Across age groups, gender and culture, people develop differing preferences and connotations for what colours we find comfortable in our environment. This is important when designing spaces in custom commercial building with specific demographics in mind. Imagine how out of place a giant, vibrant purple and green wall would appear in an age care facility, usually filled with more natural and pastel colours. This is where colour psychology comes in, the giant vibrant wall would feel very bold and intense in what is trying to be a relaxing and familiar environment.
Colours also have different connotations in different cultures and societies around the world, and this is important to consider when designing spaces. Some have more universal meanings, such as ‘gold’ is usually associated with wealth given the connection to the material, but the colour of red can vary from positive associations of warmth and love to negative connotations of anger and violence. Consider the connotations of colour before placing it in a custom commercial building, depending on the building’s target demographic. This is especially important in areas that require cultural sensitivity, whether it is a community centre, culturally themed business, prayer, worship or funeral services. Whilst white is considered a neutral colour in western civilizations, with connotations of ‘clean and purity’, in many Asian nations, it is considered a colour of mourning.
It is important for designers and architects to consider the mood they are trying to convey in their custom commercial buildings. It would be inappropriate to be surrounding a funeral home with bright colours given the solemn environment. Whereas a nightclub with a drab, brown and grey palette would not convey much excitement and energy. Natural colours and materials can be used to make a space feel more comfortable and relaxing, or eco-friendly.
Multiple studies and surveys have recognised blue as a particular ‘favourite’ colour across age groups and sexes, with yellow as the least favourite. A study in 2003 by Joe Hallock found a preference for purple among women, far more than men, yet blue remained a favourite across both sexes and all age groups. In Faber Birren’s book ‘Colour Psychology and Colour Therapy’ it is stated that “with maturity comes a greater liking for hues of shorter wavelength (blue, green, purple) than for hues of longer wavelength (red, orange, and yellow).”
Many marketing departments recommend adjusting colour hues, saturations and brightness depending on the age bracket you are targeting, and this is the same for designing spaces. Children, for example, are drawn to more bright, vibrant colours, but this changes into adolescence with teenagers more attracted to darker colours, transitioning into neutrals in adulthood and pastels at an elderly age. While studies are limited and produce a variety of results depending on the prompt, question and topic, this theme is loosely followed across design fields. Data on this has been collected through online surveys, and seem to back up the above hypothesis. However, more detailed scientific studies can provide more insight into the colour psychology of children and elderly citizens.
Designing environments for children
When surveying young children, a study found an overall preference for the colour red in the interior environment, but girls also preferred purple. This is worth considering when designing a custom commercial building such as a kindergarten or childcare where 3-5 year-old children will be spending a lot of time. When targeting a slightly older demographic of 5-7 year-olds, participants still had positive connotations to “bright colours (e.g., pink, blue, red) and negative emotions for dark colours (e.g., brown, black, grey).” This preference for red, warm colours in interior environments gradually disappears with age, and neutral and white tones for walls and ceilings are generally preferred as people grow older – with brightly coloured walls being used for a ‘feature’ or to create a strong contrast or statement.
Designing environments for seniors
Designing a custom commercial building or healthcare / residential facility with a target demographic of senior citizens, (such as an aged care facility,) requires more consideration depending on the function of the space. The effect of age on vision means important, readable graphics must have a high contrast colour palette, as elderly people on average have drastically reduced contrast sensitivity and vision impairment. The relationship of positive to negative space can be almost illegible with some colour combinations, similar to the experience of people with colour blindness. Elderly individuals are drawn to more soft pastel colours, and the colour blue, which can appear calming, natural, familiar, and relaxing.
S&B Lamble has been working in the building industry for 35 years, with projects across Melbourne and regional Victoria. Our custom commercial buildings prioritise the client and ensure a job that is tailored to their specific environment and needs. Our specialist team will help guide you through the entire process from planning, design, and construction, to ensure you are getting quality support throughout the entire process.