It's no secret that your environment has a profound effect on your mood. From access to nature and the outdoors to lighting conditions, even color can evoke certain emotions. There's even a whole science dedicated to the psychology of color. How we respond to color has to do with colors' saturation and brightness, explains environmental psychologist Sally Augustin, Ph.D., in an article for Psychology Today. "Saturation is how pure a color is... Brightness is, as you’d expect, basically how light a color seems," she says.
That said, if red is associated with energy, and yellow with optimism, what is the best color for creativity? It turns out, the color of creativity might be this affirming shade.
The Color Green and Creativity
Early studies, like a first of its kind German study in 2012, suggest the color green may boost creativity. In reporting on the study, NBC News writes that "participants who saw green before the task," the task being to write down as many uses of a tin can as possible in two minutes, "produced more creative ideas than those who saw white."
Why? "Green may serve as a cue that evokes the motivation to strive for improvement and task mastery, which in turn may facilitate growth," Dr. Stephanie Lichtenfeld, an assistant professor of psychology at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany, tells NBC News. However, the context for these preferences, reports Smithsonian magazine, largely depends on our cultural associations.
That said, if you're in need of a breakthrough or grasping for a clever solution or innovative inspiration, a flash of green in your space may be the best color for creativity.
Blue May Also Boost Creativity
Blue is another great color to get creative juices flowing. Fast Company, a magazine that covers modern business and technology, reports that the color most associated with vast oceans, a calm lake, or a clear and sunny day "promotes communication, trust, and efficiency. It also helps people with creativity by opening the mind to new ideas." At work, for example, it might be a good idea to incorporate the color blue in a room used for brainstorming, reports Fast Company, referencing a 2009 University of British Columbia study.
Similarly, office supply company Quill created an infographic with information sourced from various websites outlining how to incorporate color into your work space for productivity. If generating enthusiasm and creating a high-energy work environment is your goal, try incorporating the color orange into your office color palette. Red is seen as the best color to implement in late-night office spaces, while yellow is stimulating and promotes a sense of optimism.
This Color Zaps Creativity
On the other hand, some colors just don't do much to boost wellbeing in general. Take the color gray, for example. "While gray is psychologically neutral, the color also lacks energy," Fast Company reports. "It is suppressive and prepares people for hibernation, according to Colour Affects, a London-based color psychology consultant. This color should be used in small amounts in an office and offset by a brighter color, such as red or yellow."
An M, Colarelli SM, O'Brien K, Boyajian ME. Why We Need More Nature at Work: Effects of Natural Elements and Sunlight on Employee Mental Health and Work Attitudes. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(5):e0155614. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155614
Lichtenfeld S, Elliot AJ, Maier MA, Pekrun R. Fertile Green: Green Facilitates Creative Performance. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2012;38(6):784-97. doi:10.1177/0146167212436611