Psychology Of Elements Interior Design Cultural Studies Essay

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Ultimately the decision making process of a person falls down to the subjective reality formed from sensory data. All organisms are instinctively hardwired to respond to certain sensory signals. Through manipulation of such signals, the shopping mall design could then tap into the thought process of its pedestrians and be a puppeteer of the visitor's mood and desires. Hence , weakening the inhibitions(intellect) of the visitors and finally convincing their brain to commit to an action the shopping centre desired- to consume. [1] 

This section shall investigate how is such a principle put in practice in Elements with respect to aforementioned strategies.

Color Psychology and Theory in Practice

Pablo Picasso

"Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions. "

Color should be utilized as such it properly complements the central design philosophy and in the case of Shopping Mall designs. It should be designed as such it compels the pedestrian to consume.

A studied carried out by NeuroImage found that attention is captured subconsciously before people can consciously attend to something. Researchers looking at electroencephalography (EEGs) while people made decisions on color preference found brain activation when a favorite color is present prior to the participants' conscious focus.

As the test subjects are presented with a lexicon of colors ,the spike in brain activity is the most profound for their favorite colors or color that stands up from the ambient background. Such findings implies that strategic color placements on products can effectively seize pedestrian attention, before the person willingly looking at the product. [2] 

Thus effectively intercepting the consumption decision even before the pedestrian acknowledge of its existence.

Color conveys meanings in two primary ways - natural associations and psychological symbolism. For example, a soft shade of blue triggers associations with the sky and a psychological sense of calm.

Successful design requires an awareness of how and why colors communicate meaning. The source of these meanings can be quite conspicuous, such as those found in nature - red is the color of blazing fire and blood, blue the color of cooling waters and the sky. Other meanings may be more complex and not universal.

As a starting point, the communicative properties of a color can be defined by two categories: natural associations and psychological (or cultural) associations.

Occurrence of colors in nature are timeless and universal. fedex-2.jpg

For instance:

Green represents the color of vegetation and earthliness.

Blue represents the color of the sky and ocean.

Vibrant colors such as orange and red also carries strain of subliminal meanings to energy and speed.

FedEx's two different color schemes are the best examples of the "universal" symbolism of colors. Green communicates ground services; orange communicates the high energy and speed of air transportation.

For venues with a demographic of a wide spectrum of ethnicity and cultural background (e.g.: A shopping mall),colors that involves instinctive psychological response are preferred to colors with cultural association which may not provoke the desired response.

Colors with psychological association arises from cultural and contemporary contexts. As such, it is not universal and may be unrelated to its natural associations.

For example, green's associations with nature communicate growth, fruitfulness, freshness and ecology. On the other hand, green may also be symbolic of good luck, seasickness, money and greed - all of which have nothing to do with green plants. These associations arise from a complex assortment of sources.

Furthermore, color may have both positive and negative symbolism. For example, although blue is the beautiful color of the sky on a sunny day, it can be symbolic of sadness or stability. Idiomatic American English reflects these traits in phrases such as "singing the blues" and "blue chip stocks." Red is another example of dual symbolism. On one hand, as the color of fire and blood, it is an energizing, aggressive and bold color. In direct contrast, red is used for "STOP" signs throughout the world today.

Nevertheless , due to the immense variations in different cultures this report will not delve deep into the cultural implications of color utilization , instead the instinctive response to colors would be the main focus.

Function of Colors

Color must function successfully on several levels simultaneously.

First, on a technical level, the colors must be as accurate as the existing technology will allow, while, at the same time, heeding the rules of optics and lighting as in accordance to the lighting spectrum.

Second, once a set of colors has caught and held the visitor's attention they must succeed in conveying appropriate information.

Third, colors must function competently as the primary structural element in the store's design - the shopping centre layout. In this capacity, color must create appropriate spatial and navigational effects on the mall as a whole.

Fourth, as the primary aesthetic tool, colors must create a sense of visual harmony, thus sustaining and enhancing the customers interest in the shopping experience.

Color of the Elements

Dominant Color:

As The Elements is a shopping mall with a clear distinction between each sectors and each of its core focus. Each of the sectors will be analyzed separately in relation to their intended use.

Notwithstanding, each of the sectors do bear a common feature - A heavy emphasis on neutral colors .

Neutral color by technical definition consists of white, gray and black but in decorating, neutral colors have a wider definition and encompass a large range of colors. Such as tan, amber , sand and titanium. In decorating, grays and blacks have either warm or cool undertones and typically fall into one of the two categories above. Neutral colors as the name suggests are neutral and thus will match almost any color. When compared with vibrant colors such as red , blue and green. Their psychological effects are significantly weaker .Howbeit , they do have their place in the playing field. For instance , white emphasizes purity and innocence. However, overuse of the white color will give a sense of monotony and dampens the indefatigability of the pedestrians. Hence was careful as to splice in more electrifying colors as necessary.


Focus of the Zone

Entertainment and Excitement

Desired Color combination effect

Raise energy level ,

Provoke social interaction

Color Palette in decor design

Warm Colors surrounding the Red Spectrum


In chromotherapy ,Red is associated with passion and energy, as well as being a bit racy.

