Parkin Blog

The Impact of Colour in Healthcare Design

Colour is a fundamental element in design – not only for its impact on aesthetic and technical aspects of human-made environments, but also for its influence on psychological, physiological and social reactions of human beings.

Though the influence of colour in healthcare design is an important topic, the subject matter is complex and multi-faceted. Below is a summary of Parkin’s research findings surrounding the use of colour in healthcare settings.

Colour and Science

Colour therapy has been suggested for many conditions; however, despite wide belief, there is still no clear scientific evidence that colour affects mood, emotions or psychological well-being in any systematic manner.

Of course, that’s not to say the use of colour in healthcare environments does not require careful thought and consideration.

Colour and Evidence-Based Design

Parkin’s EDAC Group has completed thorough Evidence-Based Design research, which supports specific recommendations for mental health centers and psychiatric hospitals. We follow these guidelines when determining colour specifications for mental facility corridors, patients’ rooms, and examination rooms.

The emphasis is on eliminating the “institutional look.” Parkin designers strive to create a more “ideal home” atmosphere. There are a number of techniques that can be used to reach this goal:

  • Sensory overload should be avoided and relaxation furthered by cool colours.
  • Lighting should be on the warm side.
  • Avoid lighting that is too uniform (meaning lighting that doesn’t produce shadows). Shadows are a natural experience in the environment.
  • Design Guide 2010 for mental health facilities suggests at least one of the walls should have a soothing warm colour accent to avoid an all neutral, institutional look.
  • Isolation rooms should be cozy, inviting, sparsely and safely furnished; they should not look like punitive environments.

Colour and Mental Health

The following chart illustrates the various ways different colours are believed to influence mental health.

Source: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Self Help Resources; In Colour & Wellbeing

Additional reading: “Colours and critters: Design elements to enhance patient experience.” How colour and animal identifiers are helping adults and children distinguish between different areas in the Teck Acute Care Centre at BC Children’s and BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre.