In these days, when an ability in Interior Design is often seen to be no more than the selection of a completely impractical ‘chalky paint’ from a ‘Boutique’ paint supplier and an artfully placed pair of old polo boots, it is good to come across some words of common sense on the subject.
Colour and Lighting in Factories and Offices was first published by the British Colour Council in 1946. The preface, which was written by A.W. Garrett, HM Chief Inspector of Factories during the period of the Second World War, explains the need for such a document:
“Factories were built first to house machines. The conception that they must be places of human habitation for the workers who were to operate the machines came much later. Only today after more than a hundred years of steady progress, after the expenditure of an immense amount of constructive effort and applied research and with the added impetus of two great wars fought to a large extent on the “factory front” have we come to fully realise the implications of that essentially simple requirement that factories should be places fit for people to live in.”
“This booklet tells in detail how one of the most important of these advantages – colour – can be realised. I consider that it has been established beyond question that workrooms – nearly all workrooms – can be given internal colour decoration on walls and machines in a way that will provide aesthetic satisfaction and mental invigoration, realised or unrealised, to the persons there at work. It is not merely a matter of dashing on bright colours at random. Different persons react differently to different colours, and varying situations call each for their proper treatment. Here in this booklet artistic and technical authorities have been enlisted to suggest schemes of colouring and methods of application which may turn the ordinary drab working place into a scene of cultural refreshment.”
Clearly, this was a popular work as it was reprinted on each of seven successive years and then a revised, second edition was published in 1956.1 It is this latter edition that is being illustrated here. It came in a folder and consisted of two parts – a 40 page booklet with applied colour samples, and a colour card showing 12 paint colours in a matt finish and 13 in a gloss finish.
Robert Wilson, the director of the B.C.C., wrote in the Introduction that in the ten years since its first appearance he had prepared over 500 colour and lighting schemes and that he had noticed a change in colour appreciation, which he felt was brought about by the industrial use of colour. People working in suitably coloured surroundings in factories and offices were now demanding more colourful surroundings in their homes.
Painting was considered essential in all factories and offices in the interests of cleanliness and upkeep. We are also told that the publication had been compiled to show how well chosen colours and efficient lighting could be the means of improving health and safety, stimulating morale and increasing output.
Whilst written sixty years ago and clearly aimed at the factory or large office, the recommendations are equally applicable nowadays and, with a little oblique thinking, are just as relevant to the home.
In order to obtain the best results in colour and lighting it was necessary to consider:
1) The type of building; whether foundry, laboratory, factory, warehouse, office block or canteen.
2) The situation of the building; whether town or country.
3) Plan, elevation and window area.
4) Whether the building is new, in which case colour and lighting should be considered at the planning stage, or whether the schemes have to be suitable for an older type of building previously decorated.”
The next points for consideration relate to the individual rooms:
Co-operation in Planning
It is important for the architect, the civil and lighting engineers and decorators to work together as a team from the earliest possible moment, and information obtained from the works manager and the safety and welfare officer on problems connected with the best working conditions from every point of view can be of great value if available at a sufficiently early date.
Indiscriminate breaking up of wall surfaces may upset architectural balance but if colour is used with knowledge it can emphasise good architectural lines.
The size of a small room can be apparently increased by the use of light colours and by maintaining some degree of uniformity of colour between walls, ceilings and fittings. Such treatment may also minimise the feeling of restlessness which results from strong contrast between wall, woodwork and wall boxes.
The apparent height of lofty rooms can be reduced by colour changes worked horizontally, as for example, using one colour for ceiling and cornice, a darker tone or colour contrast for the upper part of the wall and another for lower part.
Alternatively, apparent height can be increased by colour changes worked vertically. For instance, steel uprights in a wall can be emphasised as an architectural feature, so adding to this apparent height and at the same time forming a decorative feature.
Particular care should be taken in the treatment of piping. If laid in different directions and painted in contrasting colours the piping can cause a feeling of restlessness and distraction but if suitably placed and coloured it can emphasise architectural lines. Consideration of the architectural lines of the building should assist in determining whether or not a dado is necessary; if a dado is included its height can best be determined on the site. In some cases it may be fairly high, in others it may occupy no more space than a skirting board.
The Aspect of the Room
Before considering the actual decoration of rooms it is necessary to appreciate their aspect.
