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Beyond Beige: Crafting a Vibrant Palette for Control Room Interiors

Updated: Nov 21, 2023



Color, with its profound impact on human perception and emotion, extends its influence beyond the realms of art and aesthetics into the practical domains of our daily lives. One intriguing intersection where color plays a pivotal role is in the design of control rooms, where decisions made under high-stakes circumstances demand a nuanced understanding of the human psyche.


From the brushstrokes of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his 1810 masterpiece, "Theory of Colors," to the more recent empirical investigations of Goldstein in 1942, the connection between color and emotional response has persisted as a subject of fascination. While Goethe's work may have faced skepticism from the scientific community of his time, it planted the seeds for a perennial interest in understanding how color impacts our thoughts, feelings, and actions.


Goethe color wheel
Goethe's color wheel

The evolution of color theory, propelled by experimental observations like those presented by Goldstein, has paved the way for a modern understanding rooted not only in artistic sensibilities but also in the scientific scrutiny of color's effects on the functioning of the human organism. The quest to uncover the influence of colors on cognitive processes has led to inquiries into the physical properties of the spectrum of light, such as wavelength.

However, in the realm of control room design, the exploration of color's impact often transcends theoretical considerations.


The focus shifts from abstract inquiries to the practical realm, seeking answers to applied questions that directly impact the well-being and efficiency of those who operate in these critical spaces. Questions like, "What wall color facilitates worker alertness and productivity?" become paramount, underscoring the practical implications of color psychology in optimizing operational performance.


In this blog, we delve into the profound impact of color psychology on control room design, examining both the historical perspectives that laid the groundwork and the contemporary applications that address the specific needs of those who navigate high-pressure environments. Through this exploration, we aim to uncover the intricate interplay between color and cognitive function, shedding light on how a well-crafted color palette can enhance not just the visual appeal but also the functionality and effectiveness of control rooms.

Alerting Effects of Light: The Impact of Color on Mental Alertness and Focus


Beyond the intricacies of color theory lies a fundamental truth about human vision: our eyes don't perceive a spectrum directly. Instead, the responsibility falls upon the photoreceptors rods and cones within our eyes to collect, decipher, and translate the electromagnetic waves or photons into meaningful visual signals in our brains. While this process is essential for vision, the influence of light extends far beyond the realm of sight.


Consider sunlight, which not only facilitates vision but also plays a crucial role in diverse physiological processes. From the synthesis of vitamin D through skin exposure to the reduction of serum bilirubin in neonatal jaundice, light serves multifaceted functions in our well-being. Remarkably, even individuals without sight exhibit physiological responses to light stimuli, highlighting the profound impact of light beyond conscious visual perception.


Despite centuries of color theories and philosophical treatises on the subject, it was not until 1995 that a significant shift occurred in the exploration of the immediate activating effects of light on alertness, performance, and mood. Berson et al. made a groundbreaking discovery, identifying a novel type of photoreceptor in the mammalian retina, the intrinsic photosensitive retinal ganglion cell. Without going into too much detail, this discovery marked a turning point, as this particular photoreceptor was found to play a crucial role in the non-visual biological effects of light, even in humans.


In understanding the impact of light on mental alertness and focus, it is essential to consider the three main attributes that define every color: hue, chroma (saturation), and brightness (value). Hue allows us to recognize and differentiate colors—whether it's 'blue,' 'red,' or 'green.' Chroma, or saturation, indicates the purity or vividness of a color compared to a neutral grey of the same value. A color with high saturation contains less grey, contributing to its vibrancy. Finally, brightness or lightness pertains to the degree of brightness or darkness of a color in relation to light and dark.


As we navigate the relationship between color and cognitive function, exploring the intricate interplay of these attributes becomes pivotal. How does the intensity of hue impact mental alertness? To what extent does the brightness of a color contribute to sustained focus? In the following sections, we delve into the specific ways in which these attributes, coupled with the evolving understanding of light's effects, shape the design of control rooms for optimal performance and well-being.


