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How good design can change your mood

Jul 24, 2017

Lit Ceiling

Bad design can be anxiety-inducing.

Meanwhile, good design has the power to calm our nerves, improve our focus, and even make us happier. It might sound a little new age-y at first, but the science has shown that small tweaks to our environments can have a major impact on our behaviour. Think about it: we’d all drive more comfortably and confidently in a sleek modern compact than inside a broken down ‘73 station wagon.

Corolla iM Hatchback in Blue

“Every single person who’s aware of their emotions has a response to their environment,” says Jane Lockhart, a Toronto-based design expert and TV personality. “I tend to hear an immediate ‘I hate this’ or ‘I love that’ reaction from clients, but after I spend a little more time with them, I start to hear what that response really means.” According to Lockhart, it’s usually anxiety.

The average person spends 4.3 years behind the wheel during their lifetime, so it’s important to find a car that actually reduces the amount of stress in your life. Here’s what to look for:

Colour

Lit Walkway

Does orange get you energized? Feel extra competent when you head to work a navy suit? You’re far from alone. “People may struggle to articulate their feelings,” says Lockhart, “but everyone can quickly emote about colour.”

Black, white, and silver have been the top three car colour choices for decades, since they’re traditionally thought to convey luxury, cleanliness, and quality. Likewise, people tend to opt for interiors in neutral shades of beige, brown, black, and navy to create a dignified and calming air while they’re stuck in traffic in 30 degree heat.

Toyota Corolla iM Hatchback Wheel

Of course, a lot of these choices also depend on the age and personality of the buyer. Younger drivers often opt for sportier shades of red and blue for their paint jobs, and like to incorporate unique and energetic bursts of colour into their interiors.

Light

Image of Spotlight

“Light has a huge impact on our response to our space,” notes Lockhart. She tries to maximize access to natural light when designing for home, and sticks to light bulbs and fixtures that create a warmer, cozier atmosphere for her clients.

Toyota 2017 Corolla iM Interior Touchscreen

Blue lighting might look artificial in our living rooms, but it’s a great way to draw our attention. The Toyota Corolla iM features a softly illuminated speedometer, tachometer, and a Multi-Information Display that enables drivers to see their fuel consumption and current song selection at a glance.

Touch

A luxurious fur coat. Bubble wrap. Your baby nephew. Touch is the first sense that we acquire, so it’s no surprise that it’s still our first (and strongest) instinct when we see something we like. It can also gives us a nuanced indication of an item’s quality or characteristics. For example, the Corolla iM's front sport seats and contoured steering wheel speak to the car’s dynamic speed performance, while the wheel’s leather lining adds a more soulful element that helps convey its maturity and comfort with a single touch.

Toyota Corolla iM Steering Wheel

Ergonomics

Ergonomics — our ability to move freely and interact with an object in an efficient manner — is another key element to our enjoyment of our environments. “When designing for a space, it’s important to have the ability to be flexible and to move elements around in response to a person’s need,” notes Lockhart.

Toyota Corolla iM Dashboard

“We need to minimize the need to twist or turn to reach things.” A well-designed car interior that allows for customization will also help keep the driver comfortable, alert, and feeling totally in control.