Connect with us

Blogs & Perspectives



Retail environments bring together elements of color, pattern and texture to create an experience for the customer, but without light, people cannot perceive or understand their environment.

When you think about light, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the light fixture and what it looks like? Is it how lighting plays a role in the aesthetics of the store environment? Do you think about the functional need for lighting and what you’re trying to illuminate?

Rarely the first thing designers think about, if ever, are the psychological and emotional effects light has on the customer. Light isn’t just about what we see or what is being illuminating, but rather, how it makes people feel and how they behave because of the lighting.

“Our experience of light begins in the personal and proceeds to the universal. We learn, in the environment of our childhood, how forms are revealed in light. We do this in the light of the particular place or places where we grow up. Our experience of light is grounded in the place or places with which we are familiar,” said Marietta Millet in “Light Revealing Architecture,” 1996.

Throughout the process of designing a retail environment, the customer is at the center of the experience. A great store develops a personal connection between the brand, the customer and the place. As Millet suggested, lighting plays a significant role in making that personal connection.

To make informed design decisions, designers must understand the people they are designing for, their perceptions and preferences. As retail designers, it’s imperative to explore the psychological impact of light, how it affects customers emotionally and psychologically, and how it alters our perceptions of the materials and colors within the store.

“Just as we may pick a certain dress to wear or not wear, because of certain associations, so [too] may particular patterns of light remind us of a place and its associations. Our cumulative experiences of light in places is complex, multi-layered and rich … [light] can make [retail stores] be places that have special meaning for us, extending their value beyond mere functional use,” said Millet.

The impact of LED light on retail and customers is more important than ever. Research shows that colors used in an interior environment affect our emotions and behaviors, but how do different color temperatures of light alter their perception within that space? Given the influence of material, color and light on behavior in an environment, retail designers need to understand how changing the color temperature of light alters the appearance of materials and the resulting perceptions.

There is an opportunity in retail design to develop a deeper understanding of how color temperatures of LEDs not only alter the appearance of materials, but also how they influence a person’s perception of the environment. Do we have different emotional responses within the store’s design if the only thing that changes is the color temperature of light? Are we influenced or even compelled to make more purchases because we feel more connected to the space due to a familiarity with the light’s color temperature and our personal preference toward that lighting?

I am currently working on a research project to study lighting’s role in our perceptions and preferences of interior spaces with Master of Fine Arts design candidate student Emily Bell at The Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio). Check back next month to read part two of this article, where we will discuss the findings of our research project.

Rebekah Matheny is the assistant professor of interior design for The Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio). She holds a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Oregon, where she also received a Technical Teaching Certificate in the area of Sustainable Design Strategies for Interior Architecture with a concentration in interior finish materials and lighting design. Additionally, she has undergraduate degrees in interior design and architecture from the University of Cincinnati. Building from her professional experience as a retail designer, Matheny brings a unique balance of the functional and emotional attributes of interior finish materials, allowing her to have a holistic and forward-thinking, strategic approach to her teaching and research. Matheny’s research investigates the sensory perception of interior finish materials and their application in retail design to create an emotional connections between the customer and the brand.

Emily Bell is a current Master of Fine Arts design candidate in the Department of Design at The Ohio State University, where she also serves as a graduate teaching assistant. She is also completing a graduate interdisciplinary specialization in aging. Emily graduated summa cum laude from High Point University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in interior design with a business administration minor. She has worked in high-end residential design and in custom kitchen design. Emily's master’s research is focused on the influence of light's color temperature on older adults' perceptions of residential healthcare patient rooms and how it influences their sense of well-being.



MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

Promoted Headlines





Most Popular