Color psychology: How to choose the right colors for your workspace

Space Refinery
April 30, 2024
Color psychology: Colors in the office

Color psychology: How to choose the right colors for your workspace

Color is a powerful, universal, non-verbal language. According to Angela Wright, an expert on the unconscious effects of color, scientifically, the first thing we register when assessing anything is color. It helps us recognize the difference and act instinctively toward joy, pleasure, threat, and danger.

The colors can also affect our behavior and mood beyond our primal response. We all feel better when spring starts, and we see all the beautiful colors of nature. We relax by the seaside, where blue ocean and blue skies melt into one around us. Also, we all know that autumn feeling that starts to creep up on us when rainy days start and all we want to do is curl under a blanket with a cup of tea. Color psychology explores the emotions, moods, and reactions that different colors trigger in us. This translates to all life domains, from our homes and schools to offices. Now, you're probably wondering how to use color psychology to evoke the emotions you want your team to experience in your workplace?

Considering colors influence our thoughts, behaviors, and satisfaction, they can also profoundly impact our productivity. Think about it: the last place you want to work in is a gray, uninspiring, dull office. By applying the insights based on color psychology, businesses can achieve different goals: from triggering positive moods in customers to boosting team members' creativity and efficiency.

The basics of color schemes

We want to take a moment and talk about the basics before we can unpack the different office color schemes that we believe promote a productive, energizing, and healthy workplace.

The table of the psychology of color: what each color means

Red: Excitement

Red is the color of excitement and is known for being bold and powerful. Some cultures also view red as a lucky color.

Yellow: Optimism

Yellow is the color of optimism. It’s perceived as warm and positive.

Blue: Trust

Blue is the color of trust and is known as the color of dependability and strength.

Orange: Friendly

Orange is the color of friendliness. It symbolizes cheerfulness and confidence.

Purple: Creative

Purple is the color of creativity. It is commonly associated with imagination and wisdom.

Green: Peaceful

Green is the color of peacefulness, growth and health.

Grayscale: Balance

Colors that fall on the grayscale are known for their balance and are associated with neutrality and calm.

Please take this guide with a grain of salt, as not everyone will feel these things when they see specific colors. The response is subjective, and there's no such thing as a universally colored. Additionally, it's not only the color that matters but also its intensity and combination with other colors. Ms. Wright takes an example of a highly saturated, bright blue that stimulates our senses while a low saturation grey-blue will soothe our senses. Equally relevant, she states there are no wrong colors, and the combination of colors triggers our reaction and mood.

At this point, you might start to think of different questions, such as: Which colors go well together? Are some colors better for specific spaces? What colors influence the mood of my employees, and which ones should I use to help them focus or be more productive?

Let's look at our top five most popular colors and their usage and impact in the workspace.

1. Blue is the most productive color

We'll start with cool colors, which generally make people calmer and less anxious. As a very popular color for workspaces, blue helps to achieve a balanced and calming atmosphere, helping employees stay focused and efficient. According to Color Psychology, "it has been proven that different shades of blue can improve concentration, stimulate thinking, and provide mental clarity. It also improves productivity, making it a great color to surround yourself with when studying and working…"

As with everything, the important thing is not to exaggerate. Think twice before painting your entire office blue just because you want to increase productivity. If you overdo it, you could create an opposite effect. Instead, we advise adding fragments of blue into rooms where you want your employees to be their most productive.

Blue color palette for Ayming Benelux by Space Refinery
Blue accents in Ayming Benelux's office in Machelen

Pro-tip: include blue accents in rooms where your team is expected to be productive and find focus. Spaces where you should include blue accents:

1. Work and collaboration spaces

2. Meeting rooms

3. Research areas

2. (Ever)green

Another member of the cool colors family, green is also considered serene. According to Color Psychology, "brands known for incorporating color green into their color schemes, are usually associated with relaxation, reliability, high-quality products…" Green communicates calmness, comfort, and peacefulness. Green is a soothing color that doesn't cause eye fatigue and helps balance the mind, body, and emotions, which helps boost creativity.

