meeting room in office building

In general, human beings tend to know what things they like and what they don’t If you don’t like a certain colour, you won’t wear it. If you don’t like a genre of music, you can avoid listening to it. Architecture, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to avoid. Architectural elements have lasting effects on people that go in and out of buildings each day, which last for years.

Interior design can have an even more profound effect on people as we spend more and more time indoors. With the Covid-19 pandemic keeping us inside and people working inside on computers, these effects are magnified. So how does interior design affect our psychology and how do businesses use this tactic to manipulate our behaviour?

What is interior design?

Interior design is simply the process of designing the interior decoration of a room or building. Interior designers use space, lighting, colour, room layout, and materials to achieve the desired effect. The art and science of interior design mainly aim to enhance the interior of a building to achieve a healthier and more pleasant environment for customers, clients, and employees.

It’s all about aesthetics and it has a huge impact on our behaviour and overall feeling in a space. The interesting part is most people don’t even notice or give a second thought to it. It’s an art form that influences us everywhere we go, and we barely have any idea that it’s happening. The science of interior design, however, can be used to manipulate our behaviour too. This is where the dark side of interior design comes in.

How the elements of interior design affect our behaviour

The effects of interior design on our mental state and behaviour are nothing new. They’re actually well-documented with recent psychological case studies proving this fact.

According to Chloe Taylor in Psychology Tomorrow magazine, “Although the bond between interior design and our emotions has gained much attention in the last decade, this form of environmental psychology exists for thousands of years now…[these findings] have shown the ability of interior design elements to evoke a positive or negative emotional response in people”.

Lighting and colour

We’ve all seen the movie trope with the newlywed couple fighting about what colour to paint the bedroom wall. The fact is that colour and lighting play a very important part in the design and also how customers behave.

Take a look at a well-known burger joint with golden arches. You can walk into any one of them around the world and the lights are bright, the colour scheme is the same and you immediately feel comfortable and know exactly where you are. It’s friendly and familiar, and that’s by design. It’s also not a particularly comfortable place to sit for long and after you eat, you immediately leave.

Now think of your favourite fancy steakhouse. Chances are, the lights are dimmed, the seats are dark black or brown leather, and everything is draped in a darker palette. It’s exactly what you would expect for a lounge.

These design choices are all intentional. The garish colours of the golden arches are to entice a certain type of customer, get them to eat, and then leave. The steakhouse’s darker colour and lighting choices are designed to keep customers relaxed and stay for longer. After all, the majority of dine-in restaurants make profits on alcohol sales over the actual food, and when customers are comfy that extra bottle of wine starts to sound good.

Casinos and supermarkets

interior of supermarket

What do casinos and supermarkets have to do with one another? A lot, actually. The fundamental design of casinos is geared towards drawing people in and keeping them there.

So, how do they do it?

Casinos employ a variety of tactics to lure in players and keep them playing for as long as possible. Colourful, busy-patterned carpets and ceilings draw the human eye toward the games and tables. Flashing lights and exciting sounds get our attention and entice us in.

Windowless spaces give a sense of timelessness that tricks the mind into not knowing how much time has passed or even what time of day/night it is.

Supermarkets have used similar tactics for years: bright lighting to give people energy, no windows to make customers lose track of time, a maze-like layout with necessities tucked in the very back of the store – the list goes on.

UX (user experience) designers are paid a fortune to do the same for online casinos. The design of these sites is well thought out and tested to have maximum effect in getting gamblers to play.

The bottom line

What it really comes down to is that the dark side of interior design is all about a business’s bottom line. If people feel comfortable in a space, they’ll stay longer. If they stay longer, they’ll spend more money. The influential role of customer comfort level also plays a part in whether or not they return.

When the aesthetics of a business’s space can keep patrons shopping or playing longer, it significantly increases a company’s bottom line. As a result, it’s not hard to see why companies invest so heavily in interior design and count on the psychological manipulation it entails.


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