Analysis of Colours and Human Response Towards User Dining Experiences

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Chapter 1.0 Introduction


1.1 What is Colour?

We all live in a world where colour plays an important role in our everyday life. Colour affects us in every aspect of life. Everything we can see has a colour. Colour surrounds us, in our homes, work, in nature, in space; it is universal were everything has a colour. Colour, or the concept of colour, can be approached from different disciplines and different perspectives as we see because it is very diverse such as from knowing that a fruit is ripe to eat, to understanding how colour can affect our moods and how does the recipient actually response to it. Colour is the property possessed by an object, space, or surfaces that produces different sensations on the eye as a result of the way the object reflects or emits light and how does the eye recognizes while the brain interprets. (

Colour is simply light of different wavelengths and frequencies and light is just one form of energy that we can actually see that is made up from photons surrounded by electromagnetic waves of energy of which colour is just a small part. Each colour has its own properties with its own wavelength and frequency that forms the visible spectrum of colour as we see it, which consist of seven main colours: violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. The retinas in our eyes have 3 types of colour receptors in the form of cones. We can actually only detect three of these visible colours – red – blue and green. These colours are called additive primaries. It is our brains that interprets and mixed the three detected additive primaries: red, blue and green to create all of the other colours we see.

The wavelength and frequency of light we see, also influences the colour we see. Colour is made up of different wavelength and frequencies with each colour has its own particularly wavelength and frequency. Each colour can be measured in units of cycles or waves per second. The seven colours of the spectrum all have varying wavelength and frequencies resulting different interpretation by the brain affects the way human response towards colours such as, red is at the lower end of the spectrum and has a higher wavelength but lower frequency to that of Violet at the top end of the spectrum which has a lower wavelength and higher frequency.

Hypothesis 1 : Different types of colour used will affect the consumer’s perception and level of satisfaction in modern kopitiam.

Hypothesis 2 : Different types of colour used will affect the consumer’s behavior in modern kopitiam?

1.2 What Is Colour Psychology? How Does it Affect Human Response?

Since colour is part of our everyday life it is also a part of many sciences --- for example, physics, colour theory, and art as it can be introduced in various ways. The artist’s approach to colour might be different from the physicist’s or the psychologist’s --- although the artist is closer to the psychologist than he thinks. I would like to introduce colour to you from the view point of psychology. (Mahnke 1996,p6)The psychologist Ulrich Beer wrote:

Seldom, surely, is the psychological part of an appearance in nature so great as it is in the case of colour. No one can encounter it and stay neutral. We are immediately, instinctively, and emotionally moved. We have sympathy or antipathy, pleasure or disapproval within us as soon as we perceive colours. ( Beer 1992,p11)

Beer has concluded that primary psychological reaction we humans have toward colour. Which psychology is the science that deals with the mind, with mental and emotional processes, with special reference to behavior, provided it is understood that behavior includes thoughts, feelings, and dreams --- anything a person experiences. These experiences have their roots in conscious, subconscious, and unconscious processes.

Colour is also a part of the conscious, subconscious, and an experience that is integral to human behavior as we all know colour is widely known that colour has a very real effect on people. The right or wrong choice of colour can make a big difference to the success of your business and the messages that you are trying to convey to your prospective clients or customers. While the usage of colour in different occasion resulting different outcome towards the occupant that occupies it. For example what types of colour to use for kopitiams décor or furniture to help increase customer’s satisfaction and dining experience? The pilot of this paper is to study how does colour interplay between human response in a modern kopitiam to what extent does the colour used in a space affect the way the occupant feel because colour has an effect on our mind, body and emotions. It affects our mood and can influence our behaviors and our physical and mental well-being as it usually happens subconsciously without us noticing.

Chapter 2.0 Defining/Justification of Research

2.1 Define What is Kopitiam? What is Modern Kopitiam?

2.1.1 History

A kopitiam is a traditional coffee shop found in the Southeast Asia, mainly serving meals and beverages. The word kopi is a Malay term for coffee and tiam is the Hokkien term for shop. A traditional kopitiam can be found vastly in Malaysia, as it is in Singapore, kopitiams are normally found in almost all residential areas as well as some industrial and business districts in the country. Although most are an aggregate of small stalls or shops, some may be reminiscent of food courts, but nonetheless each stall has similar appearance and the same style of signage. These shops are steeped in tradition and nostalgic memories of a bygone age.

Each shop has its own unique flavor and personality, but there are certain similarities shared by most. The atmosphere in a kopitiam is uniquely Malaysian, meaning that it blends several different cultures. One similarity is the kopitiam table and chairs. In general, the tables are marble topped and the chairs are made up of wood with round backs. There are other common features of décor that identify this particular type of coffee shop, even to someone who has never been inside.

The Menu

The Kopitiam’s menus typically feature simple food offerings: a variety of foods based on egg, toast, and kaya, plus hot beverages such as coffee and tea. Food served encompasses Malay, Chinese and Indian culture and are prepared in the traditional way to ensure authenticity and taste. Aside from the popular toast and hot beverages, patrons can savour specialties and local delights such as chau kuey tiao, curry laksa, nasi lemak, Kopitiam foods have become a part of Malaysia’s culinary heritage, gastronomic bastions proudly weathering the years and changing lifestyles. Visit these old favourites not just for their culinary offerings, but also for the history that each serves up.

