The Impact of Colors in Hospital

Jul 29, 2021

What is ‘Color Theory’?

When we think of the healthcare industry and the colors associated, oftentimes white is the first color that comes to mind. Clean, sterile, bright. However, colors in hospitals play a huge role in the wellness of patients. The healthcare industry is becoming more sophisticated, and with this new growth comes the opportunity to curate and craft color palettes that create a calm, patient-centered space. So, what is color theory? Here is our breakdown of color theory in three main silos: 

1. The Color Wheel
The main purpose of a color wheel is to display the progressive sequence of colors. The Color Wheel is grounded in the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). Next, there are the secondary colors (the colors you get by mixing the primary colors such as green, orange, and purple). Finally, the wheel incorporates the mixes of primary and secondary colors, resulting in 12 colors for the tertiary colors. Technically, any color scheme that is logically composed from each other can work in a color wheel format.

2. Color Harmony
A major tenet in color theory is understanding how different colors interact – or don’t. For instance, two diametrically opposed colors will make an off-putting image. Using two very similar colors can create a situation where the overall design is boring. Achieving color harmony involves choosing complementary colors that play off of each other in a way that looks beautiful.

3. Color Context
Similar to color harmony is color context. If you open up a  white document and type in black – the text is clearly visible. If you change the text color to a light gray, then try to read the light gray text on white background, you’ll find it’s much more difficult to read. Reverse the colors completely – and that is color context. The key to understanding color theory is this: colors help our brains process information, and work together to help communicate on many different internal and external levels – consciously, subconsciously, culturally, and various other ways.

Using Color to Your Benefit

While there are more widely known color theories, cultural or situational impact includes many factors to take into consideration. For example, red is an energizing color because it encourages alertness. Red is recommended for folks with neurological conditions that may need brain stimulus. On the opposite side of the coin, red can sometimes cause anxiety or overstimulate the senses so it isn’t recommended for patient rooms, etc. 

Blue, green, and purple, especially in cool muted hues, can be very calming. They’re great for hospital rooms, wards, waiting areas, and rehabilitation rooms. However, balance needs to be taken into consideration when integrating color. Create balance and contrast with different colors, hues, and saturations. For example, a room that’s mostly cool-toned needs to be balanced with warmer elements, like natural wood, etc. 

In children’s hospitals, or even in hospitals that have areas where kids can be active and creative, contrasting colors can provide that stimulation, or at least a signal that being energetic is encouraged in this area. Contrasting primary colors can be a fun way to achieve this look and feel. 

What Colors Work and Where

Patient Rooms are first priority when thinking about color theory. Colors evoke certain moods and emotions, so sticking to a calmer palette is best. Like we mentioned before, soft blues, greens, purples, and neutrals are preferred. Even the family of the patient is affected by color choices, so stay away from bright or contrasting colors and opt for muted, cool pastel tones and soft neutrals like beige or cream. 

Employee Spaces such as breakrooms can go either way when it comes to color palette; each providing its own benefit. Bright, colorful spaces can help tired hospital staff stay lively and encourage mental stimulation. On the other hand, we know how long and stressful most days are for hospital staff, which is why darker, muted colors can be more relaxing and offer a respite for many employees to recharge. 

We hope this article is a rich resource for you as you navigate color theory in a space that sees many different situations. By taking color theory into consideration when designing your healthcare space, creating a beautiful, calming space is no longer a stressful situation, but rather second nature!