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Using Colour in Institutional Design Sectors

Colour plays a large role in architecture and design. While the affective influence of colour on psychology and physiology is complex, its use in different design typologies can have a substantial impact. It is difficult to create universal guidelines for colour use as age, culture and other factors shape how it can be perceived. However, colour can boost a sense of well-being for users of shared spaces, and promote healing in healthcare facilities. Meanwhile, understanding local cultural connections to patterns and colour can also inform contemporary design.

With the guidance of our EDAC Group, Parkin’s interior designers implement colour in innovative ways to support the functions of their designs in various sectors, including educational, correctional, and corporate settings. Here are examples of how our approach works.

Colour in Educational Design

Monotonous, institutional environments no longer fit in classroom design. Instead, learning spaces are treated differently from other congregation areas; this helps to create defined differences between areas for learning and areas for play. In learning spaces, colour is used to define the front of the room, but no area is too bright or too dark in order to avoid creating eye strain or distraction. In breakout / congregation spaces, vibrant colours are used to indicate playfulness, and to highlight different functions or zones within these larger spaces.


Distinct colours and signage for wayfinding are also employed to identify entrances. Along with patterns in long corridors, colour helps users intuitively identify key locations.

Biophilic design seeks to incorporate connectivity to the natural environment through the use of nature-inspired elements, and has been shown to have positive results for both students and staff when integrated within educational facilities. Designers incorporate as much natural light as possible and incorporate features like colourful furniture, materials and details that evoke a connection with nature and the outdoors.


Colour in Correctional Facility Design

As detention centres are seen more and more as rehabilitative spaces, biophilic design is being incorporated in order to reinforce the built environment’s connection to nature. The focus of design is on mental well-being, stress reduction, and distraction. While our designers are required to incorporate abuse-resistant materials their selections are designed to look natural and feel less institutional.

Colour and material usage can also have an impact on mood, sleep, and aggression for a detention centre’s population. Using wood-look materials on furniture and in kitchen facilities can help make areas feel more like residential spaces, while colours with strong connections to the natural world can alleviate stress and anxiety; by creating spaces that are less alienating and more welcoming to inmates, staff and visitors.

Colour and Corporate Design

Design and colour can have a positive impact on productivity and well-being in the workplace. Our designers work with corporate companies to determine culture, vision, and mission. Designs are based on understanding the type of work being performed within the space and how colour can have a positive impact.

Cultural connection plays a large role in corporate design. Design that integrates patterns and colours seen in local corporate culture also assists in linking the building to the community, and to the people spending their days within the space. Again, lots of natural light can improve alertness and productivity, while informed colour use creates attractive, amenable workspaces.

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