A Natural Selection

Elly Deakin Biophilic design, colour, Healthy spaces, Materials

The selection of colours we come across everyday affect our mood and behaviour as well as the decisions we make – be it shopping, eating or decorating our home. But why is this? Why do some colours make us feel calm and energised whilst others leave us feeling irritated or sad?

Schloss and Palmer’s theory “The Ecological Valence theory” explains our preferences for certain colours. They suggest that we associate colours with significant objects and visual experiences from our past, and we are naturally drawn to colours that trigger positive emotions. On the other hand, we tend to avoid those colours which have been associated with negative experiences.

According to the Savannah Hypothesis, we usually seek out colours found in nature’s palette when it’s thriving. For example, when we think of the colour blue, we tend to positively associate it with bright sky or clean water, which are both very calming and relaxing experiences. Different tones of green are generally compared to healthy plants and trees, triggering a feeling of calm and vitality. The colour red is generally associated with healthy ripe fruits, like apples or berries – naturally causing energy and excitement. Finally, tones of orange, yellow and white remind us of being in the sunshine, evoking a sense of happiness and warmth. It’s interesting that all of these colours I’ve mentioned feature within significant positive experiences of nature, and all have a beneficial influence on our mood and behaviour!

As a majority of us now live and work within urbanised areas, it’s important to incorporate accents of colour to not only strengthen our connection with nature but to also help generate positive feelings that are beneficial to our well-being. As a result, good health and well-being can help us be more motivated, productive and creative when it comes to completing everyday tasks.

The use of natural analogues (involving natural patterns, textures and colours) is one of the key Biophilic design principles, which is fundamental for helping to strengthen our connection with nature. The Ecological Valence Theory can explain our colour choices along with the physical and psychological benefits nature’s colour palette can bring.

Why not try adding a touch of colour to your everyday living and working spaces?


Moo Office in London by Trifle Creative



“Colours are the smiles of nature” James Henry Leigh Hunt