Team of university researchers find colour affects our ethical judgement of brands

As any interior designer will know, colour psychology is a major part of the industry and has helped countless designers pick the perfect colour palette for a space. Picking a hue that is especially suited to the use of a room is a seamless blend of form and function, using colour theory and practical design ideas together to offer clients the best possible solution.

Now, a team of researchers from the University of Oregon (UO) and University of Cincinnati (UC) have found that when brands use the colours blue and green, consumers see them as more ethical. In a series of studies and focus groups, the researchers found that seeing these two shades makes consumers imagine that the imaginary, fictitious brand was making ethical, moral decisions in their business practises simply because they associate these blue-green tones with being kind to the planet.  

The use of these two tones can be present in any of the brand's features, such as their logo, office reception decor, retail spaces, promotional material and so on. Seeing blue and green makes customers think of eco-friendly brands, according to the research, showcasing how colour can have a direct impact on our minds and opinions.

"What we're finding is that colour biases the way consumers make ethical judgements," said Aparna Sundar, lead researcher and marketing professor at UO's Lundquist College of Business. 

"Of course green is one of those colours, but blue is also one of those colours that consumers associate with eco-friendliness."

In fact, the study found that blue is now considered more environmentally chummy than green.

"Interestingly, blue is 'greener' than green in terms of conveying an impression of eco-friendliness, despite the frequent use of the word green to convey that idea," said James Kellaris, co-researcher from UC. 

This isn't the only perk of picking blue. Previously, a study by the University of British Columbia showed that looking at blue boosts our creativity levels, so combined, picking blue for commercial decorating jobs can be very beneficial for your business-owning client.

Using this research to your design advantage 

The start of the year is usually a good time for interior design work, as fresh projects are about to be launched. For example, as many new businesses will be starting in the new year, they will be needing retail spaces, offices for staff, receptions and other conference rooms to be styled and decorated. 

Pick a palette of blues and greens to set up these spaces. Here are five paint shades from each spectrum to kickstart the process:

Next, incorporate these colours into the main foyer and other customer-facing spaces such as any meeting rooms, receptions or cashier desks. Think holistically about the colours – sofa upholstery fabrics, coffee table tops, lamp shades and other smaller details can also be introduced in these hues. 

For maximum impact, you could set up a customer review station where your client's consumer base can give feedback on the service or business. Since we now know that blue and green colours make a customer think positively about a company, this scheme is ideal for such a set-up. A banner you put up or any signposts or wayfinding items around this feedback centre can also be in blue or green colours. 

For some pattern instead of block colours, you could even use wallpaper in these shades. Here are some options:

Hopefully the positive results from a blue-green colour scheme will 'blue' them away! 

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