Research Design Connections

Links Between Design and Civic Life (12-14-16)

The Center for Active Design (CfAD) probed links between design and civic life; what they’ve learned is available without charge at the website noted below.  Data collected via the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community survey (using phone interviews in English and Spanish) in 26 US communities and analyzed by the CfAD indicates that “Compared to people with little access to outdoor recreation space in their community, people who report an abundance of outdoor recreation space are 28% more likely to think their local leaders represent their interests.

Working Underground (12-13-16)

Lee and colleagues report that, at this time, it is unlikely that people will respond positively to working underground.  Their work is timely because “With growing population in urban areas, the problem of lacking space is becoming more prominent. . . . the development of underground space has increasingly gained attention as a viable solution.”  The researchers’ review of available literature determined that “the overall impression of underground environment is generally negative.

Hands Free Still Distracting (12-12-16)

Haque’s research determined that people are just as distracted when driving and talking on the phone hands free as they are when driving and holding their phone as they talk.  So, even though headsets, etc., have become more prevalent among people traveling/walking and talking on their phones, it is still important to create spaces where people on the phone can be safe even though they’re not paying much attention to the world around themselves (for example, ones where changes of level/stairs are eliminated whenever possible).

Surface Colors and Perceived Weight (12-09-16)

Research by Sunaga, Park, and Spence confirms that, all else being equal, things that are painted lighter colors are perceived to weigh less than items painted darker colors.  The team described their study “The present study examines how the lightness of packaging colors, and the location of products on a display shelf interact to affect consumers’ purchase decision‐making via perceived visual heaviness.

Home Values, Bikeability and Public Transit (12-08-16)

Li and Joh have identified a positive relationship between home values, the bikeability of neighborhoods, and the presence of viable public transit:  home values increase with bikeability and feasible transit options.  As Li and Joh report, “Planners and policy makers are increasingly promoting biking and public transit as viable means of transportation. The integration of bicycling and transit has been acknowledged as a strategy to increase the mode share of bicycling and the efficiency of public transit by solving the first- and last-mile problem. . .

Keeping Retail Employees Visible (12-07-16)

Soderlund has identified good reasons for making sure retail employees are visible to shoppers.  He reports that  “Existing research suggests that humans are hardwired to be sensitive to the presence of other humans, and that the mere presence of someone is likely to affect human behavior. . . .  This study examined empirically if the mere presence of an employee in a physical environment has an impact on customer affect (in terms of pleasure) and customer satisfaction. Two . . .

Seeing the Color Pink (12-06-16)

Kalay-Shahin and colleagues investigated the psychological implications of seeing the color pink.  They determined that people, especially women, doing so were apt to be more optimistic.  More specifically, the team conducted “Three experiments . . . to investigate the association between pink and optimism. In Experiment 1A, . . . [people] were asked to classify words as optimistic or pessimistic as fast as possible. Half the words were presented in pink and half in black. Experiment 1B . . .

Hand Position Matters (12-05-16)

Coulter has found that we have a different response to material reviewed on mobile devices and on desktop/laptop computers.  Why?  The location of our hands relative to the information presented.  Coulter’s findings can help designers and others understand puzzling reactions they’ve received to alternatives shared, for example.  Coulter determined that “when hands are proximal to . . .

Performance-Sapping Noise (12-02-16)

Research by Tamesue confirms that meaningful office noise degrades professional performance.  A press release detailing findings he presented at the 5th Joint Meeting Acoustical Society of America and Acoustical Society of Japan reports that “When carrying out intellectual activities involving memory or arithmetic tasks, it is a common experience for noise to cause an increased psychological impression of “annoyance,” leading to a decline in performance. This is more apparent for meaningful noise, such as conversation, than it is for other random, meaningless noise. . . .

Office Design and Recruiting (12-01-16)

Radermacher and her colleagues probed links between office design and recruitment of employees.  They investigated “corporate architecture as an effective signal to knowledge workers in the recruiting process. Two types of corporate architecture that are common in the knowledge economy are distinguished: traditional functionalist and new functionalist architecture. New functionalist architecture combines a flat, transparent facade with semi-open office layouts including areas for social interaction.


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.