Research Design Connections

Balance and Cell Phones (01-16-17)

Researchers have found that people’s sense of balance is impaired when they talk on cell phones – another reason to make sure circulation spaces, plazas, and the like, are free of trip hazards, etc.  A study-related press release reports that “cell phone texting and talking can have a negative effect on one’s balance during everyday activities. . . . cell phone texting during exercise significantly impacts postural stability – by 45 percent — when compared to no cell phone use.

Labeling Paintings a Good Idea (01-13-17)

Bubic and colleagues found that knowing the name of a painting influences responses to it. Details on their project: “The present study . . . explore[d] the perception of 12 selected abstract and figural Wassily Kandinsky paintings among two groups of participants, one familiarized with the titles prior to viewing the artworks and another unfamiliar with the paintings’ titles. . . . participants who knew the titles prior to viewing the artworks liked both figural and abstract paintings more compared with those unfamiliar with the title.

Changing Habits (01-12-17)

Verplanken and colleagues’ research indicates that we’re more likely to successfully change habits when attempts at the desired modifications are paired with other changes in our lives, such as moving to a new home.  A press release for the upcoming Society of Personality and Social Psychology conference, where Verplanken will discuss his work, reports that this outcome is called the “discontinuity effect.”

Learning from Unusual Workplaces (01-11-17)

Myerson and Privett share insights regarding workplace design that they garnered while studying extreme workplaces, such as academic libraries, theatres, air traffic control centers, and newsrooms.  Particular attention is devoted to psychological comfort in these environments.  This text may help readers resolve workplace design challenges.

Jeremy Myerson and Imogen Privett. 2015.   Life of Work:  What Office Design Can Learn from the World Around Us.  Black Dog Publishing: London, UK.

Choosing or Rejecting (01-10-17)

Sokolova and Krishna learned that when people are being asked to make a selection, how that task is described makes a difference.  Their findings, which can be applied by anyone asking others to make choices, are straightforward: “People can make decisions by choosing or by rejecting alternatives. This research shows that changing a task from choice to rejection makes people more likely to rely on deliberative processing, what we label the task-type effect. . . .

Envy at Work (01-09-17)

Parrott effectively reviews, in the chapter available free at the web address noted below, the repercussions of people being envious in workplaces.  As he details, “there [are] a multitude of . . . ways that a person can be perceived as enjoying advantages. Offices can be bigger or brighter and can have better windows or nicer furnishings. . . . envy can be even more intense when directed horizontally within organizational levels than it is when directed from lower to higher levels. . . . .

Shapes Seen: Implications (01-06-17)

Romero and Craig have identified a relationship between shapes seen, thoughts, and money spent.  They report that “Human-like shapes are abundantly present in the marketplace, such as in product shapes (e.g., Coca-Cola bottles) and décor (e.g., mall decorations).  Are these shapes innocuous or do they impact subsequent purchase decisions? . . .

Repercussions of Parents’ Concerns About Neighborhoods (01-05-17)

Researchers at Louisiana State University have studied links between parents’ concerns about neighborhoods and the amount of time their children spend playing outdoors.  The scientists report, in a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, that “parents who are concerned about their neighborhoods restrict their children’s outdoor play. . . . ‘Parents who do not trust their neighbors or feel they have no control over neighborhood problems were more likely to restrict their child’s outdoor play,’ says lead author Maura Kepper, PhD. . .

Designing for Pedestrian Safety (01-04-17)

Smart Growth America investigated incidents in which pedestrians were hit by cars and their entire study is available free at the web address noted in the reference, below.  They report that “Multiple studies have found that reducing the number of travel lanes and installing median islands have substantially reduced all crashes, including those that often result in serious injury or death for pedestrians. . . . A Complete Streets approach helps transporta­tion planners and engineers . . .


Research Conversations

Play Toys

Designing spaces or objects so that they’re fun to use can seem like such a good idea, but is it really?  And what is “fun” anyway? Research done by cognitive scientists and other social and physical scientists can help answer not only these questions, but also help identify what people will find amusing in particular circumstances. 

Ongoing Construction

The values of design decisions made, or to be made, are often sought and always carefully reviewed when calculated.   Determining value can be complicated, or not, depending on the situation being evaluated.

Reflecting Back

Research on a range of design-related topics was published in 2016; much of it supports previously available findings.  Some of the most interesting studies of the year probed the consequences of experiencing visual clutter and disorder.

A hygge place

Hygge is now officially a worldwide phenomena.

News Briefs


Physical modeling enhances problem solving

More evidence of the positive payoffs of green design

Insights on how workplace type influences performance

The way a store smells influences what shoppers do

Higher quality environments promote more social interaction

Responses to shapes and colors are related

Restoration at home is even more important to some of us

Book Reviews

Professor in the Zoo book cover

Packed with powerful ideas that can be applied to design places where all animals thrive

Insights on how people want—and need—to combine analog and digital experiences

Design at Work


The work zones at Schipol effectively and efficiently support traveling professionals; they recognize and respect the physical and cognitive needs of the people that use them.