As we mentioned in our previous blog post, green is closely related to plants and nature, meaning it helps with stress relief — no wonder many clinics and hospitals focus on a green and white palette.

Green color palette for Peter Lily and Manistal by Space Refinery
Green elements in the co-working spaces of PeterLily & Manistal in Brussels

Pro-tip: Green is great in areas where your employees are expected to work long hours because it reduces anxiety and eye strain and creates a sense of calmness. You should incorporate green office color schemes into areas where people work and should be creative or come to relax. Some of the best rooms to include green include:

1. Individual desks

2. Lounges

3. Employee relaxation areas

3. Paint it red

Now, let's switch to a warm-toned family. To give your office a cozy feel, you should incorporate red, yellow, and orange. Red is mainly known as the physical color most associated with the body. It increases your heart rate, blood flow, and appetite and is known as the color of love, emotion, and passion. As Color Psychology says, "red can often be linked to strength and power. Its color can help excite the emotions and motivate people to act, plus [it promotes] ambition and determination…"

Red is such a powerful color, so consider using only muted tones or sparingly as an accent color (in furniture, desk accessories, and minimal wall décor).

Branded red color accents for Board of Innovation by Space Refinery
Red details in the Board of Innovation office in Antwerp

Pro-tip: Red office color schemes should be placed in areas with high activity and where you want your employees to be confident and bold. Some of the best areas to use red include:

1. Office cafeteria

2. Spaces with movement (hallways)

3. Places where people work late at night

4. We all live in a yellow submarine

Optimism, creativity, enlightenment, and curiosity. Yellow compliments natural light and spacious white tones and helps build a positive atmosphere grounded in optimism. Yellow is a feel-good color used as a powerful accent color when highly intensive or a soothing, all-around color when muted. A lower-intensity, buttery yellow or soft golden is an ideal combination of yellow's positivity without overpowering and causing anxiety.

Yellow accents for Start It KBC Antwerp by Space Refinery
Yellow accents in Start IT @KBC workspace in Antwerp

Pro-tip: Because it's so uplifting and lively, think of adding yellow to spaces where you want to encourage co-creation and creativity. If you want to inspire your designers, developers, artists, writers, and other creatives, splash the walls with pops of yellow. To keep it elegant, sprinkle yellow or golden highlights in the form of desk or wall accessories, pots for the plants, art pieces, or go bigger, such as chairs and couches.

5. Carte blanche

After cool and warm colors, let's switch to something neutral. Colors like black, white, or gray are often thought of as the 'absence' of a 'real' color. White has long been a color symbolizing newness, freshness, and purity. According to Color Psychology, "it's considered to represent perfection and possibilities, like a piece of blank white paper."

White is the color of spaciousness and practically compliments any of the other colors mentioned. If you want to tie a space together, create balance or a sense of neutrality, you need white. It makes rooms seem bigger and brighter, something that all modern offices can benefit from as we look to move on from closed and uninviting traditional offices.

White color palette for V-Bio by Space Refinery
White color in the new office of V-Bio in Ghent

Pro-tip: White on its own can be plain, but when you combine it with other colors, its true potential is limitless. Combine white with accent colors to create a playful mood or use it together with other neutral colors for a clean, minimalist workspace.

Some of the best rooms to use white color include:

1. Large recreational areas

2. Open meeting areas with lots of natural light

3. Collaborative spaces

4. Lobbies

If you are looking for ideas for improving your office, check out our guide 6 Easy Ideas to Improve Your Office Interior.

We make color psychology easy

Colors impact the way we work. Subtle changes like adding a pop of color to your workspace might change the entire atmosphere of your space. But whether you repaint a few accent walls or buy new furniture, think about the "psychology" behind choosing the colors. The more you explore and apply color psychology principles, the better your employees will work.

At Space Refinery, we love to explore the impact of colors and how they can transform work environments.

If you'd like to learn more about color psychology and how we incorporate it into our many designs, feel free to contact us!

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