Colour & Interior Design

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Colour & Interior Design:
Using Virtual Reality Technology to Study the Effects of Scale Marianne Patera, Glasgow School of Art, Digital Design Studio, U.K., m.patera@gsa.ac.uk Steve W. Draper, University of Glasgow, Department of Psychology, U.K., s.draper@psy.gla.ac.uk Abstract: This paper presents an educational intervention, involving 20 interior design students selecting a colour scheme for a 3D computer model of an interior, and then experiencing its effect in a semi-immersive Virtual Reality (VR) environment. Participants also experienced some other learners' designs and discussed their similar and/or contrasting experiences. The main aim of this learning activity was to raise awareness that colour can be subjective and that perceptions of how colour may influence mood or emotion in this area may vary greatly. General educational principles of particular importance for this topic are constructivism in the sense of getting learners to link the topic to their own personal experience and perceptions, and peer discussion to demonstrate how much variation in experience there is between people. Introduction

Unlike teaching the colours of the spectrum or how these can be mapped on to a three-dimensional shape (cf. Otto Runge’s sphere, Munsell’s tree) (Patera & Draper, 2005), the effects of colour in interior spaces are not a matter for prediction and consensus. The main learning objective of this educational activity was not to teach facts but to raise awareness that opinions in this area commonly differ. People have personal experiences or inherent beliefs that certain colours can evoke specific emotions - some of these links are also associated with culture, current trends and fashion. However, the perception of colour depends greatly upon various parameters hence there is no simple and fixed set of such links. Often these beliefs can be persistent and therefore have a subliminal impact on the student’s design decisions.

Therefore one of the topics the students must have a developed awareness of is, as most people have personal apprehension of, the effect of colours in a room on the subjective experience of the occupants of that room: both that there are such effects and that they vary greatly between individuals. We believe that students can gain a better understanding of the effects of colour in a room when the actual space is presented to them on a larger scale (i.e. occupying a greater visual angle, filling a large part of the field of view) and particularly when they can be immersed in it. However, due to financial, spatial and time allotment issues, the construction of real fullsize rooms within an art and design establishment is deemed unfeasible. In particular, the allocation of an openplan interior space (designated for this purpose), the cost of materials and paints, the need for a specialist technician, as well as the time required for each student to construct their design in full-size, render this activity too expensive for an educational institution to manage.

As the creation of real-size rooms is extremely difficult, most interior design departments have adopted alternative methods for visualising the design ideas. Apart from constructing small scale physical models (usually made out of cardboard, foam, plastic, Plexiglas, etc) students nowadays use 3D software packages in which they can design and modify an interior space, and then produce renderings (still images) and walkthrough animations for presentation purposes. Although both techniques offer students the opportunity to visualise their designs in three-dimensions, the digital method offers some additional advantages: the students are able to make modifications easily and quickly, and experiment with a plethora of materials available through the software. However, as the colours of an interior space can have a strong impact on the mood and ambience of that space, often the maquette or computer model or architectural drawing may fail to transfer...
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