Colour is quite significant in interior design - and so far, it's been a popular topic for Design Research Friday. It can be so difficult to decide on a colour scheme we will like and that will evoke the right interior mood. I came across this study that looks at colour emotion associations based on personal preferences and past experiences.
Kaya, N & Epps, H. H. 2004. "Colour Emotion Associations: Past Experience and Personal Preference". In AIC 2004 Color and Paints, Proceedings of the Interim Meeting of the International Color Association, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 3-5 November 2004, ed. by Jose Luis Caivano. In www.fadu.uba/sicyt/aic2004.htm, pp 31-34.
What did they do? Ten fully saturated chromatic colours were chosen. (red, yellow, green, blue, purple, yellow-red, green-yellow, blue-green, purple-blue and red-purple). Three achromatic colours were also used (white, black, grey). 98 American college students (44 male, 54 female) made up the sample. Each participant was presented a square on a computer monitor (for each of the colours listed above, one at a time) and asked to give one emotional response per colour with a short explanation of why that may be. Order of colour presentation was randomized across participants.
What did they find? Here is the order of colours eliciting the most positive reactions to the least positive reactions: Green, yellow, blue, red, purple, blue-green, red-purple, yellow-red, purple-blue, green-yellow, white, black, grey. Interestingly, principle hues evoked the most positive emotional responses, followed by the intermediate hues (mixed colours) and then achromatic colours. However, the individual responses show a big amount of variability between participant responses for a single colour. For example black made one participant feel sophisticated because they associated black with fashion/clothing. Another felt sad because they associated black with funerals. This variability between participants is clearly a result of personal associations and experiences. And one should not forget about culture either. Black may be the colour of death in western cultures, but in eastern cultures it is often white. Moreover, our own definitions of positive and negative emotions are not all the same.
But when it comes to interior design, it's not only about colour preference. The thing about this study and a lot of other colour emotion studies is that participants look at a colour and report their immediate feelings. But looking at a colour is much different than living in a colour. The context is very important in the case of interior design. So even though my favourite colour is actually red, I most definitely wouldn't live in a red room. And it also doesn't mean I have the most positive associations with red compared to other colours.
Mark Rothko painting via Azurebumble
During my studies we learned about colour and mood. We learned about some basic generalizations that could be made, but these were only intended as guides, for as this study shows (and as we can intuitively conclude), we cannot disregard personal preferences, experiences, culture and in my opinion, context.
Here are a few posts I wrote about colour on my former personal blog (which is now retired):
And a guest post I did about Grey, in case you hadn't seen it yet:
So now that we've discussed some general colour/mood associations and you know that personal preferences, experiences, culture and context play a critical role in those associations, how about we do a little investigation of our own?
Rate these colours in order of positive emotional association (1 being the most positive, 10 being the least positive) :
Now do it again, but this time, imagine the context is your bedroom:
Are the answers completely the same?
You are welcome to leave your replies in the comment section below. I did ;) Could be fun to see our similarities and differences...