Importance of Color in Architecture - Education and Schools

Color in Schools: How to Brighten Up the Learning Environment

Anyone who’s ever redecorated a room knows how a splash of color – or an entirely new color – can completely change the overall “feel” of the space.

This is especially true in learning environments. Color in schools have an enormous impact on students’ emotions and mindset during the school day.

In the past, schools were built to meet basic functional and financial requirements. Monotonous colors like off-white, beige, and gray dominated most classrooms and school hallways, and design was barely a consideration. Today, modern educational institutions are focusing on color and design to help define a space’s purpose and identity, and improve teachers’ and students’ educational experience through the right aesthetic choices. 

Color in Schools

Finding the right color balance in schools

When making interior design choices for a school setting, the goal should be to seek a balance between over-stimulation and lack of stimulation. To do this, it’s important to understand the mental and emotional effects of each color, and what type of environment you wish to create.

Research shows that primary and bold colors promote playfulness and positivity, which are ideal for preschool and elementary school environments. Subtle, cool and warm colors, on the other hand, are better for middle and high schools, as these colors promote concentration and relieve the feelings of anxiety that are common among students in this age group.

What impact do colors have on an environment?

If you’re new to the concept of color theory, here’s a brief overview of how common colors can impact a physical space and its occupants.

  • Red: Stimulant; provokes conversation; improves performance/concentration; spurs action.
  • Orange: Uplifting; stimulates critical thinking and memorization; increases appetite.
  • Yellow: Promotes awareness; helps to release serotonin for happy mood.
  • Green: Calming effect; stress reliever; promotes concentration
  • Blue: Enhances creativity and alertness; promotes tranquility; improves overall health, memory, and mood; lessens fatigue and depression.
  • Violet: Represents wisdom and authority; respectful.
  • Pink: Soothing; reduces heart rate; energizing effect (with saturated shades) or comforting effect (with paler shades).
  • Black: Promotes sophistication, security, and efficiency; the absence of color.
  • White: Conveys sterility, simplicity, clarity, and purity; hygienic. 

The Importance of Color

The best colors to use in school environments

How can you apply color theory to your school’s interior design? Here are our recommendations for color choices for various settings within a school building.

Classrooms – Blue is one of the most effective classroom colors. White can also be a good dominant color for a classroom if it’s accompanied by a colorful accent wall. In small doses, yellow can be effective in maintaining students’ awareness in the classroom.

Libraries – Due to its positive effects on concentration, green is a great option for libraries, where students need to focus on their studies.

Gymnasiums – Action-oriented red and highly-saturated pinks may encourage the necessary physical responses in a school gym setting.

Cafeterias – Orange’s impact on appetite makes it an appropriate color for a school cafeteria.

Offices – Authoritative areas such as the principal’s or guidance counselor’s office may benefit from the atmosphere of respect created by violet tones. For the same reason, violet can be a great choice for an auditorium as well.

Exposed Structures – Black is ideal for concealing any exposed structures in the school, as it creates the sense of void.

Corridors and Lobbies – Learning and concentration are not the main objectives in public spaces like hallways and reception areas, so you can be a little more “free” with your color and design choices here. For instance, consider using the school’s colors and logo to create a sense of pride and identity here.

Additional school design tips

To further enhance your learning environment, try some of these interior design tips:

1. Incorporate accent walls.

Accent walls – walls painted in a distinct color from the others in a room – can serve many design purposes in a school setting. You may be able to add interest or focus to a room, or strategically use an accent wall to make a room appear larger.


2. Create visual focal points on walls.

In addition to color, you can hang wall graphics or paint murals on walls to create focal points in hallways and classrooms. Hanging quotes, tips, nature scenes, and other images on the wall can inspire and inform students, and also serve to underscore the school’s values. These décor elements can also serve as “landmarks” to help students find their way around.

3. Consider color-coding different wings of the building.

To truly promote way-finding through your school’s design, you may wish to color code certain locations throughout the building for easier navigation. Strategic color accents in places such as floor tiles, ceiling soffits, and wall alcoves can help students distinguish entryways from hallways. Color also triggers sensory receptors in the brain, which can improve recall abilities and help students locate specific sites within a given space.

No matter what colors you choose to use in a learning environment, be sure to choose them with care and purpose. A thoughtfully-coordinated color scheme can provide a simple way to improve functionality, create a unified identity, and develop a sense of place within a school.

Need help with a school interior design project? Contact Patrick S. Seiwell at DRG Architects to discuss your needs.

Interested in working with Design Resources Group?