How Your Environment Helps Your Creativity

There is a great scene that I love, at the beginning of the movie, Joe Versus the Volcano. It begins with the main character Joe Banks (played by Tom hanks), trudging from the parking lot, to his job with a horde of coworkers, in a dazed and zombie-like state.
When he arrives at the building, and they cut to the interior, it is a dreary, monotone colored dystopian setting. He goes to hang his hat on the coat rack, which proceeds to break, and he dully stares down at his head wear now sitting on the ground.
Next Joe trudges back to his desk, and looking up the strobing fluorescent light bulbs overhead seems to nearly cause him to go into convulsions.

I don’t know why, but that scene has always stuck with me as the epitome of a life-leeching, drudgery induced work place. Fortunately most of us will never have to experience anything quite so dramatic, but I think we’ve all been stuck in situations where we can empathize with poor Joe and his horrendous working conditions. Suffice to say, there is no creativity going on in that office.

We are products of our environment. If we work in one that has plenty of light (preferably natural light!), interesting and inspiring visuals and generally fosters creativity and productivity, we flourish as creatives. But stick us in a Joe Banks style office and you can watch the imagination wither.

Even the colors of your office wall can have an impact on your creative process. In a 2009 study by the University of British Columbia, they found that red is the most effective at enhancing our attention to detail, while blue is best at boosting our ability to think creatively. Through a lifetime of examples like stop signs, emergency vehicles and teachers red pens, we’ve come to associate red with danger, and so makes us more vigilant and able to focus on tasks. Blue on the other hand is linked with the sky and oceans, which causes many of us to relate to openness and tranquility.

Another study focused on artificial light vs natural light, and found that not only are we less sleepy when cooped up in side with a good dose of natural light, but our cortisol levels drop when under artificial lighting. Meaning we are also more stressed and have a decreased ability to stabilize our energy levels. The level of lighting also seems to have an effect. Being exposed to dim light as well as too much artificial light makes us both sleepy and more stressed in the long run.