Navigating the Basics: Understanding Color Temperature in Control Room Design

In simpler terms, colors can be grouped into two main categories: cool and warm. This classification is based on the characteristic wavelengths of different colors. Cool colors, like blue, green, and purple, fall into a range with shorter wavelengths, while warm colors—red, orange, and yellow—occupy the spectrum with longer wavelengths, red being the longest perceived by our eyes.


These distinctions in color temperature are not just about visual appeal; they have tangible effects on us, whether we realize it or not. While individual factors like gender, age, and culture play a role in how we perceive colors, some colors convey universal meanings. Warm colors, including red, orange, and yellow, can evoke feelings of warmth and comfort, but they might also stir up emotions like anger and frustration. On the other hand, cooler colors like blue and green often signal calmness and competence.


Now, the question arises: How can we strategically use these colors when designing a control room to our advantage? In the following sections, we'll explore the practical applications of color temperature in control room design, considering its potential impact on mood, alertness, and overall functionality.


Navigating the Tightrope: Balancing Aesthetics and Focus in Mission-Critical Environments

Designing a mission-critical environment demands a delicate equilibrium between visual appeal and operational efficiency. The colors selected for the control center must seamlessly integrate into the workflow of operators, acknowledging that colors wield the power to influence mood and actions. In workplace settings, studies reveal that judicious use of specific colors can lead to enhanced happiness, improved productivity, and a reduction in errors.


For instance, subtle hues of green, when not overly bright or distracting, have been shown to boost operational efficiency. Operators working in environments adorned with these calming green tones tend to make fewer errors, complete critical thinking tasks more quickly, and exhibit heightened attention to detail. The infusion of green can contribute to an environment that fosters alertness, a crucial factor in mission-critical operations.


How Do Colors Affect Productivity in the control room?

While neutral tones like beige and light grey maintain their significance in modern workplaces, strategically introducing colors throughout the workspace can redefine a company's internal image. This transformation shifts the perception from a traditional setting to a dynamic and modern workplace that attracts top talent and cultivates a positive company culture.

Consider the implications of specific colors in the workplace:


Red, the Color of Confidence and... Sleepiness?

Traditionally, people often associate red with boldness and confidence. However, it's crucial to exercise caution in its usage. Too much red in a control room environment might overwhelm operators, inducing strong emotions like anger or frustration. Moreover, red has been linked to increased appetite, heart rate, and blood flow. In a mission-critical setting, where operators need to stay vigilant, the last thing desired is an environment that induces sleepiness. Just as newer phone updates offer a 'shift' to reddish hues at night to aid sleep, judicious use of red in workplace design becomes imperative to avoid unintended consequences.


In the pursuit of a control room that optimizes focus and minimizes distractions, a nuanced understanding of color psychology becomes paramount. Striking the right balance ensures not only a visually appealing space but also one that enhances operator alertness and performance in high-stakes scenarios.


Blue: The Hue of Harmony and Productivity

In the realm of office color psychology, blue emerges as a versatile and well-rounded choice. Symbolizing reliability, it has the power to foster intellectual thought. Researchers suggest that incorporating blue into a control room can create a calm and stable environment, enhancing employee productivity and focus. It's an ideal choice for spaces dedicated to collaboration and productivity, such as meeting rooms. Interestingly, while blue is often perceived as a relaxing color, blue light, specifically around the 17,000k color temperature, can invigorate individuals by suppressing the body's production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our natural sleep-wake cycle.


Green: The Color of Balance and Creativity

Green, known for its soothing properties, is associated with the balance of mind, body, and emotions. Similar to blue, green is linked with creativity and productivity, making it an excellent choice for office spaces. Incorporating green through plants, furniture, or wall colors can contribute to a harmonious work environment. Individuals working in such settings tend to make fewer errors and accomplish tasks requiring critical thinking in less time than their counterparts in non-green environments.


