Last week a friend came to me for help with some paint selection. Although I normally get a bit annoyed when people associate the design profession with an innate ability to pick out the best shade of plum, I decided to help my friend out anyway.

As my friend began to ask me about color theory and specifically the popularized, accepted generalizations associated with it, it got me thinking about the greater implications that these hypotheses have on the design world. It is one thing for my friend to select a hue for her personal space with the hopes that it will have an effect on her mood, but it is another thing for a designer to take these sweeping statements and apply them to a healthcare environment.

Although color theories suggest that that color can impact how the environment emotionally and physically affects an individual, these conclusions are influenced by many confounding variables (such as situation, gender, and personality), making it difficult to determine causation between color in the environment and an individual’s well-being. However, one would be hard pressed to find anyone that would say color does not matter.

In a world where such an emphasis is placed on color, how are designers today making color selections for the healthcare environment within a crowd of inconclusive evidence?