Biologically , the color red triggers our dopamine release mechanism while suppressing our serotonin release. Its usage also has a direct positive correlation between the color and blood pressure and heart rate .Which in turns helps to increase the observer's strength and agility .Moreover it is also a color known for stimulating appetites and conversation.

Such an effect on the pedestrians will aid in their experience at the main attraction of the shopping centre - i.e.: the ice rink and the cinema. As a major social venues , the biological boost should in theory improve their experience and in turns produce a positive feedback cycle whenever the pedestrians thought of the Elements again. Referring back to the Decision Making Model (fig.1) , this would then become an imprint on the "Thoughts" of the individual , automatically linking the Elements with positivity and satisfaction. Therefore increasing the likelihood for consumption within the premises of The Elements.

However , it should be noted that there are complications with the liberal usage of the color red.

For tasks that requires precise motor skills and mental clarity (i.e.: Deciding whether or not to make a purchase) , exposure to the color has been proven to be counterproductive .Such a biological phenomenon has been put to use by the architects of The Elements. As the inhibition of the consumers decrease the tendency of pedestrians engaging in impulse based purchases increases exponentially , and thus most of the upper-middle class luxury goods vendors (e.g.: Prince Jewellery and Pearls , GODIVA Chocolatier) are located in close proximity to the fire-themed decors.


Focus of the Zone

International Cuisine and Modern Fashion

Desired Color combination effect

Entice Appetite

Association with trendiness

Color Palette in decor design


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As true to the elements water , the color cyan is used extensively throughout the sector .

Blue is the favorite color of all people regardless of ethnicity and cultural background.

Attempting to explain such a phenomenon .On a pure evolutionary standpoint ,it is found that blue is rarely seen on edible vegetables and fruits. The presence of the color blue is usually a tell tale sign of an item's poisonous or spoiled nature. Some weight loss plans even recommend eating your food off of a blue plate. The scientific reason of why the color blue is preferred remains as a mystery until today. However ,its cultural association and psychological effects on one's behavior is well understood. Blue has one of the most diverse meanings of any other color.

Dark blue: trust, dignity, intelligence, authority

Bright blue: cleanliness, strength, dependability, coolness

Light blue: peace, serenity, ethereal, spiritual, infinity

In The Element's case , the color blue is used to portrays a sense of tranquility ,order and quality. With the dominant color band inclining towards the light blue spectrum. As a zone with bountiful number of sitting areas and small cafes. It can be seen that the architect intended this section of the mall as a resting place for the shoppers. A place where the pedestrians can slow down their pace within the mall and relax .

There are 2 sides to this color scheme selection.

By making the water zone a comparatively more pleasant zone to be , pedestrians will tend to linger within the perimeters. Coupled by the cultural association with trustworthiness shoppers would be trusting towards vendors' advice and more vulnerable to their sales tactics. Hence fulfilling the purpose of facilitating trade between the

However as previously stated the color blue .The color blue abrogate sensations of hunger and appetite. Thus , the placement of restaurants such as Boulangerie Bo-Lo`GNE and lppei-an Higomonzu(RAMEN & KUSHIYAKI) is rather ill-advised .

As according to Gary Blumenthal of International Food Strategies

"Color and the appeal of various foods is also closely related. Just the sight of food fires neurons in the hypothalamus. Subjects presented food to eat in the dark reported a critically missing element for enjoying any cuisine: the appearance of food. For the sighted, the eyes are the first place that must be convinced before a food is even tried. This means that some food products fail in the marketplace not because of bad taste, texture, or smell but because the consumer never got that far. Colors are significant and almost universally it is difficult to get a consumer to try a blue-colored food -- though more are being marketed for children these days. Greens, browns, reds, and several other colors are more generally acceptable......."58_photo.jpg

Nonetheless , such an effect is also acknowledged by the architects of The Elements. Consequently , most of the blue decors are situated on the ceiling and indented false ceilings which would normally fall outside the peripheral vision of the shoppers. Making the naming of "Water Zone" more of a nominal effect than actual practice.


Focus of the Zone

Health and Beauty Boutiques

Wellbeing Lifestyle Stores

Desired Color combination effect

Conveyance of

environmental friendliness

Color Palette in decor design


The Wood zone is the home to one of the largest anchor tenants in the sector -ThreeSixty, Hong Kong's Largest Organic & Natural Foods Store.885728_10151518285168738_637819126_o.jpg

As a natural color that is common to the ancestral habitat of humans The brown palette provoke instinctive association of home and security. By incorporating greenery into the scenery ,a tandem usage of brown and green effectively conveys the concept of recycling or earth-friendly products to the zone's visitors.

Coupled by the inherent cultural association of warmth ,wholesomeness and earthiness , such a combination successfully transmitted the proper regional information, constructed a visually harmonious set piece for the pedestrians .All in all enhancing the shopping experience of those around.

