I was walking down an office corridor recently where the walls were painted in vibrant hues … purples, greens, marigold. Natural light brightened the work area.  It felt cheery and it set me wondering how environments affect our creativity.

It turns out research has shown that things like wall color, lighting, ceiling height and ambient noise can affect the way we think.

  • Color influences our mood and emotions. Green has been shown to broaden creative thinking, as does blue. Red, well, not so much – although it can give us a burst of energy, it has been linked to more aggressive emotions and can reduce analytical thinking. Students exposed to red before a test are likely to perform worse.
  • Lighting is also important. Natural lighting is best at improving mood and productivity. Gray, windowless offices are linked to lower creativity and higher stress.
  • Ceiling height matters. Higher ceilings have been shown to lead to more free-form, abstract thinking vs. lower ceilings
  • Ambient noise plays a part. Moderate noise levels are most conducive to creativity – that’s roughly the noise level of a coffee shop. A moderate noise level slightly disrupts the mental process, which can help promote abstract thinking. But a high noise level, like a pneumatic drill, is so disruptive that it impairs creativity.

So, if you work in dreary spaces, try brightening up those walls … or take a walk to your local coffee shop to help get the juices flowing again!