Research Design Connections

Weight and Perceptions and Actions (08-24-17)

Taylor-Coville and Eves probed how our weight influences our perceptions of the world around us.  Their findings can be useful to designers trying to understand and utilize data collected from space users, for example.  Taylor-Coville and Eves found “more exaggerated reports of staircase steepness in overweight than in healthy-weight participants.” These impressions matter because they have public health implications: “Overweight pedestrians are more likely to avoid stair climbing when a motorized alternative is available . . .

Neuroscience and Biophilic Design (08-23-17)

Brown and Lee investigated the use of prospect and refuge in urban settings.  Biophilic designers create places with prospect and refuge; in these spaces people have views of nearby areas from places where they feel secure.  Humans are very comfortable in spaces with prospect and refuge.  The Brown/Lee team reports that “Good urban design makes new and redeveloped physical environments spatially and visually attractive . . .  prospect and refuge in urban form are necessary. . . .

Objects and Conversations (08-22-17)

Owned objects get conversations started, and that’s generally a good thing.  Wiener, Bettman, and Luce report that “consumers can use publically displayed products [they own] as tools to help them to initiate conversations with others, facilitate self-disclosure, and help these conversations go well. . . . the products a person chooses to display may influence how successful the ‘first meeting’ conversation between two strangers is. Specifically, we examine how products can facilitate self-disclosure. Self-disclosure increases liking between people (Collins & Miller, 1994). . . . .

Effecting Perceptions of Size (08-21-17)

Perfecto and Critcher have studied factors that influence the perceived size of containers.  Designers can use their findings to select and position ornamental elements, for example.  Research conducted by the team confirmed their hypotheses that that there is “an orientation effect—that the same glass will appear bigger right-side-up than up-side-down. . . . .[and] a cavern effect—that imagining pouring through a narrow top into a wide base (as though into a cavern) makes the volume seem bigger than pouring through a wide top into a narrow base.

Transparency in Restaurants: A Good Thing (08-18-17)

Buell, Kim, and Tsay found that there are positive repercussions when chefs and people ordering food can see each other.  The team created “transparency” by linking chefs and people ordering in their restaurants via video conferencing software on iPads.  They determined via “two field and two lab experiments in food service contexts . . . that reciprocal transparency, where both consumers and employees can see each other, can improve both consumer experiences and objective service quality. . . .  Customer perceptions of service value were higher when chefs could observe them . . .

Clean or Dirty Offices (08-17-17)

Huangfu and team studied links between workplace cleanliness and employee attitudes toward counterproductive work behavior (CWB).  They learned, working with a group of participants in China, that “participants working in a clean environment tended to regard CWB as less acceptable than did those in a dirty environment, that is, a cleaner environment led to harsher judgment.

Light and Risk Taking (08-16-17)

Glimcher and Tymula studied the effects of outdoor light intensity on risk taking behavior over a two-year period.  They “found that increased luminance leads to less risk taking. . . . the effects are . . . consistent, significant.”  Some useful definitions: “Risk attitudes refer to people’s willingness to take known risks. . . . ‘luminance’ is a measurement of the amount of light that falls on the surface of the earth.

Temperature and Decision-Making (08-15-17)

Temperature influences decision-making.  Working with people experiencing temperatures perceived as comfortable, Hadi and her team learned that “cold (warm) temperatures may lead individuals to rely more (less) on emotions when making decisions.”  So, when cold people are more likely to make emotion-based decisions and the reverse is true for those who are warm.  Also, “participants in the affective [emotional] task conditions showed a significant average increase in [perceived] temperature while those individuals in the cognitive condition displayed a significant average decrease in temper

The Power of Color (08-14-17)

Fulcher and Hayes’s work confirms that surface colors send powerful messages.  The duo worked with a group of children from 5 to 10 years old (average age a little over 7) finding that “children took longer to build a feminine object [feminine: cat; masculine: dinosaur] with blue bricks than with pink bricks. In the free-play task, boys built more masculine objects than girls did, regardless of the color of bricks they were given. . . . . These findings suggest that toy color and type can impact how children interact and play with toys.”


Research Conversations


Humans live better lives around plants – whether those plants are “real” or man made or pictured in artwork.  Research in the sciences makes it clear that our green leafy friends can’t be ignored and shouldn’t be abandoned.


Cognitive scientists have extensively researched how the design of a building can streamline its evacuation.    This article presents the most applicable of their findings.


In the last three years (2015 – 2017) scientists have been busy publishing important new insights on how what we see, hear, touch, and smell influences how we think and behave.  Their most important design-relevant work is reported here. 

Often designing a familiar-seeming sort of environment/object is best, although there are plenty of situations when unusual is a better design direction.   

PlaceCoach News Briefs


Public debate on findings continues


Color gets mainstream attention

Relevant research reviewed by a master

Light intensity affects mood and alertness

Response to art linked to the room

Positive design for the homeless and formerly homeless

Who likes what varies, a lot

Are all seasons created equal?

Book Reviews


Learn more about designing spaces where people do well, mentally and physically

Packed with useful insights  savvy designers can  apply

Design at Work


London’s Design Museum is a marvelous place to spend time and to learn about design's ability to influence our lives.