Q&A-Healthcare

Color in Hospitals and Other Special Care Environments

Color in Children's Healthcare Environments

Is coloured light good in hospitals?

About White

Color for Alzheimers Patients

The best colors for a Shelter


Color in Children's Healthcare Environments

Question:
I am an Interior Designer with an Architecture firm. We do a great deal of work for a Children's Hospital and are continually struggling with the use of color in the facility. We do not want to "date" the facility. The hospital wants everything to be fun and bright, but then raise concerns over certain colors such as yellow(jaundice). This raises more questions. Does yellow still cast a jaundice appearance on a patient if other colors are used with? Do other colors, if emphasized or used alone, cast color on the patient that could inhibit proper examination? Can proper lighting reduce this problem? What is the affect of color on healing children in particular? Is there an argument for using complimentary, split complimentary, triad, monotone chromatic or analogous schemes in this setting? Do you have any resources to suggest or any answers to give? Cameron

Reb
I'm not going to give a page of "how to" with health care interiors because visuals are a must. Criteria cannot be described adequately in this forum without writing a whole book. However, I am delighted that someone that works for an architectural firm has recognized that importance of color in health care.

For an architect or designer, CORRECT and purposeful color design of any health care facility is of utmost importance. I cannot stress this enough! Color in health care must consider diagnosis of patients, easing of fear and stress, and also help staff do their job. It is way beyond throwing bright colors around to make everything look "cheerful". Children's hospitals in particular require very specific design criteria and included lighting controls as well in certain areas. All of the things you mention matter a great deal and must be handled by a trained professional.
 

Willard
I've seen pediatric rooms of all colors and based on my experience green walls or red walls or yellow walls do not affect the color fo the patient or inhibit proper examination -- provided, and this is the key, that the lighting in the room is bright enough. I've also noticed that pictures, photos, posters and a variety of colors are great for kids, they keep them focused on discovery rather than on that ugly and painful needle the doctor is preparing.

Colors as hues do not have any correlation to healing.

But, which sort of room would you rather spend time in, a mundane white or beige one, or one with lots of things to amuse the eyes. Why else do people in the hospital for lengthy stays cover the walls with balloons, cards, and pictures -- they want stimulation and memories, the artifacts of being loved. Perhaps this promotes healing more than a color or group of colors ever could.


Is coloured light good in hospitals?

Question:
I am about to do a project based in a Hospital waiting room and was going to have a strip of colored light with images on, around the room.This would be an artwork to decrease boredom by creating interest and to possibly reduce stress. Any info on appropriate colours or types of natural light bulbs to go behind the acetate colours would be useful. I thought I could do a study first to see what colours patients would prefer looking at (ie have two colours on 2 different light box's and get patients to choose favourite) Any other ideas how I could do the test or gather info on preferences. Natasha.
 

Reb
Artwork incorporating lights for a hospital waiting room sounds fabulous. Artwork using various kinds of lights (Such as neon or light sculptures) is excellent as long as it stays in the waiting rooms, transition areas, or cafeterias. For the best lights to use behind the acetate or gels, consult a stage lighting designer or interior designer that specializes in lighting. Since this is art, focus on the artistic aspects of it rather than trying to make something in "appropriate colors or types of natural light bulbs". Don't worry about trying to make colors that patients will prefer, a study isn't necessary. When artwork in a hospital is interesting, positive, friendly, and engaging, patients and visitors are calmed and stress is decreased.

For a regular hospital waiting room, abstract images are usually better than naturalistic ones because they supposedly will hold the attention longer. For a children's hospital, abstract is ok, but stay away from fantasy images of flying pink elephants or clowns. Many young children are afraid of such images.

As to your comment about colored lights being bad in a hospital, yes, it's true. Patient rooms should have natural light. But when you are talking about artwork for a waiting room, as long as the colored lights are local and don't make the whole waiting room glow orange, it is fine. Create beautiful artwork that glows softly seems like a great way to ease boredom and suffering in a waiting room.
Good luck with the project! ~Reb

Willard
Balloons, cards, flowers anything to break up the monotony of single colored walls. Personally I'd rather look at cards sent by friends than any band of colored light -- especially if i were hospitalized for any amount of time. As for light I bet natural light is probably better at helping elevate one's spirits than any colored or indoor lighting.!


