Research Design Connections

Nature Walks and Mother/Daughter Interactions (11-16-17)

Izenstark and Ebata, studied interactions between mothers and daughters outdoors and reported their findings in Children, Youth and Environments.  They determined that “spending time outside in nature—even just a 20-minute walk—together can help family members get along even better. . . . ‘Past research shows that in nature individuals’ attention is restored but we wanted to know, what does that mean for family relationships?

Wobbling on Bridges (11-15-17)

For most people, walking on a swaying pedestrian bridge is an unpleasant experience.  Researchers share, at the web address noted below, tools for developing stable pedestrian bridges.  As they state: “Modern pedestrian and suspension bridges are designed using industry standard packages, yet disastrous resonant vibrations are observed. . . . The most prominent example of an unstable lively bridge is the London Millennium Bridge, which started wobbling as a result of pedestrian-bridge interactions.  . . . We develop foot force models of pedestrians’ response to bridge motion and detailed .

Workers Desires: Sitting, Standing, Walking (11-14-17)

Wallmann-Sperlich and her team probed desk-based workers’ desires to sit, stand, and walk while working; it’s important to remember that desires don’t always align with what should happen in any particular situation.  The researchers report that their “aim was to investigate and compare actual and desired proportions of time spent sitting, standing, walking, and doing physically demanding tasks at work reported by desk-based workers. . . . data were collected from German desk-based workers. . . .

Design in Opportunities for Music (11-13-17)

Research by Payne and his colleagues indicates the value of music in service environments.  Data were gathered via interviews with retail and café workers and  “a survey of workers in a large service retailer. The findings show broad support for music acting as a bridge for sociality [social exchanges]. Service workers appropriate music for their own purposes and many use this to provide texture and substance to social interactions with customers.”

Most Restorative Nature (11-10-17)

Wyles and her colleagues found that not all natural environments are equally restorative. What Wyles and her team have learned about the relative “restorativeness” of different places can be used to select the locations for, and orientations of, buildings, and also to choose art (when art is being used to support cognitive refreshment), for example.  The researchers report that “Exposure to nature can . . . enhance psychological restoration (e.g., feeling relaxed/refreshed). . . . The present study used data from a large survey in England . . .

Building in Solitude (11-09-17)

Research by Nguyen, Ryan, and Deci indicates that building places for solitude into a building/area is a good idea.  The investigators report that their work “showed that solitude generally has a deactivation effect on people’s affective [emotional] experiences, decreasing both positive and negative high-arousal affects [moods]. . . . we found that the deactivation effect occurred when people were alone, but not when they were with another person. . . . this deactivation effect did not depend on whether or not the person was engaged in an activity such as reading when alone. . . .

Kids and Noise (11-08-17)

The Erickson/Newman team studied previously published research on children’s reactions to background noise.  To contextualize their conclusions, they report that a whisper in a quiet library is 30 dB loud, the daytime noise levels in open bay neonatal intensive care units are about 60 dB, sound levels in occupied infant and toddler classrooms are 60-90 dB, and that the volume in a noisy restaurant is approximately 80-90 dB.  The researchers report that “Despite their relatively mature auditory systems, infants and children struggle with listening in noise relative to adults, particularly wh


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.