Research Design Connections

Light Color and Mental Effort Intensity (02-17-17)

Lasauskaite and Cajochen linked mental effort intensity and light color.  The team “tested effort-related cardiac response under four lighting conditions and found that it decreased with color temperatures [i.e., as light got bluer].  Thus, blue-enriched light in offices and schools might . . . preserve resources during cognitive activities.”

Ruta Lasauskaite and Christian Cajochen.  2016.  “Influence of Lighting Color Temperature on Mental Effort.”  Psychology of Architecture Conference (December 4-5, Austin, TX) Program, p. 26.

Encouraging Greenness (02-16-17)

Unsworth and McNeill set out to learn more about how to encourage people to behave in an environmentally responsible way.  They found that self-interest can be used to motivate green actions.  The researchers determined that attempts to encourage earth-friendly behaviors are likely to be more successful when the green behaviors are linked to “goals that are important to people, even if such goals are unrelated to climate change or the environment in general. . . .

Airflow Velocity and Sleeping (02-15-17)

Airflow velocity in a space influences how well we sleep there.  Morito and her team found that  “a higher air velocity of airflow disturbed human sleep more than a lower air velocity of airflow. . . . The mean air temperature, relative humidity, and mean radiant temperature in the rooms with both air conditioners were 26.4 . . . °C, 58 . . . %, and 26.3 . . . °C, and 26.4 . . . °C, 53 . . .  %, and 26.1 . . . °C for [A] and [B], respectively. The average . . . velocity of airflow was actually 0.14 . . . m/s and 0.04 . . . m/s for [A] and [B], respectively. . . .

Curved Contours, Sharp Contours, Responses (02-14-17)

Pati and colleagues investigated responses to curved and sharp contours in healthcare environments and gathered some intriguing data.  The team report that “Recent studies in cognitive neuroscience suggest that humans prefer objects with a curved contour compared with objects that have pointed features and a sharp-angled contour.”  During their study  “subjects (representing three age-groups and both sexes) were exposed to a randomized order of 312 real-life images (objects, interiors, exteriors, landscape, and a set of control images).

Restorative Break Rooms (02-13-17)

Nejati, Rodiek, and Shepley studied surgical nurses’ ideas about what makes break rooms restorative spaces using visual simulations.  They “assess[ed] the restorative potential of specific design features in hospital staff break areas, investigating nature-related indoor decor, daylight, window views, and direct access to outdoor environments.”  The Nejati team found that when “On a scale of 1–10, nurses evaluated the restorative qualities of (a) direct access to the outdoors through a balcony, (b) an outdoor view through a window, (c) a nature artwork, and (d) an indoor plant, all depicted

Sitting Up Straight: Benefits (02-10-17)

Research by Wilkes and colleagues confirms the psychological benefits of seats that encourage sitting with good posture.  As the investigators report, research has generally shown that “upright posture improves self-esteem and mood in [psychologically] healthy samples.”  Wilkes and her team studied a group of people “with mild to moderate depression.” Some study participants were asked to sit with good posture and others were not. The researchers found that “The postural manipulation significantly improved posture and increased high arousal positive affect. . . .

NICU Soundscapes (02-09-17)

Pineda and her team studied soundscapes in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).  Working with preterm infants born at 28 weeks or less gestation, placed either in private rooms or in open wards, the researchers learned that “There was [significantly] more silence in the private room . . . than the open ward, with an average of 1.9 hours more silence in a 16-hour period. . . .

Older Adults Living Apart Together (02-08-17)

Benson and Coleman have found that more older adults are choosing to “live apart together;” this new way of “co-habitating” has repercussions for home design, for example.  As a press release related to the Benson/Coleman research details,  “Since 1990, the divorce rate among adults 50 years and older has doubled. This trend, along with longer life expectancy, has resulted in many adults forming new partnerships later in life. A new phenomenon called ‘Living Apart Together’ (LAT)—an intimate relationship without a shared residence—is gaining popularity as an alternative form of commitment.

Sounds and Shapes (02-07-17)

A team lead by Hung confirmed that particular sorts of sounds are linked to certain shapes; their work is useful to people naming products and places, for example.  The research by Hung, Styles, and Hsieh, published in Psychological Science, indicates that  “Our tendency to match specific sounds with specific shapes, even abstract shapes, is so fundamental that it guides perception before we are consciously aware of it. . . .


Research Conversations

Frank Lloyd Wright interior

Visual complexity is an important driver of experience.  Both too much and too little are bad for our mood and cognitive performance.  Neuroscience research reveals how to manage visual complexity, disorder, and clutter.

An engaging cubicle

“Engagement” is a hot topic—it’s being discussed by everyone from human resource managers to community organizers; boosting it is the goal of almost every group, regardless of size.   And the research is clear:  design can buoy users’ engagement with organizations, or not. 

Surveillance Sign

Want people to obey the rules, do the right thing, keep out of mischief and just generally, behave in socially acceptable ways?  Environmental neuroscientists have done a lot of research on how design can encourage space and object users to be on their best behavior—insights from their studies can be applied in practice.

Nest Chairs

The design of temporary nests make a real difference in humans’ lives.  The spaces people call “home” for short periods of time can constructively enrich experiences when thoughtfully and empathetically developed.

News Briefs

Stadium-style seating

Thinking changes with a tip of the head

Aligning project phases with working conditions expedites creativity

Too little is too bad

Bright, uniform, and overhead prevail

An outcome to be avoided

Color saturation influences perceptions

Opportunities affect responses

Book Reviews

Reviews fractals and their role in design, for the mathematically inclined reader

Design at Work


The design of Purina’s PawsWay center in Toronto boosts the mood—and wellbeing—of all of its users, regardless of species.