A Quick Way to Boost Your Creativity or Productivity

Point: Color affects performance

Story: The background color on your computer screen might influence your creativity or productivity, according to a recent study by the University of British Columbia. Researchers gave participants work tasks on a computer. The experimenters varied whether the tasks were presented against a blue, red or neutral background on the computer screen. The results:

People performing tasks that required attention to detail (like proofreading) did better when the computer background was red.

People performing tasks that required a creativity (like creating new products) did better when the computer background was blue.

Action: Set your computer background to red when you need to focus on details. Set the background to blue when you want to make creative connections.

Sources for more information:
New York Times article
Wired Science

12 Comments »Creativity, Productivity

12 Responses to “A Quick Way to Boost Your Creativity or Productivity”

  1. Page Lambert Feb 13th 2009 at 07:28 pm 1

    Interesting piece, Andrea – I’ll have to experiment with red – seems like it would be rather disconcerting for detail work. I know red dining rooms encourage guests to stay longer and have that extra glass of wine. Will be interesting to see how it influences work. Thanks!

  2. Andrea Meyer Feb 13th 2009 at 07:42 pm 2

    You raise a good point – I was surprised about the recommendation of red for concentration, too. Apparently it signals ?caution,? which makes people slow down.

    In the field of sports, people wearing red tend to win over those wearing blue. The Durham University in England study showing that is at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v435/n7040/full/435293a.html

    And to your point about colors of dining rooms: guests in yellow dining rooms eat twice as much!

  3. Laurel Kallenbach Feb 13th 2009 at 07:48 pm 3

    Egads! What a concept. In a week or two I’ll be doing some proofreading, so I’ll have to try out the red background.

    I think the “danger” and “caution” messages that red sends are indeed appropriate to detailed concentration work. It seems like the greatest pitfall when doing detail work is falling asleep or glossing over items that need careful attention. Red tells us to wake up and pay attention. It’s stimulating so that the brain doesn’t fall into a lull.

  4. Claire Walter Feb 14th 2009 at 03:35 am 4

    I’ll be interested in everyone’s report about these experiments. My dining room is painted dark green, and people tend to linger. Our guest bathroom is bright red and off-white. I wonder whether guests spend extra time there because of the color.

  5. Mandy Walker Feb 14th 2009 at 12:12 pm 5

    I would never, ever have considered setting my computer background to red! Somehow that just doesn’t feel right .. but I’ll give it a try ..

  6. Gail Storey Feb 14th 2009 at 02:19 pm 6

    I read all the posts and comments and am excited about your blog. We’re sure to learn all kinds of new things following it. Congratulations, you blog-babe, you!

  7. Andrea Meyer Feb 14th 2009 at 12:57 pm 7

    Thanks for your comments, Laurel, Claire and Mandy! If any of you do try this, it’d be fun to see how it works for you. But Mandy, I can certainly understand that if it doesn’t feel right, it may not be right for you!

  8. Sue Campbell Feb 15th 2009 at 05:40 pm 8

    That’s a very interesting experiment. I’d never suspect that result. As a graphic designer I’ve been told it’s important to switch the background to neutral gray so that other colors don’t “contaminate” our color perception when we are working on color correction. And the default background for Photoshop is gray. But otherwise, my desktop displays favorite photos with no one dominate color. When writing I prefer to blow up the page so the white covers the screen… I am wondering how a background of red or blue could make that much difference if you work with black text on white? Surely they are not suggesting we switch to white on red or blue? Hard on the eyes. From another new blog babe, FWIW.

  9. Rosemary Carstens Feb 16th 2009 at 12:28 pm 9

    I’ve always been fascinated with color and its effects on people. I remember reading a study about using pink in prison zones making the men “weaker” and more easily controllable. I used to attend a color conference once a year–there’s a big organization, in Florida, I think, that does color research and every year figures out what the “hot” colors will be for all sorts of products. I know in my painting, I am very drawn to red and other primary colors rather than the grayed versions that art classes often stress for more subtle effects. This is a great topic!

  10. Andrea Meyer Feb 16th 2009 at 01:55 pm 10

    Sue: you’re right, they’re not suggesting changing the color of the page itself. The idea is more about the color around you, like room color or computer screen background (which doesn’t apply in your case given that you blow up the page to cover the full screen). The comment Rosemary just added speaks more to that point.

    Rosemary: thanks for sharing that study — and how interesting that you attended conferences on color — that sounds like a great resource for artists and designers!

  11. Verna Wilder Mar 1st 2009 at 01:49 pm 11

    Wow! I’m going to try this. I’ve been doing a lot of editing lately, and since I’m also tapering off of an antidepressant I’ve been on for 14 years, I’m concerned about my ability to focus. I’ll let you know what I find out.

    Thanks for this post, Andrea. I also appreciate the way you have structured your site. Nice to read you!

  12. Andrea Meyer Mar 1st 2009 at 07:25 pm 12

    Thanks very much for your comment, Verna. I’ll be very interested to hear how the experiment works out for you. This topic seems to have struck a chord with many people!

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