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Step 10: Embrace color

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      In my article, “10 Steps to a Better Library Interior,” published in the Library Journal Library by Design Supplement, I outline several tips on how to improve a customer’s experience in your library building without spending money on a major renovation. I have had many follow-up requests for more information, so I have decided to offer a deeper discussion on each step in this blog series.

      Color permeates our culture on so many levels and in so many ways—in fashion, product design, interior design, and even the food we like. Fields of study are dedicated to the psychology of color and its affects on physiology, our ability to concentrate, and our memory. Color profoundly influences our attitudes and behavior. Designers in all fields forecast color trends. These trends influence everything from the products we buy to the clothes we wear and are linked to such things as the economy and overall mood of a nation.

      Librarians often have a love/hate relationship with color in their building interiors. They recognize its importance but struggle to apply it in a pleasing way. Strategic use of color can direct attention toward an asset and away from a liability. Color can help give boundaries to a space. Color can signal how to behave. It can add warmth, liveliness, or gravity. And especially when applied through paint, color is easy and inexpensive to change, so you can refresh your library interior over time.

      Successful use of color requires being mindful of context and contrast. Keep in mind the inherent assets in your building, your customer base, and your goals. For example, your library interior’s best asset may be windows that reveal a lovely view. The goal would be to enhance enjoyment of that view rather than detract from it. A common misstep with windows is creating high contrast through the application of color. A dark color might be applied to the adjacent walls to call attention to the view, when in actuality the contrast between a bright window and dark adjacent surface detracts from the view. Our eyes must constantly adjust between the dark wall and the bright window, which tires them and diminishes appreciation of the view. Another common misstep is to use too many disparate colors in a space without regard for context (e.g., scale of space or competing visual aspects), resulting in a disjointed appearance. As good writing gains clarity through editing, so too does use of color.

      Thank you for your interest in this blog series, “10 Steps to a Better Library Interior.” If you have questions, feel free to contact me for more information.—Traci Engel Lesneski

    • no signs announce the children’s area of the Maple Grove Library, but vibrant color acts as a cue and draws the eye to that area even from the entry
    • simple use of color can direct attention to amenities, such as the enclosed study room in the small Newburg Branch of Louisville Free Public Library
    • About the Author

      Traci Engel Lesneski

      • Interior Designer / Principal
      • traci@msrdesign.com
      • 612 991 7764
      • View Bio