The influence of green extends beyond mere productivity, shaping the way individuals approach problem-solving. Green hues foster a heightened sense of careful consideration, particularly when tackling issues that demand attention to detail. This unique characteristic of green makes it a valuable addition to control room setups, contributing to a heightened state of alertness among operators.


White: Clean, Fresh, and Modern

White, synonymous with cleanliness and modernity, can visually open up spaces and create a fresh ambiance. Especially appealing in wide open areas, it can be strategically used in meeting areas, lobbies, or collaborative spaces. The key lies in balancing white with other colors to maintain a vibrant and inspiring office environment without creating a liminal space that increases stress unnecessarily. Opting for white-painted walls conveys a sense of simplicity and marks a promising start. However, it's important to exercise caution as excessively bright whites may lead to headaches.


Yellow: Encouraging Happiness and Positivity

In office color psychology, yellow is a beacon of happiness, positivity, and optimism. Splashes of yellow can boost creativity, motivation, and teamwork. However, moderation is key, as excessive yellow may lead to eyestrain and frustration.


Orange: Cheerful, Friendly, and Bold

Regarded as lively and amiable, orange introduces a hint of daringness to contemporary office aesthetics. It fosters a sense of energy and creativity, yet, akin to other warm hues, may also be associated with occasional frustration. Infusing bursts of orange or seamlessly blending it with shades like white achieves a striking yet harmonious impact. Symbolizing the changing tones of autumn leaves, orange represents transformation. Choosing orange for your walls can contribute to decision-making, bolster self-confidence, and improve understanding among employees. For workplaces emphasizing communication, incorporating orange into the surroundings can encourage socialization, heighten inspiration, and cultivate a deeper appreciation for the workspace.


Purple: Elegance, Wisdom, Creativity, and Tranquility

Linked with luxury, wisdom, imagination, and peacefulness, purple brings a sense of opulence and depth to the control room. Incorporating subtle touches of purple can impart these sentiments, fostering a dynamic and enriching atmosphere. While it encourages imagination and enhances creativity, it's advisable to use purple sparingly. To promote originality and inventive thinking among your employees, consider painting select areas in a soothing lavender hue.


Black: Signifying Control and Power

In the realm of workplace color psychology, black exudes a sense of control and power, often associated with luxury and elegance. However, its light-absorbing nature necessitates a cautious approach. Using black as an accent, complementing other colors, strikes a balance between luxury and comfort. Be advised that using the color black as a background on surfaces where you plan to add text will diminish readability.


Check out our custom color options for control consoles

Sustema offers multiple choices of textured wood grain and solid colors for the workstation surfaces. Ranging from "oak" style colors to create a more natural look all the way to solid light grey for a more modern design. Worksurfaces are made of high-pressure laminate as it is one of the most durable materials for 24/7 work environments.


Color options for control consoles by Sustema

The edge of the work surface is one of the main touchpoints between 911 operators and the console. It will be used to rest their wrists, forearms, or elbows which is why its design can have a large impact on their comfort at work. Surface edges are available in different models such as urethane, T-Molding, and edge bands with all of their own benefits and advantages. Popular colors are often darker tones such as dark grey, black, and brown. A good way to choose the right color is to use the same color as the base of the console to create a nice contrast with the color of the surface.


In the realm of mission-critical environments, where decisions carry weight and operators must remain vigilant, the need for a thoughtful balance between aesthetics and functionality is ever-present. The evolution of color theory, blending artistry with scientific scrutiny, has brought us to a juncture where the practical implications of color psychology are paramount, and the wrong choice can lead to poor performance in the control room.

Ready to embark on your journey toward a vibrant and optimized control room? Our team of specialists is here to turn your vision into reality. Contact us today to start the conversation and bring your control room project to life. Together, we'll craft a space that meets your specific requirements for high-stakes decision-making.


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