How to Use the Psychology of Light and Lighting to Boost Your Creativity

Light does more than simply help us see—it also helps us think

Donald M. Rattner, Architect

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Photo: Imgur.com

In part one of this series, I described how research in the field of environmental psychology has afforded us new insights into the relationship between the built environment and creative thinking. Among those insights is that we can improve our ability to generate novel and useful solutions to creative problems by shaping our surroundings in line with scientific findings.

My focus in the first piece was on a body of work linking perceptions of distance to heightened creativity. I want to turn next to the subject of light, another facet of space design that scientists and design professionals have been studying for its effects on cognitive processing, as well as on our physical and mental health. My goals and methods in this article remain the same: to share techniques for maximizing creative productivity in physical space by drawing on experimental data, field studies, and the practices of eminent creatives from past and present.

Circadian Rhythm

Central to any discussion of light is the circadian rhythm. A mashup of the Latin words for “approximately” (circa) and “day” (diem), the term refers to the roughly 24-hour period it takes the earth to revolve once around its axis.

Illustration: TheUtopianLife.com

One obvious manifestation of this perpetual cycle is the evolving condition of the sun. At dawn, it is low on the horizon, moderate in intensity, and amber in color. By morning, the sun is on its upward trajectory, gaining brilliance, and the light becoming cooler in hue as the day wears on. That pattern is reversed after peaking at midday, until it finally disappears in a warm and sometimes even fiery blaze at nightfall.

Photo: iStockphoto.com

Many aspects of human physiology are biologically pegged to this period, most noticeably the internal clock that controls our sleep-wake…

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Donald M. Rattner, Architect

Author of MY CREATIVE SPACE: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation, 48 Science-based Techniques. Get it on Amazon amzn.to/2WfABoB