About White

In the US, very few contemporary hospitals have an all white decor any more. Besides being passe, the lack of visual stimulation that comes with over exposure to panoramic whiteness can be highly stressful, albeit in only the most subliminal ways. It does indeed create a morose mood among those who are already suffering from the stresses of illness and hospitalization. The Chinese and Koreans were right on target picking white as the death color. Black, combined with blues, burgundies, and some of your yellower mustards (the color, not the condiment), can be quite soothing. Think of it as a womb coloring. But it must be used with care, because of societally induced associations rather than psychological ones. For instance, decorating an elderly patient's bed posts with black ribbons would be a real no-no. But black with the appropriate earthtones is, in fact, calming. Some more vibrant colors elsewhere will keep a patient's attention alert and stimulated. China red accents on a black background can be quite sophisticated, but that's more for those who are stepping out rather than checking in. Bucky Rea
 


Color for Alzheimers Patients

Question:
Is there any research on color of living spaces for the elderly (and/or specifically for alzheimer's patients?) EMDoyle

Willard
Yes, a few people in Sweden, headed by Lars Sivik, Goteborg, have done work in this area. Their work focuses more on how color helps those suffering with Alzheimers to remember key items and people. You could follow up with an email about interiors to him. Feel free to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you want an email (which I hopefully have somewhere.)

from Color Matters:
See " A Room Comes Alive With Color and Sounds" New York Times
Click here.


The best colors for a shelter

Question:
I'm in charge of designing a shelter and want to know what the best colors would be? Joan

Mac:J
oan, The colors you are searching for to paint your shelter might factor into things (unless the occupants are blind?). I'm sure you are also considering the other elements in the design of the shelter that will influence the occupants [like geometries, layout, lighting, sound, etc.]. It's an 'integrated whole'.

Whether you're building/designing a shelter or the Trump tower...if you really want to do it right, you should be able to look at a -Model- of the room or building environment you have designed and be able to state how each element within that design affects the occupants who are placed into it. I'm not sure how many interior designers and architects are really able to do such an analysis. Do the interior designers and architects you know provide you with such analyses?

Can they tell you how the lighting will affect the room occupants? How the color will affect them? The shape of the room, the furniture and interior elements? Can they tell you how the room elements complement and contrast one another...or how they join into an integrated whole? Can they tell you specifically why the room creates a composite mood, emotion, and type of atmosphere? Can they tell you what the basis of their assessment is (the psychological basis of their analysis? ...not just 'experience' or gut feel). Some people have excellent color sense. Some have even more than just good color sense (but often they don't know 'why' a color or environmental attribute does what it does...they just know it 'does it'.)

* * * It's possible to assess an environment - completely. Whether it is an office, a home, a baseball stadium, a shelter or a Vegas casino lobby. It's possible to evaluate it's psychological and physiological impact on an individual. Top notch interior designers and architects seem to have some knowledge in these areas, but in my experience, few have extensive (psychological) training. Why? Because it's a field that is relatively unadvanced. The Birren's and other color experts in the world have done much. But there is a great deal that has never been rigorously investigated. Color psychology is still in it's infancy (IMHO). Consequently, when you read the postings here, when you discuss color with others, when you read books on color, etc. you may find there are many conflicting, unclear, ambiguous comments, definitions, and concepts. The failure to move, to bring color theory and color psychology together, into an integrated, clear, concise whole leads others (often) to disregard it, to classify it in with things like astrology, or often to just discount it as a whole. And that is unfortunate. When the field of color pscyhology matures, the way in which environments are designed will change significantly. I suspect the results will occasionally be dazzling and we all will benefit from it. Good luck on your shelter design. Regards, Mac


Stress-free Office Colors