Library Book Store with cooler Lighting
Library Book Store with cooler Lighting

In the evolving landscape of interior design, lighting stands as one of the most pivotal elements in determining the atmosphere of a space. Its impact is not only aesthetic but deeply psychological. Understanding how lighting influences people is essential for anyone in the realm of interior design, including furniture, textiles, and other types of designers who contribute to the overall ambience of a room.

Drawing upon extensive research, this blog post delves into the fascinating subject of how lighting impacts consumer behaviour and the cultural dimensions that influence these reactions. Specifically, we look into studies that compare the lighting preferences of Korean and American customers.

Background: The Psychological Underpinnings of Lighting

Over the years, several studies have emphasized the role of lighting in affecting consumer behaviour. According to research, the ambience or atmospheric stimuli in a store can significantly influence a consumer’s shopping experience. Factors contributing to this ambience include visual, aural, olfactory, and tactile dimensions. These factors encourage or discourage consumers to enter a store, linger, and ultimately make a purchase. Lighting has been identified as a major element in creating store atmospherics.

Studies show that lighting has the power to influence emotional states, such as arousal, pleasure, or irritation, which in turn can elicit a range of behavioural responses. The implications are clear: retail stores can strategically use lighting to guide consumer behaviour.

Cultural Differences in Lighting Preferences: Korean and American Consumers

Recent findings indicate that cultural background plays a significant role in lighting preferences. The research reveals that stores using lighting with a higher colour rendering index and lower correlated colour temperature tend to attract American customers. On the other hand, cooler lighting seems to be more enticing for Korean consumers.

This suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach to lighting design could be detrimental when attracting a diverse customer base. Therefore, understanding the cultural nuances is pivotal.

Practical Applications for Lighting Designers

Given these cultural differences, lighting designers working in the global economy are presented with unique challenges and opportunities. It is imperative that they consider these nuances when designing spaces, especially for retailers who are competing with diverse forms of marketing like e-commerce and home shopping channels.

Electronic and Book Stores

Cooler lighting, according to the study, works best for spaces requiring arousal, visual clarity, and approach intention. These are often the emotional states desired in retail locations such as electronic stores, bookstores, and sporting goods stores. In these contexts, cooler lighting could particularly attract Korean consumers.

Luxury Boutiques and Spas

Spa with warm lighting
Spa with warm lighting

In contrast, warm lighting creates an emotional state of pleasure and store attractiveness, which is critical for places like luxury boutiques, high-end clothing stores, and spas. In these environments, American consumers would feel more at home.

The New Frontier for Lighting Designers

As the market becomes increasingly multicultural, lighting designers have a new set of opportunities and challenges ahead. Understanding how different cultures react to various lighting conditions will become a crucial skill. The study reveals that lighting is not merely a design element but a tool that can be strategically manipulated to influence consumer behaviour across different cultures. In a global economy, this is more relevant than ever.

This post should serve as a starting point for anyone interested in the complex relationship between lighting design, consumer behaviour, and culture. As we decorate and design spaces, we must be keenly aware of how lighting serves as a universal language, albeit one that speaks differently to different cultures.


Park, N.-K. and Farr, C.A. (2007), The Effects of Lighting on Consumers’ Emotions and Behavioral Intentions in a Retail Environment: A Cross-Cultural Comparison. Journal of Interior Design, 33: 17-32.

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