Color is an amazing tool in higher education design that has the power to improve or impair learning outcomes. Many studies have shown that color has an impact on students’ attention spans and perception of time.
While there is no single color or design scheme that is perfect, certain principles exist. This article will discuss the findings of extensive research and explore the role of the color palette in Higher Education institutions.
The Data on the Impact of Color in Higher Education
There is plenty of research on design initiatives and their importance in college environments. Many studies have concluded that there is in fact a direct relationship between the physical design of campus buildings and educational outcomes. Specifically, four studies that evaluated the relationship between school buildings and student achievement reported higher test scores for students learning in better buildings and lower scores for students learning in substandard buildings. One study even showed a difference in student test scores ranging from five to 17 percent!
Another report evaluating school facilities in Milwaukee, completed by the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, found that facility conditions may have an even stronger effect on student performance than the combined influences of family background, socioeconomic status, school attendance, and behavior! The physical environment is an underappreciated factor in learning, as it impacts mental attitude and performance. Getting a quality education is so much more than just memorizing facts. It involves a positive social climate within the school and a sense of community.
Color can help to create a safe learning environment that enhances visual processing, decreases stress, and challenges brain development through visual stimulation/relationships and pattern seeking.
Color and Psychology
College and university students have a growing appreciation of sophisticated color and tend to view primary colors as immature. Often influenced by prevailing fashion, students typically reject neutral colors in favor of blue, ultramarine, and their current favorite: orange. Subtle colors work well, such as light sage greens and refreshing blues and greens, with brighter, trendy, and more saturated hues used as accents.
Your Colors Matter
An intentional use of different colors is powerful but using more than six colors in a learning environment can do more harm than good – a conclusion that underscores the need for a careful approach to color and design in the educational environment.
While no one color scheme is right for all situations, designers have a powerful tool in applying color properly in school situations. That choice will be based not only on the intrinsic nature of the color itself, but by the type of students as well as the location of the college or university, its community, and its culture. Ideally teachers and students will also have input. Designs that incorporate these factors as well as nature and the five senses will have a real impact on students' experience in school – and positively impact their morale, behavior, and ability to learn.