The Basics of Color Theory & How to Apply It In Your Workspace

The Basics of Color Theory & How to Apply It In Your Workspace

Let’s face it… the world would feel pretty bland without color. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, colors can impact or change our moods and productivity levels—through color theory, color placement, and color harmony. 

The intention behind the use of color in design is extremely important to those who will be entering or occupying your space, especially the workplace. Let’s explore the basics of color theory and how to take advantage of these basic principles to set the right mood for your space.

What is Color Theory?

Color theory is the science and art of using color. It analyzes how humans perceive color, as well as the visual effects of how various colors mix, match or contrast with each other. The science behind color theory affirms the messages and moods that colors communicate—and it goes a lot deeper than blue representing sadness or red depicting anger. 

In color theory, colors are organized on a color wheel and grouped into three different categories: primary colors (red, yellow, blue), secondary colors (colors created when primary colors are mixed) and tertiary colors (colors made from primary and secondary colors).

The Psychological Effects of Color

Applying color theory in your workplace design is all about balance. Aside from deciding which colors to leverage, you also need to consider where the colors will be applied throughout the space. Despite which colors you’re going for, aim for a harmonious balance between stimulating and calming. 

The human brain will reject under-stimulating information (essentially anything it finds to be boring). However, the other extreme is a colorful visual experience that is so saturated and chaotic that the viewer can’t stand to look at it. The human brain will also reject what it cannot organize or understand. To process a visual task, the brain needs a logical structure. Color harmony provides a sense of order and visual interest to the viewer.

How Does Color Theory Affect the Workplace?

While there are guidelines to color harmony, don’t assume your options are limited. There are still an abundance of options within color harmony—like warm colors, cool colors, and neutrals.

Warm Colors

If you want a cozy, home-like feel to your office, aim to incorporate warm-toned colors. Colors like reds, yellows, oranges, gold and warm browns will enhance feelings of comfort.

  • Red is associated with power, action or urgency. The color provokes exciting emotions and action and often promotes ambition and determination. Red is commonly used in the food industry because it can persuade you into hunger, too.
  • Orange can be a bold statement color or used all over your design. It’s known to be stimulating and energizing as a happy medium between red and yellow.
  • Yellow is a warm, happy color that can be used as a powerful accent color when brightened, or as a soothing monotone color when the shade is less intense. Yellow is also known to be associated with urgency, making it a popular color in fast-food chains.

Cool Colors

If you’re longing for a soothing and relaxing office, embrace the power of cool colors. Colors like purples, blues and greens can mimic the peacefulness of nature and help calm the minds of your colleagues, customers and guests. Cool tones are reminiscent of nature and are popular in the healthcare industry, with the intention to offer comfort and healing to patients. 

  • Green is the ultimate color for incorporating nature into your design (think of green grass, plants, moss, etc.). It is more often than not associated with healing and rejuvenation. Green can depict emotions of success, growth and wealth. It is overall a very positive, comforting color.
  • Blue is a color that is often associated with nature— think of the deep blue oceans and light blue skies. Known to boost creativity, concentration and thinking, it also provides mental clarity and promotes productivity. It has a way of stimulating the mind while also promoting relaxation.
  • Purple is versatile, depending on the shade. A deep purple can have a stronger soothing impact and carries feelings of calmness, trust and richness.

Neutral Colors

Although neutral colors typically exist in the background, they hold power in the sense that they are easy to adapt to, easy to place in design, and safe to commit to. Neutral colors most often used in workplaces include white, black and gray. Beware of utilizing too much neutral color, because too many neutrals can bore those in your workspace—potentially making folks feel tired or too calm to the point of sleepiness. An eye-catching way to spice up a neutral design is to add pops of color throughout the space (a popular design style in the booming tech industry)

Where Should You Apply Color Theory in Your Office?

Before you roll up your sleeves and get to work designing, there are some key components to identify in your space. Take an overview of the office space around you. How much natural light do you get in your space? If your space is on the smaller side with minimal light, avoid dark paint colors since appear to shrink the room. You may want to opt for lighter tones to keep the space open and airy. On the other hand, if you’re working with a large, well-lit space, you have the flexibility to play with darker paints or busy wallpaper designs. Instead of paint, you could also opt for an eye-catching wallpaper. 

Next, think about your business and the overall industry. What do you want your employees, customers, or clients to feel when they’re in your office space? Do you prefer warm or cool tones? Do you want the space to feel cozy or open? If you’re unsure, think about whether your employees need an open desk setup for easy team collaboration, or enclosed spaces to enhance their privacy. Imagine walking through your space, then ask yourself what colors should pop upon entry. If you have a waiting room or area, consider cool colors to suggest relaxation and patience. 

Going into further detail, ask yourself what type of first impression you’d like to leave when a new visitor enters your space. What does your office say about your company? Some companies will display fun peel-and-stick decals on the walls that depict their core values, mission, or history. Others will display their primary brand colors throughout the office. 

Reimagine Your Workspace with Relocation Strategies 

Decisions, decisions! If you’re unsure of where to start, Relocation Strategies can help! Reimagining the way we work is crucial to continued success in today’s changing landscape. We’re here to assist our clients in attracting and retaining talent and building a reliable workforce that will keep your business or organization at the top of its game. There’s no time like the present to take steps toward workplace success. Why not partner with our team along the way?

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