Public responds better to lots of vibrant colours, University of Sheffield's James Hitchmough tells designers

Most designers are out of touch with contemporary taste, according to the findings of University of Sheffield professor of horticultural ecology James Hitchmough.

His research studied responses to naturalistic planting schemes, which are often scorned by those with specialist knowledge. Speaking at the Society of Chemical Industry Plants to the Rescue conference, he told delegates that colour was by far the most important factor in engaging people with public planting.

Hitchmough said most people have different values from specialists and tend to respond to highly colourful and random planting schemes that may be considered in poor taste by designers. "If you want [planting] to be valued, it has to be colourful for long enough," he said. "It has to be valued outside of our niche. We need to see colour as much more important than we have previously done. We should be colouring to excess and not be cowed by learned notions of good taste or minimalism."

During his studies he polled visitors to a vibrant naturalistic planting scheme on a monthly basis. In winter the reaction was equally split between positive and negative, but at its most colourful it received 100% approval.

"Isn't it better to create designs that excite, if only in summer?" he added.


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