Wheat Field at Golden Hour No. 5

April 15, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Evidence-based Design for Soothing Waiting Room Art

Nearly mature wheat awaits harvest as the sun’s last rays paints the field in warm golden light.Wheat Field at Golden Hour No. 5During this sunset image, varying layers of clouds create an interesting sky, while a Miami Valley wheat field stands ready for harvest as the day’s last rays paint the Ohio farm in warm golden light.

This farm field scene remains a favorite.  Sure, Ohio farmlands are commonplace, but this pretty landscape involved a field of wheat vice fields of corn, which are so commonplace in the Midwest.  During this evening image, the setting sun backlights the wheat in golden hues, creating a warm nostalgic glow.  Perhaps the viewer’s mind begins to ponder about amber waves of grain.  The scene offers intriguing contrasting light between the golden wheatfield and the dark clouds which were clearing the Miami Valley skies as sunset approached. 


For many, this Miami Valley sunset captures the essence of evidence-based design (EBD).  In a previous post, I discussed how researchers experimented with various settings, they learned people become the most relaxed when surrounded by nature.  As EBD becomes mainstream in hospitals and medical facilities, I’m surprised that evidence-based design wall décor principles haven’t appeared in corporate waiting rooms and hotel lobbies. 


A Google search of waiting room art reveals spaces where interior designers used art prints that were diligently color-coordinated with the hues of walls, carpet, and furniture.  In looking at these images closer, their use of traditional pastel prints, abstract art or minimalist artwork involving shapes of various shades misses an important opportunity.  Sure, they nailed the color coordination, but the artwork does nothing more than accentuate the color palate. 


Waiting room artwork is an opportunity where the companies can begin placing their clients at ease.  To this point, researchers have divided hospital floor space with one side of the hallway having rooms displaying pastel-painted floral scenes, abstract art, and other pieces appropriate for an episode of the Antiques Roadshow.  On the other side of the hallway, researchers installed scenes of nature, gardens, and other representational landscape prints.  Several studies conducted in this manner revealed the patients immersed in artwork featuring nature healed faster, required less pain medication, and were discharged quicker than those from the other side of the hallway.  As a result of these studies, hospitals have transitioned their corridors and patient rooms over to art prints which feature photographs of nature.  If this approach places patients at ease, it’s a little bewildering that many of today’s corporate waiting rooms still use outdated wall décor.


As a client sits in your foyer or transits your hallways, why not give them something pleasant to rest their eyes on?  Bypassing this opportunity, people will sit and dwell on the upcoming meeting. Perhaps the uncertainty of the appointment begins to weigh on them.  Researchers have already validated the abstract or painted pastel artwork isn’t effective, so why not upgrade your wall décor which employs EBD principles and reduces the stress for your visitors and clients?  The outdated subject matter, hidden behind the glare of glass, costs the same, if not more, than a vivid and representational landscape printed on canvas. 


The sunset scene supporting this article serves as a good example.  First, it’s a representational landscape as the viewer immediately recognizes it’s a sunset over a wheat field.  There’s no abstract uncertainty involved in view this print, no trying to interpret what the painter meant to portray.  Who wants to introduce uncertainty in your client’s mind in the moments before they see you?  This scene also employs an EBD principle of long horizons and sightlines which researchers already know reduces stress.  Researchers have pondered the stress reduction might be an innate trait from eons ago when humans first emerged on the African savannahs and our ancestors were part of the food chain, thus the long sightlines provided for enhanced safety and security from threats.  Also, there is something magical about looking into light, particularly backlit vegetation where the contrasting light becomes a form of eye candy.  Finally, if the scene employs a local park or iconic point of interest, you have the added benefit of your wall décor now becoming a visitor talking point where they reminiscence about a memory or recent visit to the feature  Given all these benefits, its puzzling that so many of today’s waiting room still employ grandma’s pastel-painted gazebo or abstract square and circles linked to your interior designer’s color palette when your wall décor can be doing so much more for you.



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