The Briefing Column from the January 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard
A recent issue of the magazine Management in Industry contained an article entitled “Using Colour to Boost Your Factory Output” aimed at enterprising managers, who no more own the factory in which they work than do the workers they “manage” in the interests of the capitalist class. Don Mason, the Colour Advisory Manager at ICI Paints, tells the reader that:
Colour is a powerful psychological tool. It can make walls move, changing the apparent shape of a room, it can affect the length of time we spend in the bathroom and it work it can affect employees' moods and performance to a marked degree.
The profit-conscious manager goes on to learn that:
A recent example of colour at work influencing employees involves a company manufacturing optical equipment. A small workforce was engaged in skilled, highly detailed work requiring a great deal of concentration. The problem was that operatives complained of headaches and were generally unhappy.
The solution was not a decrease in the time spent on the "skilled, highly detailed work requiring a great deal of concentration". According to Mason:
The solution was to devise a colour scheme which took account of the fact that most of the work involved looking down at optical lenses. It was important that they should be seen against a background which made them as visible as possible.
As an added bonus for the no doubt overjoyed workforce. "The second stage was to put restful greens on the walls to provide relief for the eyes when they looked up from their work".
Apparently colour can also act as a psychological time machine. Dulux colour consultant Jack Widgery explains:
We can slow down or speed up the apparent passage of time by the use of colours. For instance, red is a dynamic colour which seems to make time pass more quickly, whereas cool colours — blues and bluey greens — tend to make people less conscious of the passage of time.
One major manufacturer’s production workers were spending too long in the toilets, where they would sit reading newspapers and smoking! Perhaps management had special cameras installed in the cistern to observe this unprofitable activity. The solution, Widgery explains, “was to introduce reds and pinks together in a scheme which seemed to speed people up and perhaps gave the illusion that they had been in there longer than they had”.
Living in a society based on the ownership of the means of living by the capitalist class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class by whose labour alone wealth is produced, our time is never our own. Next time "your” workplace is given a fresh coat of paint there may be more behind it than your bare prison walls.