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RDC Blog

January 2012

Welcome to the Research Design Connections blog, started in 2007. Recent blog entries are available here. Earlier blog entries (one for every working day since the beginning of May, 2007) are available to subscribers.

This is a forum to discuss recent research of interest to designers. To comment on a blog entry, please send an e-mail message to sallyaugustin@researchdesignconnections.com.

November 2014

Lumpkin and his team determined that when students study in code compliant schools they perform better on standardized tests.  The researchers began their project because “Much of the focus in the literature in raising student achievement has included parental involvement, principal leadership, quality of instruction, students’ socioeconomic status, curriculum, and use of technology. Limited empirical research relates the condition of the school building as a variable that affects student achievement.”  Their research investigated “whether academic achievement of 4th-, 8th-, 9th-, and 10th-grade students as measured by the mathematics and reading subtests of the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT) increased in new school buildings compliant to the 2000 Florida State Requirements for Educational Facilities.” Data was collected from students attending class in buildings compliant with the 2000 Uniform Building Code or not compliant. The research  “revealed an increase in the percentage of students passing the FCAT mathematics and reading subtests in new 2000 UBC schools, which illuminates the impact of school facility on student achievement. Data from this research can inform school board members, superintendents, parents, and architects who design school buildings.”

Ronald Lumpkin, Robert Goodwin, Warren Hope, and Ghazwan Lutfi.  2014.  “Code Compliant School Buildings Boost Student Achievement.”  Sage Open, in press.

November 2014

Work by Lester and his team supports the use of single-family rooms (SFRs) in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). The researchers studied “medical and neurobehavioral outcomes at discharge in infants born <1500 g. Participants included 151 infants in an open-bay NICU and 252 infants after transition to a SFR NICU.”  Their statistically significant findings indicate that “infants in the SFR NICU weighed more at discharge, had a greater rate of weight gain, required fewer medical procedures, had a lower gestational age at full enteral feed and less sepsis, showed better attention, less physiologic stress, less hypertonicity, less lethargy, and less pain. . . . Nurses reported a more positive work environment and attitudes in the SFR NICU.”  The researchers conclude that improvements seen “are related to increased developmental support and maternal involvement.”

Barry Lester, Kathleen Hawes, Beau Abar, Mary Sullivan, Robin Miller, Rosemarie Bigsby, Abbot Laptook, Amy Salisbury, Marybeth Taub, Linda Lagasse, and James Padbury.  2014.  “Single-Family Room Care and Neurobehavioral and Medical Outcomes in Preterm Infants.”  PEDIATRICS, vol. 134, no, 4, pp. 754-760.

November 2014

More goes into the design of a parking lot than deciding the shape of the space to be paved.  At least it does when parking lots support local activities and enhance the lives of users. Ben-Joseph considers the cultural, utilitarian, aesthetic, design, and sustainability implications of parking lots, among others.  The book is a useful and important addition to the urban planning and landscape architecture resources available to designers and interested others who want to transform parking lots from waste lands into wonder lands—or at least positive spaces.

Eran Ben-Joseph.  2012.  Rethinking a Lot:  The Design and Culture of Parking.  MIT Press:  Cambridge, MA.       

November 2014

Many excellent designers have tried to create spaces that increase the likelihood that healthcare providers will wash their hands between patients.  Unfortunately, designing to support this behavior is difficult.  A research team lead by Hengchen Dai learned that “hand-washing compliance rates dropped by an average of 8.7 percentage points from the beginning to the end of a typical 12-hour shift.  The decline in compliance was magnified by increased work intensity.”  In other words:  “the demands of the job deplete the mental reserves they need to follow rules.”  These findings should inform new hand washing solutions; the article reporting them will appear in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Psychology.

“Hospital Workers Wash Hands Less Frequently Toward End of Shift, Study Finds.”  2014.  Press release, American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org. 

