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Colour Theory: How does it affect student learning and behaviour?


March 2024

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain, is often used in Primary Schools to remember the colours of the Rainbow…

How can each shade and pigment benefit different learning spaces when used in furniture?

Here at BOYCO, we deep dive into Colour Theory and ask the questions: ‘How can different colours affect Student Learning and Behaviour’, and most importantly, ‘Where can these colours be used in Education environments?

 

 

Colour Theory… What is it?

Colour theory is described as ‘a set of concepts, principles, and guidelines that help artists and designers to use colour effectively in their work’.*

It gives thought to which colours are chosen to use, and how different pigments and hues in the world around us can affect our emotions and actions. This is especially critical in schools where the environment can influence student behaviours and cognitive thinking; it can either enhance or hinder the learning experience.

Choosing the right colours in educational spaces can appear to be a balancing act. Overstimulating colours such as neon yellow, can cause distraction and disruption for learners when applied too much, especially for students with neurological and developmental conditions. On the other hand, overuse of neutral colours such as dark, rich hues, can create the illusion of tiredness which can challenge engagement in lessons.

Implementing Colour Theory in education settings has evolved classrooms over the years. Gone are the days of dark wooden walls and black chalkboards. Instead, modern classrooms offer a variety of carefully selected colours chosen to benefit the students who use them daily.

 

Breakdown of Colours with Jess

We chatted to BOYCO’s Marketing Manager, Jess about the different colours that are typically used in modern education spaces:

Colours used in furniture and walls, from primary schools to universities, are sometimes specifically chosen to represent the school’s history and logo. This can be purely through choice with little psychological meaning behind it. However, in new school builds and refurbishments we are seeing more and more emphasis on colours being chosen due to colour theory; aiming to provide positive influence on students’ cognitive thinking and behaviours.

Red

Red is a common colour used in changing and cloakroom furniture. Typically, in schools there is colourful artwork or posters on the walls, red is fantastic at helping children to easily identify and draw attention. It is often used in BOYCO’s coat pegs in changing spaces as it grabs attention.

Orange

Warm and friendly; Orange is another good colour to draw attention. It is a good alternative to Red, as it offers the same properties but is a softer choice for a school.

Yellow

Yellow is typically used in nursery and primary schools due to its joyful and happy connotations. It is great for brightening up dark spaces, as well as working well with other complimenting colours such as blue or white.

Green

Like Yellow, Green is often seen in primary schools. A neutral, calming tone, it brings elements of the outdoors in. Also seen in outdoor schools, forestry centres, and activity centres; Green is associated with the natural world and sustainability, making it a perfect choice for education environments where net zero is the focus.

Blue

Another calming colour is Blue. Relaxing, it is often used in learning environments which are clinical such as Science Laboratories. It also represents autism awareness, as it can make students feel more relaxed and comfortable. 

Black

Sleek and Traditional; Black is commonly used in secondary schools due to its uniformity and historical meanings. Typically, black is seen in universities too – giving a classic look to any furniture or room.

White

White is a great complementary colour for a school against other shades and tones. Neutral, it offers a modern and contemporary appearance to classrooms. White can also have a clinical feel to it, which is why it is often seen in laboratories or medical learning environments.

Grey

On trend for modern schools, Grey is similar to White as it is both neutral and offers a contemporary look when used in educational furniture. It can often be seen as a stand-alone colour in secondary schools, however, in primary schools it is usually paired with a brighter tone to add a fun feel, and to also draw younger children’s attention to key spaces such as the places that they need to hang their coats and bags.

 

It’s Not All Black and White

When looking at the colour wheel, there are three core primary colours – Red, Yellow, and Blue. Between these colours are both secondary colours, such as Orange and Green, and more complex tertiary colours such as Violet or Teal. Each side of this wheel is defined as ‘Warm’ or ‘Cool’.**

Warm colours are Red, Orange, and Yellow. These colours convey the feeling of both comfort and attention – the same as in nature, where fire can evoke a sense of cosiness but also danger. This depends on the shade of the warm colour too, a bright yellow is often used in warning signs, whereas a muted dark orange is seen in a sunset. For Education Settings, warm colours can be used to stimulate energy and enthusiasm, perfect for Gymnasiums or Drama Studios where movement is needed for lessons.

