Different colours affect us in different ways

The colours that surround us during our working hours affect us, our behaviour and our feelings. Many psychologists have studied the significance of colours and have shown that they are perceived in various ways, producing some kind of reaction amongst most people.


The science of how colours influence us is at least 200 years old. In any case, this was when the author and naturalist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published his seminal work on colour psychology.

Present-day psychologists and researchers are not entirely in agreement about exactly what colours do to us, but few of them doubt that they have an important effect on our feelings and behaviour.

According to most colour science researchers, our perception of colours is located in the so-called limbic brain, i.e. in the most primitive part of our brain. This means that our experience of colours is closely linked to our feelings and our subconscious.

We can often sense, for example, that the colours of the walls in a room or the interior design have some effect on us, even if we find it hard to put our finger on exactly what it is. The researchers also point out that certain associations we have with colours are culturally learned, while others really are biological and simply exist, whether we want it or not.

This all means that it is worth taking colour psychology very seriously. It really influences us every day – how we feel, how we behave towards others and ourselves, and how well focused on a task we manage to be.

The fantastic four

There are four primary colours that affect us most and which act as an emotional compass, namely green, yellow, red and blue. They are often divided into warm (red, orange and yellow) and cold colours (lilac, blue and green). Their different properties evoke specific feelings in us and contribute to creating particular atmospheres in rooms and other environments. With regard to interiors, it is interesting that a cold colour subjectively increases the size of an area while a warm colour makes it seem smaller. A warm colour also creates a welcoming feeling while a cold colour makes us perceive a cooler space.

Did you know...

A person with normal colour vision can differentiate between about ten million different nuances of colour. In contrast, we cannot identify more than about 40,000 specific colours.


Green is a harmonious colour that often symbolises nature and that we associate with health, youth, security and environmental awareness. Green is easiest on the eyes, and is our preferred colour. A green surface creates harmony and tired eyes feel best when resting on green. Possessing both  soothing and refreshing effects, it creates balance. A colour suitable for all spaces.


Yellow is a universal solar symbol that we often associate with optimism, joy and energy. It’s a colour that captures our attention and is said to sharpen our memory and thinking, so it’s a good colour to use in a workplace, as yellow is often associated with the intellect. Yellow can also be used to advantage in meeting rooms for creative or brainstorming sessions as it’s a colour that gets people talking.


Red is a colour that quickly gets our attention and makes our hearts beat a little faster. It’s the colour we see first and forget last. Red stands for energy and passion, power and force, but should be used with due moderation in human environments, as it can also induce rage and panic. Care must be taken with the amount of red used, since this colour can easily take over and become dominant in a room. Red is considered to increase the appetite and is often found in restaurants and refectories.


Blue nuances create feelings of calm, peace and stillness. Blue has a soothing effect and leads one’s thoughts to rest and relaxation. It’s a colour that lets us breathe more calmly and blink less often. It is believed that we're more productive in blue rooms since blue evokes a feeling of calm. After all, we focus more easily when we're relaxed, and that boosts our productivity. So blue can be a good choice in meeting rooms or places designed to hold workshops and generate ideas.


Apart from the four primary colours (green, yellow, red and blue) there are also the beautiful shades in between. These are called hues and are usually divided into the following colours:

Did you know...

The colour blue stands for faithfulness and honesty; 60% of Swedish companies have blue logos and it is also a major global colour.


Just like red, orange is a colour that draws attention. Orange creates feelings of balance, welcome and warmth as well as making us more hospitable, alert and cheerful. It leads our thoughts to warmth, security and food, making it suitable for cooking and eating areas. Orange is said to promote communication, making it suitable for spaces where we interact with others.


Purple used to be a colour worn by royalty. So it is often associated with an ambiance of wealth and loyalty. Purple is a feminine colour. As it is liked by many children, it often fits well in school environments.


Turquoise is felt to be a breezy, cool colour and symbolises freshness and purity. So it is often used in connection with drinks, pools, medical companies and health spas.


Pink is a calming colour that awokes a feeling of security. It stands for joy and optimism. Pink is a mild colour, good for rooms with a quiet ambience.


Brown is a colour that inspires calm and security, but too many brown tones can produce a feeling of sadness. Brown and beige are calming colours ideally used in environments designed for relaxation or focus. For the best effect, they should be combined and complemented with more cheerful colours.

A colour wheel helps you to select and use colours which complement each other. The colour circle below is based on the primary colours (yellow, red and blue) and shows twelve colour nuances and how they relate to each other.