Main image: University of Hertfordshire, UK

There is perhaps no more important a space to harness the power of good design than in education. When children have a positive educational experience, especially at an early age, it inspires and stimulates them and can ignite a passion for learning. Once engaged, it can encourage them to further their education and ultimately to take this passion and knowledge out into the wider world, benefitting the child, the education establishments and even the wider national economy.

So, what colours can actually enhance creativity, focus and concentration? Naturally, cultural and social influences will affect your choices, but when looking for colours that have universal appeal such as those drawn from nature, one can tap into positive experiences shared by all. This is best explained through the Ecological Valence Theory.

Analysing the impact of colours

Mediatheque Le Puz, France Photo – Eugeni Pons – David Romero-Uzedazle

Colour used in learning delivers the following:
• Red has been found to enhance attention to detail.
• Orange is thought to be welcoming and mood enhancing, which improves neural functioning.
• Orange is also believed to increase the oxygen supply to the brain and is recommended for use in exam rooms to stimulate students.
• Yellow increases creativity, attention and positivity.
• Blue boost creativity and the ability to think “out of the box”.
• Green enhances reading ability in children

Green is the easiest colour for the retina to perceive and, as such, is the best for long-term concentration. In fact, a research study found that students who viewed a green roof after a tiring task versus a concrete roof, made fewer errors and had better overall concentration.

In another study looking at cognitive performance, blue was found to boost creativity and enhance the participants’ ability to think “outside of the box”. Its association with water and the sky makes us open and calm enough to be explorative and creative. Blue has also been linked with improved productivity. Therefore, in a learning environment, it would be useful to use blue where difficult subjects are taught or where students ordinarily experience stress.

As with anything, we should use these bolder colours in moderation, particularly for younger students who are already prone to over excitement and over stimulation. Add pops of colour onto flooring, walls, pictures and furnishings to enhance attention and mood rather than painting all the walls red, which could cause anxiety.

To further student wellbeing, consider the value of the patterns we display within these artworks, materials and furnishings. As humans, we prefer viewing natural patterns (also known as biophilic fractals) and have developed a “fractal fluency” for them.

The use of patterns can reduce stress by as much as 60% as well as have a restorative and relaxing effect.

Hackney Garden School

Overall, colours can be a cost effective and impactful way to create uplifting, energising and stimulating education environments. They can be pure and playful and don’t have to be mixed with blacks or greys to be toned down as you might find in sophisticated hospitality, domestic or working environments.

Cooler colours are good for calm, focus and concentration, whereas warmer colours help students to stay happy, alert and attentive, and add a youthful touch. Even better, these colours can be added into artworks displaying natural patterns for an extra wellbeing boost. It’s time to get the colour chart out!

In the Hackney Garden School, fractals were introduced into the space as forest landscape wallpaper in calming shades of green. Displaying colourful images or artworks of natural elements can be an exciting way to bring the benefits of pattern into the classroom.

Our acknowledgement and sincere appreciation to Interface for the use of some of the information contained in this article.

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