Your Environment Changes Your Imagination

How’s your office space? I’m in an exposed area surrounded by people. While I like these people, I don’t feel I have any sense of physical security. As an introvert, it’s also difficult to work in the presence of so many others.

And as the article says, it’s hard to tune out since they work on dissimilar tasks. I loved working in the newsroom. It was easy to see how their work tied into mine.

We’re more creative in the dark.

Dimmer light and darkness help creative performance. Darkness inspires feelings of freedom and encourages riskier behavior. Researchers published six studies on the effect of light. Four of the experiments linked darkness and dim illumination to more creative outcomes.

The final two tests found connections between darkness and increased exploration. Other ways of encouraging feelings of freedom helped keep participants creative.

That matches my exploration style. I’m definitely a night owl. It’s not just the darkness. Nighttime feels freer for me. Generally, I have fewer plans and fewer obligations later in the evenings. So that sparks the feeling of being able to do anything possible with my time.  Researchers also found that imagining that you’re in the dark has similar results.

“Freedom from constraints: Darkness and dim illumination promote creativity” explains the details in the Journal of Environmental Psychology in 2013.

High ceilings spark the imagination.

“When a person is in a space with a 10-foot ceiling, they will tend to think more freely, more abstractly. They might process more abstract connections between objects in a room, whereas a person in a room with an 8-foot ceiling will be more likely to focus on specifics.”
Joan Meyers-Levy, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management (Science Daily)

Simply moving to a room with higher ceilings helps you think outside of the box. Meyers-Levy and Rui (Juliet) Zhu discuss in “The Influence of Ceiling Height: The Effect of Priming on the Type of Processing That People Use”

Privacy helps us think in new ways.

I’ve written before about how private spaces help many of us in our creative processes. We’re more likely to take risks when our mistakes aren’t public. Increased noise levels and physical health concerns come into play in shared spaces as well. We can take action to create space by taking walks and meditation.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.


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