Colour Selection: design tips for the non-designer

So you’re an accountant, who owns a growing medium sized accountancy firm. The office has relocated and is undergoing a fit out. The contract has been signed, the office walls are going up, doors and screens installed and the ceilings fitted. The project manager is now handing you numerous colour pallets across numerous brands and asks you to pick your colours. Easily done for the design orientated with a flare for interiors, but maybe not so much for the average accountant – that’s why you’re an accountant, not an artist – and as any artist will tell you – colour is an intricate subject and has the power to subliminally (and scientifically) convey values and stories.

Altlough many fit out companies offer colour consultants, it is still valuable to have a little bit of background knowledge and vision. This will help you make informed decisions when establishing your workplaces identity and atmosphere on the other hand, poor colour choice could induce feelings of sadness, anxiety and even depression. Right then. Where to start?


Colour Crash Course: Which colour is best for workplace productivity?


Colour: Not a ‘one size fit all’.

Scientific studies have shown that colours don’t just set our moods, they also profoundly impact our productivity, for better and for worse.


Low-wavelength colours, like restful green and calming blue — two of the most common colours in Mother Nature’s palette — improve efficiency and focus. They also lend an overall sense of well-being.


Red, a high-wavelength colour, is active, intense and alarming at times. If there’s something in the office you want to urgently draw employees’ eyes to, it’s best to paint it red.


Meanwhile yellow, the mellowest of colours, is often viewed by colour psychologists as the shade of optimism, is energetic and fresh.


Orange  is said to ease emotions and boost self-esteem while pink lessens feelings of irritation, aggression, loneliness, discouragement and burden.


In a nutshell ….


If you’re an accountant, and you Google “what is the most productive colour?” You might go ahead and choose blue, because blue (according to Google) is the most productive colour. Simply put, this statement is an oversimplification because well… not everybody is an accountant are they?


If you do mind work for a living, stimulate your mind by painting a brainstorm room or thinking area blue. Or spice a blue room up with a dash of orange as a way to introduce a bit of emotion and avoid being perceived as a stiff bureaucrat.


If you’re a designer, and you want creativity, blue isn’t going to be the colour for you. Yellow is a better colour choice, because it lifts your spirits and increases optimism. This being said – DON’T GO PAINTING YOUR WALLS YELLOW –Too much yellow, and you could end up with a conference room full of anxious co-workers with short fuses.


Blue isnt going to be a lot of help if you’re hiring a bunch a guys to build your house either. Red is what you need here as a way to increase heart rate and blood pressure and works well for people with detail oriented assignments.


If you’re in an environment where having a strong sense of innovation and balance is the most important, green might be your productive colour. Green is also thought to bring balance and reassurance – handy to have around in places where money exchange is highly prevalent.


Small meeting room with yellow walls for creativity

Red has its place where high energy levels are needed

DB Design | Productive Blue for the think tank.

Green to relax money handlers

A few more insider tips ….

White walls DO NOT maximise the feeling of space. In fact they do the opposite. White may seem crisp and clean but actually project a clinical look and feel, especially under fluorescence, that can quickly turn an environment sterile.


Avoid grey in order to keep morale up. While grey is psychologically neutral, the colour also lacks energy and is suppressive and depressive and should only be used sparingly. If your office is painted the colour of naval war ships, try offsetting it with brighter colours such as red or yellow.


It is important to note that there are no wrong colours either. It’s how you use them. A colour doesn’t actually evoke much of an emotional response until it’s put with other colors, and even then, is dictated by the individual connotations.


Furthermore colour intensity has a big part to play – a strong bright color will stimulate, and a color with low saturation will soothe. A soft blue might calm you, but the blue light projected from TV’s, computer screens and emergency vehicles at night (scientifically, blue light is brightest colour at night) will stimulate our brains and keep us awake.


So which colour do I choose?

To determine which colour to incorporate into your surroundings:

  1. Narrow down which main colour (or combination of colours) will work the best in your office by deciding whether you want to them affect your concentration, feelings, form, or balance.
  2. Then, pick a specific hue of that color.
  3. For all people confronted with colour selection, remember to go with your gut. Colour is just as much personal as it is scientific – you will know yourself the colours that make you feel the most productive and positive. It is different for everybody.


But you should probably paint over the white and grey walls just in case….