Color Theory in Design

July 21, 2015

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Pre-School Learning Center is located on the campus of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School and it seeks to provide spaces that serve the needs of the surrounding community beyond the educational program of the Middle School. The building accommodates 260 students in pre-school ages 3 through 5, and is home to the City of Richmond’s Head Start program and the Virginia Pre-School Initiative program.

During the initial planning for the Martin Luther King Jr. Pre-School Learning Center, the design team focused on the idea of creating communities that corresponded with the different age groups of the students. As the interior spaces began to take shape, we wanted to find a simple, yet effective way to highlight the concept of these different communities.

Color is one of the most influential elements in design. We used color in strategic ways to not only highlight the features of the building but to also create a sense of identity in each community. This gesture provided a unique feeling for the different communities and acted as a tool for wayfinding, helping guide students throughout the school. Each community has a “front porch” at its entrance where its unique color is introduced into the corridor. The 3-year old toddlers may congregate in the blue community, while the 4-year olds meet in the yellow community. Using color as an identifier allows the students to navigate throughout the building without having to rely on typical signage to guide them. This approach helps the children develop place identity and strengthens their recognition and matching skills.

When selecting the color palette for the Pre-K, the design team took cues from nature. Our research taught us that warm, natural hues create a comfortable and soothing environment and by contrasting the neutral field color, we could stimulate interest and curiosity without using too bright or bold of colors. The abundance of glass in the classrooms and in the commons areas brings natural light in the spaces throughout the day; the visual temperature of the colors in these areas slightly adjust according to the time of day, making it seem as if the building is almost alive.

Research has shown that color can impact an occupant’s productivity and responsiveness, and the space’s functionality. It is important that designers take a more studied approach to incorporating color into the design of learning environments.

-written by Andy Lehman, Interior Designer
Source: The Impact of Color on Learning, Kathie Engelbrecht, Assoc. IIDA