How do psychological factors affect façade design?

Take a look around our towns and cities and you’ll see an endless variety of seemingly random shapes, colours and textures in façade design.

In a nutshell: 

  • The design of architectural façades can influence how people react to a building
  • Colours, shapes and patterns in façades can all have a strong psychological effect
  • Façade specialists have a key role to play in helping architects achieve the desired design intent and sub-conscious human reaction
  • It’s especially important to think about how different colours and design will make people feel in places such as hospitals, offices, schools and car parks
  • Leading façade specialists will collaborate on projects from Day One, and join in conversations around the psychology of design

You might think that the patterns on architectural façades or the increasing use of 3D panels are simply the result of the designer’s imagination. Or that colours are chosen to match a client’s branding, or to help new buildings blend in with old.

That can often be the case. However, did you know that the design of façades can influence how people react to a building? And that colour can have a big effect on our mental and emotional state, and on our feeling of wellbeing?

What does this mean for the façade design process?

Façade specialists are being asked to support architects and main contractors with a mind-boggling range of textural finishes and colours for rainscreen cladding, brise soleil and architectural façade.

As well providing advice on powder-coating in RAL colours, anodising and specialist wood-effect coatings, specialists need to help clients explore the design possibilities of aluminium, coloured glass, terracotta tiles and weathered timber.

In fact, rather than simply supplying-to-order, the leading façade specialists are collaborating on projects from Day One, and joining in conversations around the psychology of design.

What is the psychology of façade design?

This is a complex subject, so let’s cover the basics. Whether you’re installing rainscreen cladding or an architectural façade for a city office block, multi-storey car park, hospital or school, it is important to thing about how the colour or design will make people feel.

For example, a random pattern of laser-cut panels or multiple colours can look great but (as well as often costing more than repeating patterns) may have a negative, sub-conscious effect on a human brain that prefers consistency and organisation to chaos or unpredictability.

When it comes to colour, blues inspire a feeling of confidence and security, making them ideal for company HQs and banks. Red gets people excited and energised – great for shops and fast-food outlets, but not so good for hospitals. Orange is linked to enthusiasm and creativity (so is often found on schools), green has a calming effect, yellow is cheerful – while there are buildings that call for more sombre greys.

What does this mean in the real world?

One of the biggest areas to embrace the psychological effects of colour and texture is the design of multi-storey car parks. Back in the 1960s, car parks were grey structures of concrete and steel – today they are important urban landmarks.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, cars get such bad press in our cities these days that urban planners require car parks that help the public forget (sub-consciously at least) that they’re designed for cars.

Secondly, they’re designed to evoke certain emotions among drivers. A red façade may seem a bad choice for a car park but it’s perfect when joined to an exciting music venue, such as Hull Arena. Hospital car park façades tend to be created in soft tones, like the Maple project at Addenbrooke’s, while a sparkling silver façade may be just what you want for an up-market shopping centre, such as the Victoria Gate car park in Leeds.

What next?

It’s important to engage with a façade company that understands the basics of psychology in design – as well as having the technical expertise to achieve the overall design intent.

Submit new questions 

Would you like to see your questions answered? Submit them to us and we'll let you know when we've found the answer. 

Submit questions