While conventional wisdom dictates that usage of brown in a shopping mall is considered to be rather dull, in The Element's case it is used to represents steadfastness, simplicity, dependability, and health. Moreover when we take into account of the usage of tan, taupe, beige, and cream into the ambient color ,the dulling is dramatically reduced .Generating a considerably richer and brighter background.

Although it may not necessarily lead to a heightened state of desire for the aforementioned products , it does gives those who enters a clear idea of what is offered in the zone.


Focus of the Zone

Upper-class Fashion and Jewellery

Desired Color combination effect

Conveyance of Nobility and Prestige

Color Palette in decor design

Precious Metal and Gems

Metal zone as compared to other sectors of the mall focuses on a much narrower scope of shop varieties. Metal zone stands as the singularity of luxury brands such as BVLGARI, Cartier, CHAUMET, DAMIANI, GUCCI,HERMÈS and Prada.

For a zone with such an emphasis on European luxury , due to a lack of natural comparison, the architect would then be forced unto relying on non-evolution based cultural associations of precious metals and wealth.


On the contrary to other zones which aims to beguile loiterers and window shopper into a purchase. Shoppers who intentionally approaches the metal zone generally are ready to make a purchase and have a strong sense of brand loyalty. Thus the main focus on the color selection would be on the atmosphere buildup.

For the metallic colors , namely platinum and gold . Both of them conveys a sense of earthy, naturality or sleekness and elegance. They symbolizes riches, and wealth. The architect was careful on his usage of the color gold to prevent adulterating the scene from royalty to vulgarity.

Yet, due to the lighting's inclination towards the golden yellow spectrum , the reflective properties of the materials in question ,the color gold ended up pooling within the peripheral vision of the visitors. While to some visitors , such a strategy does adhere nicely to the Chinese idiom of黃金滿屋 ,it could come as boorish to the average men.


Focus of the Zone

Trendy World Fashion

Gadgets and Male-targeted perishables

Desired Color combination effect

Conveyance of Masculinity and modernity

Color Palette in decor design

Amber and Cream

Earth houses trendy world fashions in an ultimate garden setting. On ELEMENTS' Men's Street, vendors of lifestyle accessories from coffee to cigars to audio-visual technology are all clustered within a central region that would be easily visual cone of those who approaches.

Although the kneejerk reaction towards such a theme would be to use brown . However ,the instinctive response may not be the one that is most appropriate. Instead , the architect has used warm buttery colors such as amber and occasionally ebony. These colors are radiant and cozy. Because warm colors seem to advance, they make small rooms appear smaller and large rooms more intimate.

On the contrary to the cooler white of the other zones . The white is Earth tends to be warmer. White has long signified purity and cleanliness, and this color still gives off these vibes today. Soft, warm whites, which will have a more yellow undertone, tend to be more relaxing than cooler whites, which will have a blue undertone. White can calm a busy space or room and give visual "breaks" in the eye, creating a sense of rest.

When we considering the goods on offer within the sector such as those of Pandora , Broadway , HUGO Boss , TOUS and more. The price range of the goods on offered tends toward the upper medium. Generally speaking ,people wouldn't actively walk into such shops to browse but instead already have a goal in mind. However , by raising the intimacy and coziness of the zone . It compels people to linger within the zone . Not just visually but as also olfactorily due to the strategic placement of coffee shops within the sector , radiating a strong aroma of freshly brewed coffee to all corners of the zone.

The main purpose of such a placement is not to arouse but to soothe . A comfortable and relaxed consumer is a consumer ready to make a purchase. Thus effectively raising the desire of consumption for the pedestrians.

Reference :

Gruen Transfer

The Gruen Transfer is a psychological phenomenon which strikes people in certain environments, making them more susceptible to making impulse buys or purchases which they might regret later.

The classic signs that someone is experiencing Gruen Transfer are a dropped jaw, slightly glazed eyes, and a hazy, confused feeling; many people also begin to walk more slowly as this peculiar mental state sets in. Some psychologists have described the Gruen Transfer as an almost paralytic state, where the mind ceases to function because it is experiencing too much input.

Modern mall and store designers are well aware of the Gruen Transfer, and they deliberately create spaces which are designed to trigger this mental state, as many visitors to malls have noticed. Many malls are deliberately very difficult to navigate, with exits and routes obfuscated so that consumers often wind up back in a store when they mean to be leaving. Individual stores also have layouts which promote longer stays, and arrange enticing items very deliberately so that people are urged to pick them up on impulse.

As the Gruen transfer is incorporated as a general design philosophy instead of a part by part basis . 3 notable examples has been chosen to illustrate how this is put in practice.


The mall circular layout

Crisscrossing elevators

Central Attractions Exhibitions

Protruding exhibits

Wood zone: wood sculptures and seats, restaurants used wood as main style.

Green area for amusement facilities.

Fire zone: flaming red wall, large glass curtain wall and French windows for the customers inside can enjoy the scenes of Western Kowloon Cultural District and Victoria Harbor.

Water zone: There are 10 metallic water pipe located in the courtyard of the zone and spray water continuously. It becomes a featured spot in where lots of visitors take photos of.

Earth zone: Mainly male orientated zone