Archive for the ‘Color Psychology’ Category

Colour psychology

Whornwell, P. & Carruthers, H. The Colors We Feel Graphic

Color psychology studies the effects of color on mood, emotion and behavior.

The influence of color on our moods and emotions is being studied since the beginning of the 20th century. The Romanian psychologist Florian Stefanescu-Goanga under the supervision of Wilhelm Wundt conducted an experiment in Leipzig during 1908-1911. This experiment became his PhD thesis and it was titled Experimentelle Untersuchungen zur Gefühlsbetonung der Farben (Experimental studies on the emotional tone of the colors). In the study, he divided colors into excitatory and soothing. The study had a great success at that time being published not only in Germany but also in France, URSS and USA.

The renowned American color authority Faber Birren made relevant studies on colour. The ones I am interested for my research are Color Psychology and Color Theory (1950) and Color and Human Response (1978). He once wrote: The story of color is almost the story of civilization itself.

A more recent book published is Color Environment, & Human Response: An Interdisciplinary Understanding of Color and its Use as a Beneficial Element in the Design of the Architectural Environment  by Frank H. Mahnke (1996). The author is President of the IACC – International Association of Color Consultant/Designers since 1988. The book is a guide for interior designers and architects discussing the psychological and physiological effects of color, light, and the human reactions to the built environment. It includes information and studies on different spaces including Health Care Facilities, Mental Health Centers and Psychiatric Hospitals. I am interested in hospital design and in particular the human response to environment when confined in a place for a long time. Most of the studies relating a confined person and it’s responses to the environment have been conducted within Health Care Facilities on patients that needed hospitalization for longer periods.

Psychological Impact of Color on Young Offenders

For my research, I am interested how color psychology can help in the rehabilitation process of young offenders. I aim to investigate how environmental color relates to states of mind and the emotional reactions such as stimulation, calm or depression, the levels of energy or exhaustion and the role of color in treatment of physical and mental illnesses.

The most recent study done for colour in UK within the prison environment is the one made by Professor Hilary Dalke The Colour Design Guide for the National Offender Management Service for the Home Office. The project started in 2001 and it lasted five years. It is a guide for architects and designers with the new colours and materials that can be used in prison environments. The study included the refurbishment of 12 prisons from which only one was a Youth Detention Centre. This study is a major achievement as it helped with the change in the colours and materials architects and designers can use in these facilities. The ‘wood effect’ flooring described by prisoners interviewed as ‘normal’ is permitted after this study. I do not have access to this study to know more about it so it is impossible for me to analyse the changes it brings to Youth Detention Centres.

The colour palette for children is very different than the one used for adults. When I think of an ideal place for children, I think of the movie Toys with Robin Williams. The paintings of Fortunato Depero can inspire us as they inspired Ferdinando Scarfiotti the Production Designer of the film. Alternatively, we can get inspired by the style of Theo van Doesburgin his design of Ciné-dancing in L’Aubette, Strasbourg. We have to be cautious with strong colours , but this can be used in specific areas or in small areas of a space especially in children spaces.

Fortunato Depero

Corteo della gran bambola


Theo van Doesburg

Ciné-dancing (cinema-dance hall; also called Grande Salle or Ciné-bal) in L’Aubette, Strasbourg,

executed 1927-1928,

restored 1989-1994




 Birren (1963 cited in Mahnke, 1996, pp.29)

Dalke, H., HOME OFFICE, The Prison Service (2007). The Colour Design Guide for the    National Offender Management Service. [Internet]. Available from: <http://fada.kingston.ac.uk/includes/docs/staff/h_dalke/Colour%20Design%20Guide.pdf&gt; [Accessed 10 February 2012]

David, D. (2010)Florian Ştefănescu-Goangă – Omagiu [Internet] Available from <http://danieldavidubb.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/florian-stefanescu-goanga-omagiu/&gt; [Accessed 21 February 2012]

Mahnke, F.H. (1996) Color Environment, & Human Response: An Interdisciplinary Understanding of Color and its Use as a Beneficial Element in the Design of the Architectural Environment. Canada: John Wiley&Sons

Toys (1992) Directed by Barry Levinson. Twentieth Century Fox: USA [Video: DVD]


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