2.1.2 Development of Kopitiams

Traditional Kopitiams

The developments of kopitiams are in many ways closely related to the Hainanese migrants. The early Hainanese migrants who came to South East Asia in 1850’s as late migrants, the Hainanese were forced to find employment in less lucrative trades. During that period of time when the Hainanese migrants arrived, the Hokkiens and Teochews, for instance were already well entrenched in agriculture and commerce trade. Therefore, the Hainanese crafted a niche for themselves in the service sector, by working as cook boys, waiters or servants in the local hotels, restaurants, bakeries and bars and as cooks or domestic servants for the wealthy European and Peranakan households. At some point, some of them even work as canteen operators in the military base. While some the Hainanese migrants became involve in the kopitiam or ‘coffee shop’ business as stall holders or assistants. In fact, the Hainanese community has been credited with introducing the kopitiam culture into Malaysia.

Many old Hainanese kopitiam operators recalled that in its olden days during the 1950s to 1970s kopitiams were very popular and caters to almost everyone around Malaysia but as time goes by there is a steady decline in the number of old fashion traditional kopitiams in Malaysia during the year of 1980s onwards. For many old fashion kopitiam owners, their craft ends the moment they retire because a lot of them, their kids have been educated and are not willing to carry on the family business and also because of the declining rate of people visiting traditional kopitiams nowadays as the economy of our country gets better more and more shopping malls were built and a lot of the younger generations no longer willing to visit the traditional kopitiam because a lot of the existing kopitiam still uses the very traditional method of running it, resulting poor maintenance in some kopitiam that turns off customers who visits especially the younger generations. ( )

New Age Kopitiams

The popularity of the old-fashioned outlets along with society's obsession with nostalgia and increasing affluence has led to the revival of these pseudo-kopitiams as we called modern kopitiam. The revival of the traditional culture started in the early 2000’s with the introduction of new age kopitiams.

The revival of the old kopitiam culture started in the early 2000s with the introduction of new age kopitiams. The new kopitiams are fast-food outlets which are reminiscent of the old kopitiams in terms of decor, but are usually built in a more modern, hygienic setting such as a shopping mall rather than in the traditional shop house, catering mainly for young adults. Modern kopitiams have retained the old-fashioned marble-topped tables, wooden chairs and chunky crockery, but now they are to be found in the cavernous air-conditioned shopping malls. City-dwellers are rediscovering kopitiam fare.

Generally, aside from the popular local food, the new age kopitiams have a more extensive menu which includes a variety of western cuisine entries. The new age kopitiam is a place where they serves the nostalgic food and drinks that we all still so fond of in a place that exudes the theme of the old-styled coffee shops while adding some new twists of some comfortable sofas and air conditioned area and still manage to keep the price right in between the local kopitiam and the coffee giants.

The idea hit it off immediately and now you can see these new age kopitiam spreading like wild fire through the power of franchising. The kopitiam whirl wind swept Malaysia since the middle of last decade and currently kopitiams have ventured overseas into China and Indonesia.

This is how the evolution of the kopi culture in Malaysia is, from the long standing yesteryears of kopitiam that our grandparents and their parents used to enjoy, though now dwindling down from its previous glories, to the coffee giants invasion to Malaysia where loads of youth couldn’t resist, and now to the new age kopitiam that is truly Malaysian.

These newer shops advertise and use modern marketing practices as well. However, they strive to create an atmosphere similar to that of a traditional shop.

2.2 Literature Review

2.2.1 Factors of Visual Impact Towards Our Site in Malaysian Context.

Food and drinks plays an important role in every day’s life and it could be found ubiquitously after the post-industrialisation era by the booming economy. Since then, a lot of eating place could be found in Malaysia that offers food and drink to the community around. Due to the economic conditions were improved in Malaysia more and more of people tends to dine out as consumers are experiencing time-stressed lifestyles in the favour of dining out instead of eating in which causes a lack of time or energy to prepare breakfast, lunch or even dinner with the rapid urbanization structure that is happening in Malaysia. Since then, consumer motives of consumption had shifted from meeting our basic nutritional needs to a more pleasurable experience such as modern kopitiam which had evolve from the very traditional kopitiam we had over the traditional shophouses back days in Malaysia. The development of atmospheric eating-places has gained more interest among kopitiam owner to attract customers who seek exceptional and extraordinary places for leisure. This report concluded consumer’s perceptions of the environments that interplay between humans and their surroundings to achieve a total responsive interiors colour effect.

Food and colours are often perceived together with visual cues as colour is not a property object, spaces, or surfaces; it is a sensation caused by different wavelength received by our eyes. Therefore, colour is a wavelength of light that an object either generates or reflects. Schaie and Heiss note that short-wavelength colours, what we commonly call the warm colours (red,orange, and yellow), are highly arousing (although not necessarily pleasing) even across different age groups and cultures. While longer wavelength colours (blues and greens)have a calming relaxing effect. These so called cool colours have been identified as the most pleasant to the majority of people, whereas yellow, although arousing, is the least favoured colour, especially when it has a greenish tint. The effect of colour response towards consumers behavioral in modern kopitiam is the major element explored in this paper and this leads to questions on how this element supports consumer’s dining experience and to study the theory of colour expression how does it relates of different colours being used in the interior space affect the diner’s behavior through psychological manifestations like eating behavior and subjective experiences beside other more physical responses.


There are many reasons why things are the colour they are, but mainly it is due to the absorption and the scattering properties of the material being different from that of the incoming wavelengths of the light that illuminate it.

As a further example: we see green leaves or grass as being green because leaves and grass (and other green plants) use Chlorophyll to change light into energy.

Because of its nature and chemical makeup, Chlorophyll absorbs the blue and red colours of the spectrum and reflects the green. The green is reflected back out to the viewer making the grass and leaves appear green.

Following on briefly to how we see colour... the rods and cones of the eye pick up on the particular wavelength and frequency of green and send the message to the brain. Similarly a ripe tomato is red because it reflects rays from the red end of the spectrum and absorbs rays from the blue end.