Which light is best? Houser and colleagues report that “light is still for vision, and lighting for visibility, visual comfort and visual amenity is as important as ever. Complementing the old is new awareness and responsibility for how light and lighting influence non-visual responses in humans. Circadian, neuroendocrine and neurobehavioural responses are important for human health and should be considered on-par with visual responses. This awareness leads toward lighting design solutions with increased contrast between day and night.
Hong and teammates studied adding nature sounds to outdoor spaces. Study participants wore a mixed-reality head-mounted display and saw a hologram of either a sparrow or a fountain or a loudspeaker while hearing birdsong or a stream. The researchers determined via data collected outdoors, near an expressway, that “both natural sounds significantly reduced the PLN [perceived loudness of the traffic noise] and enhanced the OSQ [overall sound quality]. . . . Analysis on the preferred signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), i.e.
Hvass and teammates investigated how lighting urban spaces influence perceptions of experiences there. They determined via a field study in public transportation waiting areas and a laboratory experiment (where one light zone simulated the same sort of waiting area and the other the surrounding urban space) that “participants perceived the atmosphere in the simulated waiting area as relaxed and private when luminance intensity was low.
Sabiniewicz directed a research team that found that adding scents to virtual reality experiences may affect how pleasant they seem. The group determined via a project during which “participants were divided into three groups, including two experimental virtual reality (VR) environments [still scenes]: a rose garden, an orange basket, and a control condition. In each VR condition, participants were exposed to a rose odor, an orange odor, or no odor. . . Virtual scenarios tended to be remembered as more pleasant when presented with congruent odors [i.e., rose odor with the rose garden]. .
Physical and other concerns related to birthing suite design were studied by Carlsson, Larsson, and Jormfeldt. Their literature review reports “a need to create a space for childbirth underpinned by four aspects; a homely space, a spiritual space, a safe space, and a territorial space. . . . A homely space was characterized by a place where the woman didn´t have to adapt to the environment. . . . In essence, a homely space contributed to a feeling of being at home, a non-threatening, comfortable relaxing space for the women, which implied a sense of belonging. . . .
Van Nes applied space syntax principles at the city level. He found that “shop owners always search for an optimal location to reach as many customers as possible. If the accessibility to this optimal location is affected by changes in a city’s road and street structure, it will affect the location pattern of shops. . . . how an inner ring road is connected to and the type of the street network it is imposed upon dictates the resulting location pattern of shops. Shops locate and relocate themselves along the most spatially-integrated streets. . .
Post-pandemic waiting is likely to be much like pre-pandemic waiting, without as much crowding and with lots of hand-sanitizing stations. Neuroscientists have extensively researched positive waiting experiences, and the insights their findings generate are practical and applicable as we move forward to design our future world.
As we establish new ways of being post-pandemic, it seems particularly important to keep the principles of positive design top-of-mind. They are grounded in rigorous research and have been tested in challenging real world situations.
Designed and natural objects and spaces can awe humans. How? What is awesome? And why does awe matter? Applying neuroscience to answer these questions enriches design practice.
Ways of thinking influence ways of working