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Welcome to the Research Design Connections blog, started in 2007. Recent blog entries are available here. Earlier blog entries (one for every working day since the beginning of May, 2007) are available to subscribers.

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Kozik and team evaluated how presenting data using painting-like techniques influences cognitive responses to that information.  They depicted weather data in “a common visualization style, glyph, and impressionism-inspired painting styles, sculptural, containment, and impasto. [The researchers] tested participants’ recognition memory for these visualizations and found that impasto, a style resembling paintings like Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, was comparable with glyphs and superior to the other impressionist styles. [The research team also] tested participants’ ability to report the prevalence of the color blue (representative of a single weather condition) within each visualization, and here impasto was superior to glyphs and the other impressionist styles. . . . styles participants liked had higher task performance relative to less liked styles. . . . impressionist visualizations elicited greater visual exploration than glyphs. These results offer a proof-of-concept that the painterly techniques of impressionism, and particularly those of the impasto style, can create visualizations that are functional, liked, and encourage visual exploration.”  The glyphs used by experimenters resembled pointillist images. The sculptural style is described as an oil painting-like approach reminiscent of the brushwork in Water Lilies, Evening Effect(1897-1899) by Monet or Starry Night Over the Rhone (1888) by Van Gogh.  Containment is explained as resembling the brushwork in Irises(1889) by Van Gogh.  

Paval Kozik, Laura Tateosian, Christopher Healey, and James Enns. “Impressionism-Inspired Data Visualizations Are Both Functional and Liked.”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press,

Coskun, Kaner, and Bostan interviewed people living in different types of households (alone or with family members, in one income or dual income families, etc.) who were classified as likely to be relatively early users of smart home technologies.  The Coskun-lead team found that being able to use the same technological tool in different ways in different situations and “remote control have great potential for facilitating the widespread use of smart household appliances when they are combined with the ability to increase users’ competence in household activities through providing guidance.”  In particular, the “Ability [of the appliance] to provide guidance was preferred for washing machines, fridges and stoves. This feature . . . would eventually lead to increased ability in undertaking household activities (e.g., cooking like a chef).”  Coskun and colleagues report that “chores are repetitive activities that usually take too much time and physical effort. . ..pleasurable activities are the rituals they enjoy doing and included spending time with children, cooking. . . . Participants did not want technology to interfere with these pleasurable activities while wanting future household appliances to take over the full responsibility of chores. . . the real value of automation would be the time it saves.”

Aykut Coskun, Gul Kaner, and Idil Bostan.  2018.   “Is Smart Home a Necessity or a Fantasy for the Mainstream User?  A Study on Users’ Expectations of Smart Household Appliances.” International Journal of Design, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 7-20,

Unnava, Sing, and Unnava evaluated how drinking coffee affects groups.  Their findings support designing to encourage coffee consumption. The researchers found that  “consuming a moderate amount of caffeinated coffee prior to indulging in a group activity enhances an individual’s task-relevant participation in the group activity. In addition, subjective evaluations of the participation of other group members and oneself are also positively influenced.” So, consuming coffee enhanced actual on-task performance as well as impressions of the performance of all meeting attendees.

Vasu Unnava, Amit Singh, and H. Unnava.  “Coffee with Co-Workers:  Role of Caffeine on Evaluations of the Self and Others in Group Settings.”  Journal of Psychopharmacology, in press,

Hamidi and Zandiatashbar studied where innovative companies locate.  They report that “Geography of innovation, creative clustering, urban buzz and innovation districts are place-based concepts that have emerged as a result of the US economy’s transformation to knowledge-intensive economies. The notable built environment characteristics of these concepts are spatial clustering, walkability and proximity to urban amenities, diversity, regional connectivity and agglomeration. . . . We found that innovative firms tend to locate more in census tracts that are less compact but offer spatial proximity to firms in related business sectors. This is likely due to the higher land and property value in compact areas, which could make it unaffordable for small businesses. We also found that the regional compactness positively and significantly affects the number of innovative firms. This is likely due to the role of compact regions in supporting public transit investments, enhancing social capital and reducing poverty and racial segregation.”

