I. Love. Color. It’s one of my favorite topics to study. (I even did a science fair project on color when I was in high school.) But I started to wonder lately — does color affect creativity? And how?
Turns out, YES! But, wait. Like pretty much everything involving humans, it’s not so simple. It depends on what you want to do.
Attention to Detail
Studies suggest if you want to accomplish a lot, and knock out that to-do list like a boss, red is your color. Red increases our alertness and heart rate, and allows us to focus on detail-oriented tasks more efficiently. Red is attention-holding. Think about when the President wears a red tie. Or when an applicant wears a red dress to an interview. Red says, “Focus on me. Listen to what I’m saying.”
Some would also say there’s an undercurrent of threat, fear, or panic that goes hand-in-hand with the color red: the teacher’s red pen on an assignment, red fire and emergency vehicles, red traffic lights, the flush of Lady Elaine Fairchilde’s face, etc. Red grabs our attention, for certain.
But that’s not the same as creativity, is it?
Ideas, Ideas, Ideas
If, instead of creative productivity, you’re more interested in generating ideas, then blue is for you! Contrasting with red’s enlivening effect, blue chills us out. It’s why it’s a favorite hue for bedrooms, hospitals, and schools. And, apparently, it’s the relaxing response we feel that frees up all the good stuff. Our idea generators work best when we are breathing easy and unstressed. Like Archimedes in the bathtub, it seems like good ideas strike during more laid-back moods. (See my previous post on creative rest.)
Ah-ha, good news for my favorite color, green. Green shares a corner of the stage with blue due to its calming influence. Green is easy on the eyes. (Really! If you work long hours at a stretch, be aware that green lessens eye strain.) We feel rejuvenated and revived after spending time in the forest. It also may explain why, when coupled with the light exercise of weeding and digging, gardening can be a source of inspiration and clarity when we feel mentally cluttered. Green is balancing.
Is it really color affecting creativity, or our level of relaxation and physiological state? I don’t know about you, but when I read these articles, it seems that color is a tool for promoting a creative environment, not the cause. What do you think?
Have you ever used color to affect your work or mood?
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Brown shoes don’t make it.
I remember studying the psychology of color once upon a time. I don’t use it intentionally now. I do use “rituals” though, to induce creativity. Have you done a post on that yet? If not, please do!
Great idea! I’m actually working on putting on a regular feature about the creative process. I find it *so* interesting. (Does Jerry Jenkins really sharpen all the pencils in his office each day before he writes, even though he never uses pencils? What?!)