On the other side of the wheel, there are Cool colours. Blues, Greens, and Purples give the emotion of relaxation and calmness – often reflecting how natural settings, such as forests and water, can make us feel. Again, different shades and tones can have an impact. A brighter blue can be refreshing to the eye and is often used where focus is needed. Whereas muted darker green blends into the background especially in nature, typically seen in military uniform. In learning spaces, cooler colours can be used for classrooms where more cognitive thinking and independent work are needed, such as mathematics or science laboratories.

 

Personalised Learning Spaces

Including Colour Theory in schools doesn’t just mean painting the walls. When designing the education space, small touches can be added which can have a huge effect on student behaviour and learning. Some examples from BOYCO include:

Teacher Walls

Located at the front of the classroom, they are often in bright greens or blue colours. This helps to convey that focus is needed from students, essential when a teacher is presenting on a Smartboard or whiteboard.

Worktop and Resource Area Configurations

Trims can be seen in a variety of colours depending on the needs of that specific area. Red can be used in this instance for dynamic contrast and to create a stimulating learning space. Often, complimenting colours that follow the School’s logo are used; enhancing the aesthetics of the school and offering a visually appealing environment for the students and teachers to collaborate in. Grey trims are often used around resource areas, as they offer a hygienic and clinical appearance lending a nod to the purpose of the space.

Door Restrainers and Cycle Stands

Located outside, these products are traditionally dark green. Classic and versatile, green blends into the natural surroundings of the school grounds; providing an unobstructed appearance and contributing positively to the overall aesthetics.

To add vibrancy and fun to outdoor spaces, we suggest utilising yellow and red colours. These tones are typically selected to brighten up outdoor spaces and to highlight where the facilities are for students and staff alike.

Greys are also a popular choice; a contemporary colour which is currently on trend, it fits well into the modern school aesthetic.

 

Ages, Abilities, and Attributes

When applying Colour Theory, one size does not fit all. Different ages, abilities and attributes all require their specific colours, and using the right one can have a large impact in education environments.

In secondary schools, more complex subjects are introduced, such as advanced maths and sciences, for higher-level examinations. Blues, Greens, and neutral tones such as Grey, are utilised to enhance concentration and focus for memory retention and information processing, as well as to create a calming environment to promote effective studying for older students.

On the other hand, in primary schools, the focus is on shaping early learning development and soft skills. Lessons often require hands-on experience and creative thinking is a must. Using vibrant Yellows, Reds, and even Pinks helps to create an energetic mindset and promotes problem-solving and collaboration amongst young children.

In addition to age, individual needs also play a crucial factor in which colours are used. Students who are neurodiverse or have neurological and developmental conditions can benefit from a variety of shades and tones to aid in their learning experience. Pastels and muted colours, in particular green tones, create a tranquil and safe space due to not visually overstimulating those that are sensitive to light and bright pigments.

 

BOYCO’s Role in Creating Learning Spaces

Tailoring your school’s learning environment using colour theory can be tricky, but here at BOYCO we can offer a friendly helping hand.

Our innovative in-house design team are ready to create bespoke designs that fit your specifications, with a range of popular education colours to use. The use of colour also doesn’t compromise our ‘Built to Last’ quality; all BOYCO’s in-house metalwork is coated with ‘Hot Dip’ nylon, which is available in 9 standard colours, perfect for meeting your school’s needs. This coating is 500 x more abrasion resistant than powder-coated paint alternatives, to keep your select colours bright for many years to come, even with daily student use.

Coloured BOYCO Products

Whether you are looking to inspire creativity in art studios with Yellow or looking to capture attention in cloakrooms with Red, utilising Colour Theory can play a vital role in transforming any education environment. From nursery through to university, choosing the correct colour can evoke a lasting impact on the learning and behaviour of all students.

 

Looking to elevate your learning space?  Get in touch with BOYCO’s friendly team of experts here.

 

 

* Emily Stevens (2023) ‘What is colour theory? A complete introductory guide’ What is colour theory? A definition. UX Design Institute.   
** Hailey van Braam (2024) ‘Warm and Cool Colors: What Are They, How They Are Used & Psychology’ Psychological Effects of Warm and Cool Colors. Colourpsychology.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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