Color could give rise to sensations which would interfere with our conception of space.– Georges Braque
In this blog article, I will introduce the basics of how color in interior design and the theory work. I will look at some of the psychology of color involved, and share a little history. If you follow along well, you should see improvements in the workflow of your designs.
So, let us start by answering “What is” – the importance of color .
Color In Interior Design
It allows a knowledgeable interior designer to have greater control of a desired presentation, using visual and psychological communication. A good understanding of color mechanics allows the designer to find harmony between the targeted theme and the health benefits that the right design can produce.
Introduction into Color
The study of color theory began in the very early 1800s. Somewhere around 1810 as far as recorded history is concerned. Albeit, Aristotle wrote down his own observations and thoughts concerning the theory of color some 2000 years earlier.
I will digress for a moment, to share some interesting bits of trivia.
Leonardo DaVinci had also formulated some of his own theories in and around the start of the 1500s and entertained the writings of Aristotle on the same topic, later in his life.
Recently the oldest pigment of color (a bright pink) was discovered in molecular fossils, somewhere in the Sahara Desert, and said to be about 1.1 million years old.
The first recorded science experiments on color and light were done by Isaac Newton in the mid-1600s. His experimentation using glass prisms and light lasted nearly 4o years and produce a book called “Opticks”.
What is color?
In simplest of terms, color is the appearance of something in a combination with lighting, hue, saturation, and brightness (luminosity). The very short scientific explanation would tell us that color is a frequency of light and that different frequencies of light produce different colors.
Since color is a physical property of light, it is not dependent on our perception. Of course, there is more to this story. We need to consider the biological function that takes place once light enters our eyes, and then transmits information to our brains. On an interesting side note, our brain can even have difficulty interpreting what it sees in some patterns of color or lighting. When it does, the brain tends to fill in the misinterpreted information by itself, thereby creating an illusion.
(HSB), hue, saturation, and brightness. Hue is the color itself (green, blue red, yellow, etc), and the perceivable shades of the color. Saturation is the intensity of a color. A color starting at its normal hue would be 100% of the color. We can desaturate a specific color to a grey within the same spectrum (0% of the color). Brightness (Luminosity) is the lightness or darkness of a color or quality of light.
What is the relationship between colors?
Color wheels or color triangles are tools use by designers or artists. They help us to better reference in the relationship between colors in our work. They help us to organize colors in a rational way and to avoid confusion. The color wheel is the equivalent to the musician’s circle of 5ths. It help us to see the relationship, contrasts, tension, and the harmony between the different hues.
As professionals, we are always striving to find the best color harmonies for a given situation or project, even if they create tension. These basic tools help us to establish patterns and create color palettes that provide specific results.
Can you begin to see what is the importance of color in interior design? Can you see how much more control you have of the outcome of a project you’re working on?
These are some examples of color harmonies.
How do we use a color wheel?
The following categories of the color wheel help us to better analyze how certain groupings of colors work together.
Primary colors are base colors that cannot be created by mixing other colors. They create excellent contrast. The three additive primary colors are red, green, and blue.
Secondary colors are colors achieved by mixing two primary colors. The three secondary colors are green, orange, and purple and are created by mixing two primary colors.
Tertiary colors are colors achieve by mixing a combination of primary and secondary colors. There are six tertiary colors: yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green.
Split complimentary colors are as the name implies While a complementary color is exactly across from the color you pick, the split complementary is on each side of the color directly across from the color you pick. These colors create a contrast similar to complimentary colors, but with slightly less tension.
Triadic colors are three hues evenly spaced from one another in a triangle pattern on the color wheel.
Square colors are as the name implies. There are four hues evenly spaced apart in the pattern of a square on the color wheel.
Rectangle colors the rectangle pattern has four cardinal points divided between warm and cool colors, with opposing complements. While the colors are more closely related to one another they still provide a pleasing contrast.
Analogous colors are hues that are closely spaced together on the wheel. There is no exact proximity or order of them on the color wheel. It is up to you as a designer to choose the amount of harmony in the colors you choose. These color harmonies are very generally useful for brands. Close color harmonies can strengthen the intended emotion for the design.
I found I could say things with colors that I couldn’t say in any other way – things that I had no words for.– Georgia O’Keeffe
How does Color Impact our Senses?