The natural light received into a room will depend on the position of windows, doors and skylights in relation to the compass. Where the sunlight is not obstructed by smoke, buildings or trees, rooms facing south will receive the warmest light; west and east rooms cooler light and north rooms the coolest light. There will be many variations of these four aspects, as for example, where a room has windows facing two or more points of the compass. Other modifications will occur according to the distance of the windows from the ground, light reflections from exterior objects, etc.
Type of Work to be Executed
The type of work being executed also has a bearing on the consideration of colour schemes.
Where colour is already introduced into the room by the nature of the work, simple neutral colours can be used with advantage in the decoration. Restlessness can result from too much colour in schemes where there is no relationship between the coloured product, the colour of the machinery and the decoration.
This applies in sheds and loom rooms where coloured threads are being woven, where colourful drawings are being prepared or where packages of varying colours are being filled or examined. In these cases, neutral coloured walls will serve the useful purpose of resting the eyes of the worker looking up from work. Where white or neutral coloured work is processed colour can, with advantage, be introduced into machinery and surroundings.
Most people, questioned directly as to an existing scheme of decoration will express their personal likes and dislikes, and it is good practice in a case where a large number of people are working in the same room to colour one part of the room and machinery or equipment and then to get the reactions of the workers concerned. Questionnaires have been used for this purpose by some firms with very good results, for in such cases the man on the job can contribute valuable observations which can be interpreted by the conscientious decorator. It must be remembered, however, that the same colours affect different people in different ways and that when dealing with decorative schemes for many people of varying tastes it is advisable to use ‘safe’ colour schemes which have been proved by research to be suitable and generally well-liked.
Where rooms are occupied by few people, colour preferences can be stated by each of them and a scheme of decoration mutually agreed upon, while in directors’ rooms, an even more personal expression of the occupier’s activities in relation to the job may be suitable expressed in colour, form, lighting and decoration.
Juxtaposition of Colours
It should be recognised that colours change in appearance when in juxtaposition with other colours.
For instance, turquoise will look quite green when seen against a bright blue, but the same colour will appear blue when placed near emerald green. Again, grey will look greenish when seen with red but when contrasted with blue will appear to have an orange tint. Another type of contrast is observed when a light intense colour is seen with a dark and neutral colour; the yellow prescribed for “Attention” appears even more intense when it is alternated in stripes with black.
Therefore no single colour should be finally selected for a colour scheme before it is seen with the other colours which will be adjacent to it in the completed scheme.
The after-image is an optical effect which takes place after exposing the eye to bright light or to a coloured object for more than a few seconds. If a certain colour, say for example, red, is looked at for a few moments and then the gaze is transferred to a light surface, the after-image, in this case green, will appear.
The work also provided illustrated examples of colours schemes for the following areas:
2) Private Offices;
3) General Offices;
4) Entrance Halls;
5) Cloakrooms and Lavatories;
6) Rest Rooms and Welfare Clinics, and
To illustrate these I show the two pages on Factories:
“The preparation of colour schemes for Factories will depend on the size, aspect and window space of the rooms, the type of lighting installed, the heating arrangements, the number of machines in a room, and the type and rotation of work to be processed.
In addition certain features may already be coloured, as for example, the floor and machinery, and these must be taken into consideration.
Flashy or vivid colour schemes should be avoided, especially in rooms containing noisy machinery, since either may cause headaches and, in combination, are almost certain to do so.
In factories where the work itself provides variety in colour, the colouring of machinery and surroundings should be kept simple.
Research has shown that workers prefer to have two colour types in machinery if the size of the room permits. It has been found that green of the correct hue is the best colour for machinery as it is restful to the eyes besides being less sombre and depressing than black or dull grey. Furthermore, good cheerful colours inspire workers to take a pride in their machinery and surroundings as well as to increase the desire to keep them clean,
The colours of worker’s overalls contribute to the total colour scheme in factories and these should be chosen either to tone or to contrast well with machinery and surroundings.”
Current Availability of Colours
As with almost all the colours shown on this site the colours shown here could be mixed into conventional modern paint by Papers and Paints Ltd
1 A third edition came out in 1964.
2 CC: Colours taken from the British Colour Council Dictionary of Colours for Interior Decoration.
PR: Paint Range Colours Illustrated in British Colour Council Interior Decoration Colour News No. 13.
See also H. C. Weston. “Brightness, Well-being and Work”. British Journal of Industrial Medicine 1944;1:180-196.
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