, color meant luxury. Pigment for clothing and paint was extremely expensive and really only available to royalty and their pals in the landed gentry. Even now, deep, rich pigments, like the ones used in formal dining rooms or family-run five-star hotels, still telegraph decadence.
Newton first wrote about the optics of color—how it is perceived mechanically by the eye—in 1704, but it was Goethe in 1810 that first explored the idea of how it was processed by the mind. In his book, The Theory of Colour, he introduced the color wheel and noted the attendant aesthetic qualities. To him, red and orange were rational; yellow and green, intellectual; green and blue, sensual and purple and red, fantasy.