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Otten and her team have learned more about how our eyes work; their findings have implications for the design of visual experiences.  The researchers report that “Vision in the fovea, the center of the visual field, is much more accurate and detailed than vision in the periphery.”  When the experimenters had participants in their study look at “the center of a visual display in which central stimuli differed from peripheral stimuli. Over time, participants perceived that the peripheral stimuli changed to match the central stimuli, so that the display seemed uniform. . . . a wide range of visual features, including shape, orientation, motion, luminance, pattern, and identity, are susceptible to this uniformity illusion.”  So, over time, whatever is being seen peripherally changes to align with what is visible through the center of the field of view – more evidence that seeing is not as objective an experience as it might have seemed.  These findings indicate that if it’s necessary to send behavior cues or supply information, for example, regarding actions to be taken during emergency situations, that material needs to be presented in the center of users’ fields of view.

Marte Otten, Yair Pinto, Chris Paffen, Anil Seth, and Ryota Kanai.  “The Uniformity Illusion:  Central Stimuli Can Determine Peripheral Perception.”  Psychological Science, in press.

People speaking the same language perceive odors in similar ways when the names of scents smelled are known.  Ferdenzi and team found that when people from different cultures who speak the same language smell scents without knowing their names, individuals from different cultures may vary subtly in how pleasant, familiar, and edible sniffed smells are perceived to be.  However, after odors are named, cultural differences in perceived pleasantness, familiarity, and edibility are reduced or eliminated as ratings on all three factors increase, “Semantic information had a unifying action on olfactory perception that overrode the influence of cultural background.”  In short, researchers found that our spoken and physiological responses to/evaluations of scents are influenced by knowing what a scent is. As a result, when scents are used for branding, for example, space/object users should be told their names to ensure that they are appraised consistently by all present.  Scents presented to study participants were anise, lavender, maple, wintergreen, rose, and strawberry.

Camille Ferdenzi, Pauline Joussain, Berengere Digard, Lucie Luneau, Jelena Djordjevic, and Moustafa Bensafi.  “Individual Differences in Verbal and Non-Verbal Affective Responses to Smells:  Influence of Odor Label Across Cultures.”  Chemical Senses, in press.

In her dissertation research at University College London, Leadon studied collaboration in workplaces.  She found via a “case study at an interior design office followed by a survey of four design firms. . . . that collaboration and individual work must be supported by workplace design. While collaboration was high among employees and meeting rooms were utilized. . . . fluidity and frequency of collaboration was, at times, deterred in the open office environment, due to the expectation that collaboration would be a distraction to others. . . . Private meeting rooms were integral solutions in facilitating both collaborative and individual modes of work, as these spaces could host groups or individuals as required.”

Alexandria Leadon.  2015.  “Workplace Design:  Facilitating Collaborative and Individual Work Within the Creative Office Environment.”  Dissertation Abstract, The Florida State University,

A recent Kellogg Insights podcast reviews our relationship with technology, particularly robots.  Comments made by Adam Waytz, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University are particularly interesting: “Human beings really like autonomy. We like having free choice, we like having agency, we like having control, we like freedom and liberty. We feel that when we give tasks to robots, or when we create humanoid technology, that that technology will usurp our agency and diminish our autonomy, and diminish our freedom. . . . When you give something a humanlike voice, what we found was that that triggered perceptions in our participants that, ‘Oh, this car is smart. It can feel the road. It can plan where I need to go. It has a mind like a human.’ What we found, and we showed this statistically as well, is that when you give the car a little bit of humanness in terms of voice and name, it increases the perceptions of the car as having a humanlike mind, being intelligent, and those ascriptions of intelligence then produce greater overall trust.”

“Podcast:  You Had Me at ‘Bleep Blorp.”  2016.  Kellogg Insights.

Drawing Futures teaches us that drawing still matters.  As reported in Allen, Pearson, Sheil, and Migayrou’s edited volume, “Despite numerous developments in technological manufacture and computational design that provide new grounds for designers, the act of drawing still plays a central role as a vehicle for speculation. . . . Drawing Futures will present a compendium of projects, writings and interviews that critically reassess the act of drawing and where its future may lie. . . . Drawing Futures focuses on the discussion of how the field of drawing may expand synchronously alongside technological and computational developments. . . . the book discusses how drawing is changing in relation to new technologies for the production and dissemination of ideas. . . . It explores new relationships with art and other disciplines, offers alternative – often subversive – looks at computational resources and ultimately . . . the aim of Drawing Futures is to illustrate how drawing works as an abundantly rich, diverse, inventive, critical and serious research domain.” Drawing Futures can be downloaded free at the web address noted below.

