Through the research of many color and educational professionals we highlight contemporary thoughts related to the color-styling of our schools. Design philosophy and specialized studies are included for guidance throughout the educational environment.


  • Through all our senses, we learn and therefore, functional color is based on our understanding of these elements, over aesthetics, to make informed decisions regarding the styling of our environments.
  • Consideration of these principles will lead to enhanced attention spans, reduced eye strain and less absenteeism.
  • Incorporate a balance of all colors in the spectrum for optimum emotional and physiological responses.
  • Color can create a calm and soothing environment for the student to study & contemplate; or it can create excitement in those areas where it is desired such as an activity area or a gymnasium.
  • Monochromatic color schemes may become tedious & appear institutional – In classrooms, be certain to incorporate additional elements of color in artwork or accents for the full spectrum benefits they provide.
  • Strive to incorporate color variety as it will increase student engagement in learning and their environment.
  • Use high intensity colors with care in the school environment – Use as accents on graphic elements or for wayfinding.
  • Incorporate strong primary colors, as size and scale are considered, where they are appropriate for color impact.
10,000 Children from around the world were tested by Dr. Heinrich Frieling/Institute of Color Psychology. The findings: 

  • Most children age 5 – 14 rejected black, white, grey & brown
  • Children 5 – 8 preferred red, orange, yellow & violet
  • Children 9 – 10 preferred red, red-orange & green – blue
  • Children 11 – 12 preferred green & yellow
  • Children 13 – 14 preferred blue, ultramarine & orange

Dr. Frieling notes these are color preferences and that pure color tones are not appropriate for large expanses of wall areas. Frank Manhke advises that it is important to consider architectural details, lighting conditions, geography and cultural components as color selections are created.


Color supports developmental processes. Being sensitive to each age group’s different responses to color is key in creating an environment stimulating to their educational experience. Children’s rejection or acceptance of certain colors is a mirror of their development into adulthood and
‘being sensitive to each age group’s different responses to color is key in creating an environment stimulating to their educational experience‘.
[Kathie Engelbrecht]

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In addition to Culture… regionality plays a role in color selection: 

  • Sundrenched Areas – Where there is great sun during many days, warm colors of yellow and orange may be too hot & invigorating to use in abundance.
  • Northern Regions – Where much of the school year is cold and gray, consider minimal use of neutral tones and increase color usage, especially warm hues.
  • Eastern Coastlines – More traditional and muted colors may be preferred in time-honored color ranges where a more conservative approach is held in high regard.
  • Western Territories – Brighter accents and color variety may be preferred in these areas that accept a more novel and contemporary approach to design.
  • Students are more disciplined, experience fewer health problems and come to school when learning in a desirable physical environment. [Bowers & Burkett/1987]
  • Academic achievements are improved, blood pressure is reduced, off-task behavior, aggressiveness and disruptiveness are all diminished when the classroom environment considers color, size, sound, light, windows and furniture aesthetics.
  • Look for inspiration from Teachers, Students and Home Design for clues to the best colorations for Classrooms and Educational Environments – Those who work and learn in these settings will provide needed insight into the colors and finished elements that will best suit their needs and dreams.
  • Several recent studies have established the connection between student academic excellence and their interactions with better buildings – The conditions of our schools may have a stronger impact than the combined influences of family background, socio-economic status, school attendance and behavior. [Council of Educational Facility Planners International]
  • Design is important to students – Marketing is all around them – We want kids to want to be in the school environment.
  • Getting students involved will add creativity to the process and build a sense of ownership. They should be encouraged to participate in the generation of ideas and the application of graphics and designs used throughout the building. This provides a sense of belonging & supports the way buildings are used and cared for.Learn More



  • The 21st Century will bring new levels to the creative use of space in our schools.
  • Self-directed learning allows students individual educational experiences.
  • Collaborative technology allows them to connect in new ways with teachers, administrators and parents.
  • Computers, iPads and Smart Phones allow flexibility – our physical environments must adapt to these new ways to learn – From early childhood to high school the school campus must be multifaceted.
  • The configuration of the classroom and integration with the whole of the building pushes active learning throughout the entire structure.
  • Non-linear learning, represented by nature’s flowing style, wandering paths and buildings that gradually reveal environments.
  • Architecture that is experienced by young learners as ‘villages’… using light, pattern & nature to play, reflect and ultimately learn.
  • Transparency in design allows us to experience interiors with natural light, allowing us to visually connect with nature.
  • Outdoor learning spaces connect us to the outside world and increase our visual awareness of nature.
  • Environments that respond to our social and learning styles… they will require flexibility to accommodate small and large collaboration needs.
  • Energy costs will be driven down by active & passive solar engineering engagement with architecture.
  • Nature is at the forefront of thoughts as landscape and structural textures harmonize with the natural environment, inspiring our youth in caring for our earth. [American Institute of Architects/Committee on Architecture for Education [CAE] Design Awards]