In the most basic form, color is stimuli for our senses and it has a deep connection to all five of them. Science continues to shed light on how deeply colors are intertwined with hearing, touch, taste, vision, and smell. We should design with the sensory system in mind!
Universities students, design professionals, and scientist are constantly coming up with new investigative research into how we are affected psychologically by different hues, levels of saturation and brightness. The results of all this research provide design professionals undisputable proof of how much impact colors have in shaping the core foundation of any project.
The Lets Color Project does an exceptional job using well-made short videos into their research. It clearly shows how colors and senses interact. It also shows us the results using people from different career backgrounds. Amazing stuff here!
What are Color Modes & how do they work?
RGB mode (red, green, blue) is normally used for images and art that will be on your computer screen and websites. In RGB there are 256 values of each color: red, green, and blue. Hence. 256 x 256 x 256 = 16,777,216 hues.
CMYK mode (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is used for printing art, flyers, newspapers, magazines, banners, logos, images, etc. There are over 16,000 color variations that can be produced using CMYK
what do we know about the effects of color?
The very first thing we must comprehend is that light and color are intertwined. Color cannot exist without light. The second thing we need to understand is that color is not constant or stable, either by light or the human eye. Thirdly, Newton’s study of color through the use of glass prisms is essential to learning some of the mechanics behind what we perceive visually.
Color is a power which directly influences the soul.” ― Wassily– Kandinsky
It is difficult to argue against the impact that color has on our physical and mental being. The clues are all around us, showing up in segments of time throughout history, in art, writing, architecture, science, math, music, etc. Research helps to refine our understanding of color and the psychology behind it.
The poet, playwright, and novelist – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe might be considered the first to have opened the door a crack on the psychology of color (1810) with his book “Theory of Colors”. Although, history and culture provide evidence that we were aware of the psychological connections for quite some time now.
Color and luminosity evoke the sensory system within us, and we respond emotionally to what we see to varying degrees. Although, we are seldom aware of these subtle changes going on all the time, and how often they happen. This is not surprising since color itself is inherently unstable due to its surrounding environment, and constant changes in luminosity. As professionals, we learn to reduce this instability in order to have more control in what we’re trying to accomplish with our design.
We know that certain colors closely bridge specific emotions in us, regardless of culture or time. Example: red with anger or caution, yellow with energy or intellect, green with nature or harmony. Other effects can vary slightly, based on circumstances, culture, gender, age, and time.
Colors can either modify our perceptions of space by creating the illusion of size and distance, or they can create continuity and harmony between subjects or items. Our psychological and physical world usually adapt to these changes.
How does color theory make us better interior designers?
When we understand the profound impact, that colors have on the psychological and physical well-being of people, we can then comprehend how greatly our designs can do the same. The difference is that we have more control over the way we channel these effects once we know the whys and the hows.
Color theory explains how color works on a mechanical level. The psychology of color gives us insight to producing color schemes. Ones that are beneficial to the well-being of the client, and represents the concept or theme, in the best way possible. As we can see, it is imperative to be well-informed in both the theory and psychology of color.
As stated earlier in my article, color is not stable. So, the best we can do is to use our knowledge and skillsets to have greater accuracy. I also suggest having a good knowledge of lighting. We must be educated on all color and lighting topics mentioned. This knowledge allows us to produce an interior design that is stable and that echoes our intended message.
Conclusion and Summary
Color theory and the psychology of color can be treated as, two separate topics, but they are inseparable in the end result.
It is unclear as to when the psychology of color was first entertained in history, but it is safe to say it is a relatively new science based on the acceptance from the masses. As far as the theory behind color, we have better historical documentation into when that first began.
We know that color and light cannot exist without each other and neither is stable in almost all situations.
We know that the more knowledge we have, the greater control we have in directing the outcome of the design process.
I am sure you can gather just how deeply the study of color theory can go, based on just the few basics I have shared and researched for you (the reader). However, the biggest take away should be just how much good your knowledge can do for your client’s well-being, and how closely you can represent the intended theme.
a quick question for the reader.
What did you gain from this article and / or what can you add to it from your own experiences?
On a special note: I thank you the reader with all my heart, for taking the time to read “what is the importance of color in interior design?” or any of the articles I write. It means they world to me! I hope you’ve found some pleasure and benefit in them.
Regards Jack Anthony LaBarck