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Justine Fox is the founder of the eponymous Studio Justine Fox – a highly regarded colour consultancy, specialising in colour psychology, trend forecasting and consumer insights. Here, she explores how colour has the power to bring us together.
Colour doesn’t exist as an abstract concept, but instead flourishes within our minds as a direct response to the stimuli of light. It beds down in the motherboard of our brains, affecting the way we feel, understand, and interact with the world. Colour is at the heart of our human experience.
When we talk about colour in design, often the conversation leans towards vibrant expressions or pops of brightness in an otherwise monochromatic landscape. There is absolutely a place and a need for elements of colourfulness in our world, but my philosophy posits a more holistic and integrated approach to colour that is rooted in experience and community consultation, to create more culturally inclusive and intuitive places for people and planet.
When we look towards the future of the spaces that we share; offices, hospitality, retail or healthcare, it’s clear that there has been a subtle (or not so subtle) behavioural shift in the way that we now engage. Front and centre of this is the protection and augmentation of our wellbeing, both individually and collectively. The question is how together or apart do we want to be?
We are looking for environments that give us agency and enhance our experience. Too much chromaticity, we feel enclosed and stressed, too little and our energy levels plummet. It’s always fascinating as a colour specialist understanding the challenges for interior designers and architects. High on the list is transitioning colour between spaces and uses. To smoothly facilitate this, we need to embrace harmonised palettes rooted in our psychological relationship with colour, that are designed for the complete journey, allowing for moments of relaxation as well as boosting activation.
Taking hotels as an example (although many of these anthropological insights will have crossover with other sectors in interior design and architecture), there are a complex set of needs that colour can support. One of these is the differentiation between public and private, something that in colour terms would have traditionally invited more vibrancy and intensity in the reception, restaurant and function areas to create the sense of a destination venue, buzzing with activity. With the travel spending power currently transferring to Gen Z, simple visual referencing to the locale is no longer enough.
Colour needs to align with the essence of what makes this place unique, resonating with guests, subconsciously inviting them to be part of the story. The hyper-localism of design that we’ve witnessed over several years should now transcend replication with a new expectation for deeper connections, an ‘experience plus’. Focus for nutrition-based cuisine and restorative sleep programmes in hospitality puts colour beyond the purely Instagrammable opportunity and asks that it be elevated to a functional asset of the complete visitor experience.
Bringing this type of specificity into colour design opens the door to circularity and sustainability, by including locally sourced pigments, either through waste reclamation or renewable and foraged organic material streams. Through our collaborations with the design community, as colour specialists, we look to push the boundaries of not only the spatial colour experience in curating visitor sensorial interaction but through our research, propose colour materials and coatings that enhance the environment.
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