Laura Allen, Luke Pearson, Bob Sheil, and Frederic Migayrou (eds.).  2016.  Drawing Futures:  Speculations in Contemporary Drawing for Art and Architecture.  University College:  London,

Lee, Jung, and Chu have researched design elements linked to environmental responsibility.  They learned that  “[hybrid] cars deemed to be more environmentally friendly were those with a . . . simple and rounded shape, and with a matte finish. Also, green, blue, and white colors were better signs of environmental friendliness than red or black. . . . green cue prominent design is perceived as being more attractive when it is for a hybrid car, but not for gasoline engine cars. . . .  green cue prominent design is perceived as being more attractive when the buyer of the car has a high status-seeking motive. “

Jeongmin Lee, Bohee Jung, and Wujin Chu.  2015.  “Signaling Environmental Altruism Through Design:  The Role of Green Cue Prominence in Hybrid Cars.” International Journal of Design, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 79-91.

Want to change the speed at which something appears to move?  Camouflage it.  Hall and her team report that “Static high contrast (‘dazzle’) patterns, such as zigzags, have been shown to reduce the perceived speed of an object. . . . Dynamic stripe patterns moving in the same direction as the target are found to increase the perceived speed of that target, whilst dynamic stripes moving in the opposite direction to the target reduce the perceived speed.”

Joanna Hall, Innes Cuthill, Roland Baddeley, Angela Attwood, Marcus Munafo, Nicholas Scott-Samuel.  2016.  “Dynamic Dazzle Distorts Speed Perception.” PLoS ONE, vol. 11, no. 5,

Anyone siting a new office—or homes for people working in that office—will be interested in research conducted by FiveThirtyEight.  Bialik reports that the group probed, via data obtained from StreetEasy, a real estate listing service, how much are people “willing to pay to shave a minute off [their] commute? For New Yorkers, the answer appears to be around $56 per month. That’s how much more New Yorkers pay in rent, on average, for a one-bedroom apartment that’s a minute closer by subway to Manhattan’s main business districts. . . . The higher rents show how much New Yorkers are willing to pay for convenience — and how those who can’t afford to live close to jobs are getting pushed to the edges of the city and must spend more of their time on the subway, leaving less time for leisure and sleep.”   In addition, “Places with short commutes are also often places with other desirable characteristics: restaurants, nightlife and convenience, both in terms of getting to other places in and around the city and of getting people from other parts of the city to come to your neighborhood.”  Although this research was conducted in the New York City area, its basic finding, that people value convenience, is valid everywhere.

Carl Bialik.  2016.  “New Yorkers Will Pay $56 a Month to Trim a Minute Off Their Commute.”

Researchers from University College London have learned more about how non-visual experiences influence whether people’s circadian rhythms are synchronized with their location on the planet.  This coordination is important because when it is absent, people feel stressed.  The UCL team found via research with fruit flies that “Body clock function can break down when light and temperature levels throughout the day are out of sync. . . . ‘Light is a well-known driver of the body clock, but until recently other factors including temperature have been overlooked,’ says co-senior author Professor Joerg T Albert (UCL Ear institute). ‘Recent work has shown that the daily body temperature rhythm is important for setting the human body clock, and our study suggests that the difference between light and temperature may also have a role to play. Artificial exposure to light sources and irregular sleep/wake patterns such as shift work shoulder a lot of the blame for disrupting the body clock, but artificial temperature controls like air conditioning and central heating perhaps also have an influence.’ . . . ‘Modern life involves artificial control of many aspects of our environment, but more natural conditions are likely to benefit our body clocks,’ explains co-senior author Professor Ralf Stanewsky (UCL Cell & Developmental Biology).  ‘There are simple ways to mimic more natural conditions, such as having colder bedroom temperatures and getting as much light in the morning as possible.’”  This study is published in Cell Reports.

“Mismatched Light and Heat Levels Can Disrupt Body Clock.”  2016.  Press release, University College London,

Chen, Lee, and Yap probed how feelings of control influence product selections.  Their findings have a number of potential design applications, for example, for understanding actions/statements by employees with different perceptions of control over their life experiences participating in design research projects or making design decisions.  Chen, Lee, and Yap learned that “consumers compensate for a loss of perceived control by buying utilitarian products (e.g., household cleaning agents) because of these products’ association with problem solving, a quality that promotes a sense of control.”

Charlene Chen, Leonard Lee, and Andy Yap. “Control Deprivation Motivates Acquisition of Utilitarian Products.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press.


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