November 2014

A press release from the Journal of Consumer Research reports on a study detailing the effects on consumers of viewing images in black-and-white (BW) or in color.  Researchers have learned that “consumers presented with BW (vs. color) product pictures weight primary and essential (vs. secondary and superficial) product features more and prefer an option that excels on those features.”  Designers can apply this research when discussing options with decision makers.

Hyojin Lee, Xiaoyan Denk, H. Unnava, and Kentaro Fujita.  “Monochrome Forests and Colorful Trees:  The Effect of Black-and-White Versus Color Imagery on Construal Level.” Journal of Consumer Research, in press.

November 2014

In a very readable book, Groh reports on how information we collect via our different sensory channels is integrated.  Coordinating this information helps us understand where things are and how to move through a space, for example.  This text may provide useful insights to practicing designers interested in learning more about how users experience the places and objects they develop.

Jennifer Groh.  2014.  Making Space:  How the Brain Knows Where Things Are.  Belknap Press:  New York. 

November 2014

As more data about urban environments become available online, it seems reasonable to consider the usefulness of this information.  In an article that will be published in peer-reviewed Big Data, scientists from IBM research and New York University report, after studying 9,000 data sets made available by 20 cities, “encouraging results on the quality and volume of the available data. . . . [the investigators report] a steadily increasing volume of open urban data, the ability to integrate different data sets, and the finding that much of the available data is published in standard types of formats. . . . ‘Big urban data is a powerful new phenomenon that has the potential to transform everyday lives of hundreds of millions of people quickly via personal devices that integrate, filter, and create useful personalized information. This paper documents the sources and value of these data,’ says Big Data Editor-in-Chief Vasant Dhar, Co-Director, Center for Business Analytics, Stern School of Business, New York University.”

“Free Urban Data—What’s It Good For?” 2014.  Press release, Liebert, Inc, http://www.liebertpub.com.

November 2014

Does nearby greenspace affect how attached people feel to the area where they live?  Kimpton, Wickes, and Corcoran learned via research conducted in Australia that “While contemporary urban theories suggest that individuals have transcended their geographical community, evidence suggests that urban residents still feel ‘attached’ to place. . . . Scholars suggest physical features, such as community ‘greenspace’, may also influence place attachment. Yet research does not consider the relationship between one's objective proximity to greenspace or the objective availability of community greenspace on residents' place attachment. . . .  Our findings indicate that greater proportions and more accessible greenspace may not improve residents' attachment to their local community.”

Anthony Kimpton, Rebecca Wickes, and Jonathan Corcoran.  2014.  “Greenspace and Place Attachment:  Do Greener Suburbs Lead to Greater Residential Place Attachment.”  Urban Policy and Research, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 477-497.

November 2014

Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have learned that individuals can become involved in the movies they are watching, regardless of screen size, if the context in which they are watching the movie is similar to that found in a cinema.  This finding provides design researchers with new insights on how to collect information from study participants being shown videos of some sort, for example, virtual reality fly-throughs of proposed spaces.  The research team determined that “When the researchers gave a computer screen the attributes of a movie theater, the test subjects barely sensed a difference between it and a normal cinema with a large screen. . . . . Some of the subjects watched the film sequence in a . . .  cinema. Another group viewed the excerpt on a computer screen alone, while a third group sat in front of a miniature movie theater, which had a 30 centimeter x 53 centimeter screen along with imitation rows of seats with small figurines made of modeling clay, carpets, and curtain props – all designed to create the illusion of being in a movie theater. The final group had to make do with a model movie theater in which the film was shown on an even smaller cell phone display. . . . the larger the screen the greater the extent to which the viewers are drawn into a movie. . . .  although the results were best for the movie theater screen, the miniature movie theater with the computer screen was not far behind, only just in front of the model with the cell phone display. . . .What was significant was the difference in effect between the miniature movie theater and the bare computer screen, causing the psychologists to conclude that the surroundings play a decisive role.”

“Cinema-Like Environment Helps Audiences Become Immersed in Movies Even When Shown on Small Computer Screens or Cell Phone Displays.”  2014.  Press release, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, http://www.uni-mainz.de.