Shima Hamidi and Ahoura Zandiatashbar.  “Does Urban Form Matter for Innovation Productivity?  A National Multi-Level Study of the Association Between Neighborhood Innovation Capacity and Urban Sprawl.” Urban Studies, in press,

Lloyd, Rodgers, and Roberts probed how the way that color is used on maps affects wayfinding.  The team’s studies focus on New York City subway maps.  Lloyd, Rodgers and Roberts had hundreds of participants use “an on-screen map to plan a number of journeys. . . .Each journey contained one or more ‘navigational hazard’ such as where one route switched places with another route, merged with another route or trunk, or passed under another trunk. . . . The three colour-coding schemes studied were: ‘route colouring’ where each end-to-end route is coloured distinctly; ‘trunk colouring’ where routes are coloured according to the trunks they run along; and the intermediate ‘shade colouring’. . . . Participants’ performance when navigating from one station to another was determined by recording how many mistakes they made and how long they took to complete each task.. . . in planning simple journeys with at most one change, the route-coloured map scored the highest usability, while in planning complex journeys with multiple changes, the trunk-coloured map scored the highest usability. . . . on routes with jump hazards – where riders have to move from one branch line to another . . .  trunk colouring was more effective.” Lloyd, Rodgers, and Robertswill present their findings at Diagrams2018 in Edinburgh and at the Transit Mapping Symposium (2018) in Montreal.  

Dan Worth.  2018.  “Research Shows How ‘Navigational Hazards’ in Metro Maps Confuse Travellers.”  Press release, university of Kent,

Kim, Park, and Hong investigated links between design and nonmotorized travel (for instance, walking and biking).  They learned that “nonmotorized users tend to choose more clustered destinations than motorized users. . . . Transportation networks and nonmotorized facilities [for example, bike racks] at trip destinations are especially important factors for nonmotorized mode choice.” Characteristics of potential destinations, such as net population and employment densities, mix of land uses, and  length of bicycle facilities [racks] present are all positively associated with non-motorized travel; as each of them increases, so does nonmotorized travel.  Also, “balanced land uses, especially between residential and nonresidential uses, seem to attract more nonmotorized trips.”

Dohyung Kim, Jiyoung Park, and Andy Hong.  2018.  “The Role of Destination’s Built Environment on Nonmotorized Travel Behavior:  A Case of Long Beach, California.”  Journal of Planning Education and Research, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 152-166, DOI: 10.1177/0739456X16688765.

Yang and colleagues studied how being around things that spur romance-related thoughts influences the consumption of sweet foods; space and object design can be romantic cues.  The Yang lead team reports that they “examine[d] how exposure to romantic stimuli (e.g., watching a romantic ad, reading a romantic note) affects consumers’ subsequent consumption of sweets.”  Via five experiments the researchers found that “the romantic stimuli exposure increases sweet food consumption among abstract thinkers but reduces sweet food intake among concrete thinkers.”  So, the effects of the romantic stimuli were tied to personality.

Xiaojing Yang, Huifang Mao, Lei Jia, and Melissa Bublitz. “A Sweet Romance: Divergent Effects of Romantic Stimuli on the Consumption of Sweets.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press,

Acoustical issues complicate workplace design. Yadav and colleagues have learned that “international standard, ISO 3382-3[-based] solutions aren't always effective for the short conversational distances in open-plan offices . . . ‘The local acoustic treatment we've studied so far includes the use of high-back chairs -- with or without sound absorption near the head -- and 'retroreflective ceilings' that reflect sound back in the direction of the source, which allows you to hear your own voice reflected back to your ears much louder than is possible with flat or other types of hard ceiling surfaces or absorptive ceilings," Yadav [Manuj Yadav, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Sydney] said. People tend to ‘simply put, lower their voices when they receive some support in the form of reflections from the room and nearby surfaces,’ Yadav said. . . . Yadav and colleagues have found that their local acoustic treatment ‘can, in many cases, provide substantial enhancement for speech communication at short distances and reduce the disturbance due to ambient noise when you're trying to concentrate.’”

“Can ‘Local Acoustic Treatment’ Reduce Speech Distraction Within Open-Plan Offices?”  2018.  Press release, Acoustical Society of America,

Gill and Lei studied how stereotypes influence responses to products and how color affects those reactions. They determined that “Counter‐stereotypical products (CSPs) are targeted at groups that are opposite to the stereotypical users of these products (e.g., face‐cream for men, construction tools for women). . . . Overall, CSPs targeting men faced more barriers than those targeting women, and this was especially so for publicly consumed CSPs (e.g., purse for men) as compared to privately consumed ones (e.g., hair‐remover for men).”  The researchers also “examined the effect of a common marketing tool—product design color (e.g., using blue for men and pink for women)—in reducing the above barriers. It was found that blue is effective in reducing stereotype‐based barriers for CSPs targeting men. For CSPs targeting women, using pink was only effective for women scoring high on femininity, and it backfired for those scoring low on femininity.”

Tripat Gill and Jing Lei.  “Counter-Stereotypical Products:  Barriers to Their Adoption and Strategies to Overcome Them.”  Psychology of Marketingin press,


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