Evidence-based Colour Strategies

I’m often asked to provide evidence-based colour strategies to improve Environmental Visual Literacy in a range of contexts including aged care environments.

Environmental visual literacy is the capacity to ‘read’ visual cues embedded in the design of the built environment, and make sense of these in a meaningful way. It is an ongoing process that involves visual perception, direct and peripheral attention coupled with memory and cognitive processing.

Why is effective environmental visual literacy important?  Environment-behaviour research studies indicate that a range of environmental design factors can support, hinder or obstruct the interface between the built environment and human experience. An effective interface supports positive human response, functioning and behaviour for people of all ages, cultures and physical and/or cognitive capacity.  An effective interface also dovetails with Universal Design principles and guidelines for applied design and the built environment.

Colour and contrast strategies can improve environmental visual literacy in the built environment and the readability of visual cues in the built environment. Not only can colour and contrast enhance engagement and interaction, they are an effective non-verbal signalling device that can support activation strategies, improve orientation and wayfinding, plus improve the safe operation of daily activities by highlighting key design details.

I have developed an Environmental Visual Literacy checklist that is used to conduct an audit and provide colour/contrast recommendations to improve Environmental Visual Literacy. This checklist was was presented to the Universal Design Symposium in Auckland in October 2017 and was incorporated into the Universal Design Tool, a component of the Auckland Design Manual – see link



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