Research Design Connections

Seeing Nature and Body Image (01-18-18)

A recently published study indicates that nature images in a space and being in nature do more than just help people restock their mental processing power and de-stress. Swami and team found that “exposure to images of natural, but not built, environments resulted in improved state body image. . . . [and a] walk in a natural environment resulted in significantly higher state body appreciation [a feature of positive body image], whereas [a] walk in a built environment resulted in significantly lower scores. . . .

Designing Exercising for Personality (01-17-18)

New research indicates the best sorts of exercise opportunities to provide to employees and other groups.  A press release from the British Psychological Society, reporting on the work of John Hackston, states that “The effectiveness of someone’s exercise regime may depend on their individual personality type. . . . [data collected via surveys determined that] people with extraverted personality types were more likely to prefer exercising at the gym.

Kids and Red (01-16-18)

A research team lead by Siu indicates that children and adults have similar associations to the color red.  This research is important because as Siu and colleagues indicate “Color has been identified as a key consideration in ergonomics.  Color conveys messages and is an important element in safety signs, as it provides extra information to users.”  The researchers report that while previous studies have shown that adults link red with “hazard/hazardous,” their research indicates that children 7 to 11 years old associate red with “don’t.” This information means that the color red is a good

Urban Planning for Psychological Challenges (01-12-18)

Whitby links environmental design and positive experiences for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  She reports that “Inclusive design enhances environmental competency and removes barriers to enable people to interact with their surroundings in the way they want to. Two disorders that can affect people's environmental competency are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This scoping study found that interpersonal interactions were a key barrier to their use of public buildings.

Nature Lessons (01-11-18)

Kuo and her team have learned that outdoor teaching sessions have positive implications after students return to their indoor classrooms.  The researchers report that “Using carefully matched pairs of lessons (one in a relatively natural outdoor setting and one indoors), we observed subsequent classroom engagement during an indoor instructional period. .

Young Wayfinders (01-10-18)

Research completed by Lingwood, Blades, Farran, Courbois, and Matthews indicates that children may be better at finding their way through spaces than previously believed, which has repercussions for the design of spaces frequented by children, for example.  The Lingwood-lead team “investigated whether children could learn a route after only a single experience of the route. A total of 80 participants from the United Kingdom in . . . groups of . . . 8-year-olds, 10-year-olds, 12-year-olds, and adults were shown a route through a 12-turn maze in a virtual environment.

More on the Benefits of Nature (01-09-18)

Data collected via a smartphone app confirms that there are psychological benefits to nearby nature.  A press release issued by Kings College reports that Bakolis, Hammond, Smythe, Gibbons, Davidson, Tognin, and Mechelli found that among people in cities “(i) being outdoors, seeing trees, hearing birdsong, seeing the sky, and feeling in contact with nature were associated with higher levels of mental wellbeing, and that (ii) the beneficial effects of nature were especially evident in those individuals with greater levels of impulsivity who are at greater risk of mental health issues [higher

Looking and Seeing (01-05-18)

The information we take in with our eyes may not be processed in an entirely objective way.  A research team lead by Witt of Colorado State University has, over approximately the last decade, published studies indicating that “vision can change as a function of action. . . . Among Witt’s best-known experiments: When baseball players are hitting better, they see the ball as bigger.

Pink, Blue, Girls, Boys (01-04-18)

Children around the world seem to learn to prefer pink if they’re female and blue if they’re male.  Yeung and Wong (both from the University of Hong Kong) conducted a study, published in Sex Roles, that is “the first to show that a boy’s preference for blue and a girl’s liking of pink is not just a Western construct, but is also a phenomenon in urban Asian societies. . . .


Research Conversations

Dome view

Ceilings significantly affect the psychological experience of being in a place, although space users do not often focus on these horizontal planes.  This article reviews neuroscience research on ceilings and how these surfaces can be used to achieve design objectives.

Reflected Façades

Cognitive science research in urban and other settings regularly shows that people are people no matter where they are and that they respond in consistent ways to the worlds around themselves. This article highlights findings from urban design studies that illustrate fundamental design principles that improve people’s lives, anyplace.


Designed and natural spaces can inspire awe in humans.  How do they produce this effect and why does it matter?  Applying insights gained from social science research to answer these questions enhances design practice.

How we sense and make sense of the environment around us—and how our brains work with information, in general—can vary based on where we are on Earth.  We discuss Equator-relative, design-related variations in thoughts and behaviors in this article.

PlaceCoach News Briefs


Findings that prevent crowding


Build in exploration

Quantifying the effects of applying basic principles

What's on the walls matters

The right answer depends on location

Research to inform design that supports rehabilitation

Practical. Relevant. Free.

Varying user experiences can be appropriate

Book Reviews


Makes unconscious forces conscious considerations

A crucial guide to an important tool

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.