Research Design Connections

Researching with Social Media (12-13-17)

Tenkanen and team wanted to learn more about park use and chose some interesting research methods to do so. The researchers report that they “compared data from Instagram, Twitter and Flickr, and assessed systematically how park popularity and temporal visitor counts derived from social media data perform against high-precision visitor statistics in 56 national parks in Finland and South Africa in 2014. We show that social media activity is highly associated with park popularity, and social media-based monthly visitation patterns match relatively well with the official visitor counts.

Context Matters (12-12-17)

How abstract art is evaluated depends on nearby art.  Tousignant and Bodner found when “average-beauty abstract target paintings were paired with either a low-beauty or a high-beauty context painting. . . . and . . .  participants rated . . . context-target pairs. . . . Abstract paintings were deemed more beautiful when paired with the low-beauty (vs. high-beauty) paintings.” Study details: “context paintings were either of a similar (abstract) or different (representational) style, . . . context-target pairs were presented either sequentially or simultaneously.”

Touch Sensitivity (12-11-17)

Research indicates that our skin is incredibly sensitive.  Carpenter and his team determined “in a series of psychophysical experiments that humans can discriminate surfaces that differ by only a single layer of molecules.”

Cody Carpenter, Charles Dhong, Nicholas Root, Daniel Rodriguez, Emily Abdo, Kyle Skelil, Mohammad Alkhadra, Julian Ramirez, Vilayanur Ramachandran, and Darren Lipomi. “Human Ability to Discriminate Surface Chemistry by Touch.” Material Horizons, in press.

Culture and Change (12-08-17)

Different cultures more effectively implement particular sorts of changes.  KelloggInsight, reporting on the work of Bryony Reich, states, “Societies, countries, communities, and friend groups—collectively known as network structures—that are more individualistic and loosely connected are better at adopting ‘low-threshold’ technologies, she [Bryony Reich, an assistant professor of strategy at the Kellogg School of Management] found.

Co-Living Preferences (12-07-17)

Ikea recently polled people to learn more about their co-living related preferences. Co-living people share common spaces, even, sometimes, bathrooms.  Since people may have been motivated to participate in the Ikea survey because they have some interest in co-living, data collected need to be used with care.  Data gathered indicate that among the many thousands of participants to date, “people who are of all ages, and are in any life situation, from all countries, on average:  would prefer couples, single women and single men in their community . . .

Personality and Climate (12-06-17)

Our personality seems tied, at least in part, to the climate where we grew up.  Since personality influences how people experience design/space, this link between personality and early living may explain consistencies found among user groups, and indicate reasonable design-response hypotheses based on user group locations, for example.  Wei and his team undertook their project because “Human personality traits differ across geographical regions.”  They established that “compared with individuals who grew up in regions with less clement [mild] temperatures, individuals who grew up in regions

Aesthetics and Alphabets (12-05-17)

Research indicates that human’s aesthetic preferences are reflected in the forms chosen for letters in alphabets and syllabaries (“in which characters represent syllables”).  Price, reporting on the work of Olivier Morin, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, shares that writing systems such as Cyrillic, Arabic, Sanskrit and 113 others “share basic structural features. . . .: characters with vertical symmetry (like the Roman letters A and T) and a preference for vertical and horizontal lines over oblique lines (like those in latters X and W). . . .

Experience, Personality and Noise (12-04-17)

Experience may influence how distracting it is to hear background noise.  Kou and team share that “Previous research has shown that background auditory distractors (music and sound/noise) have a more severe impact on introverts’ performances on complex cognitive tasks than extraverts (Dobbs, Furnham, & McClelland, 2011).”  The Kuo-led group partially replicated Dobbs and team’s study, with Chinese instead of English participants, finding that when “Chinese participants . . . carried out three cognitive tasks with the presence of Chinese pop songs, background office noise, and silence.

Art Value and Artist Grief (12-01-17)

Research indicates that the value of art is tied to its creator’s psychological state; it seems reasonable to extrapolate from this study to the value of design solutions, for example.  Graddy and Lieberman report that “Dates of death of relatives and close friends of 33 French artists and 15 American artists were gathered from electronic sources and biographies, and information on over 15,000 paintings was collected from the Blouin Art Sales Index and the online collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, the J.


Research Conversations


2017 was a good year for people who value science-informed design.  Many studies published in 2017 deepen our understanding of how humans (and sometimes other species) experience the worlds around themselves.   In many cases, the newly published research allows theory to move into practice.


Cognitive-science based research has generated powerful insights into how children experience designed spaces and objects. Design that reflects how places and things are most likely to influence youngsters’ thoughts and behaviors can support their development and wellbeing.


Scientists have learned a lot about the design of fitness zones where extra pounds drop away, muscles build, and moods soar.   They’ve identified ways that design can get our hearts and limbs pumping and make it more likely that when we’re done exercising we view our sweat-sodden experiences positively.

Our location relative to sea level can have a tremendous effect on the ways our brains work and we act, even if we don’t get altitude sickness.  Designers creating spaces at higher elevations, or objects that will be used there, should know how altitude influences humans, so they can attempt to counter its potential negative consequences.

PlaceCoach News Briefs


Useful new resource for understanding designed spaces


Retail roundup reaches conclusions

More evidence that design affects stress

Different symmetry, different evaluations

Be careful when designing in play

Lighting's brightness and uniformity matter

Training influences assessments

Survey responses vary over time, regardless

Book Reviews


An introduction to crucial design-related considerations

Thoughtful insights for people designing for people

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.