Even good designers can make the following 5 mistakes.
Not putting people in the driver's seat:
People feel better when they are in control of their environment. If people can reconfigure furniture, adjust the temperature, change the lighting, choose where to sit, and have options to complete tasks, they experience a place more positively.
- Control enhances satisfaction with an environment (RDC, Blog, 2015, "More on the Benefits of Control")
- Office personalization is linked to job satisfaction and employee well-being. (RDC, February, 2015, "Healthy Workplaces;"RDC, Issue 4, 2011, “Classic Study: Value of Office Personalization”)
- Putting doorbells outside patient rooms in a long-term care facility makes residents and staff more comfortable. (RDC, Issue 2, 2011, “Nursing Homes: Doors and Doorbells”)
- Whether we’re sitting in a stretched out posture (as in an Eames recliner) or not influences how powerful we feel. (RDC, Issue 4, 2010, “Power Postures”)
- Employee environmental control is linked to enhanced performance at the individual, group, and organizational levels. (RDC, Issue 2, 2010, “Workplace Research: Satisfaction, Control and Territoriality”)
- In a workplace, perceptions of personal control are directly related to perceptions of distraction, with people who feel that they have more control over their physical environment being somewhat less distracted and those people who feel less distracted believe that they performed better at their jobs. (RDC, Issue 1, 2010, “Office-Related Insights”)
- Patients feel they have more and better access to the information, including their own records, test results, images, and online patient education material, when they are seated so that they can see the same computer screen as their physician. (RDC, Issue 4, 2009, “Healthcare Design: Patient Communication and Ambulatory Care”)
- People prefer restaurant seats with different degrees of privacy depending on their mood. (RDC, Issue 1, 2009, “Preferred Seats in Restaurants")
- Personal control over the physical workspace leads to higher perceived group cohesiveness and job satisfaction. (RDC, Issue 2, 2006, “Control Matters”)
- When creating environments for dementia patients and their families, a variety of seating options gives families appropriate places to interact based on their visiting style and loved one’s condition. (RDC, Issue 1, 2004, “Dementia Design: Continuing to Make a Difference”
- When completing a simple task, music can increase performance, but decrease performance when the task is complex. With control, individuals can create the musical environment that works best for them. (RDC, Issue 4, 2002, “Background Music: Bane or Benefit”
Not designing for all users:
As good designers, we are all concerned about the experiences people have in the places we create. Unfortunately, we can forget how varied the people who will eventually inhabit and use our spaces actually are.
- Children with ADHD learn best in classrooms that support movement (RDC, April, 2015, "Designing for Activity")
- People with ADHD or on the Autism Spectrum have clear design related needs (RDC, March, 2014, "Designing to Support Autistic Users or People with ADHD")
- People from different cultures experience environments they encounter as tourists in very different ways. (RDC, Issue 3, 2011, “Experiencing Spaces Differently: Cultural Variations”)
- How do different user groups view hospital pediatric settings? (RDC, Issue 2, 2011, “Nonverbal Messages in Healthcare Settings”)
- Adding white noise to school environments enhances performance of some students with learning issues, but harms that of other students. (RDC, Issue 4, 2010, “White Noise Beneficial for Some Students”)
- Language influences how we think about and use space. (RDC, Issue 4, 2010, “More Evidence: Language Influences Thoughts and Preferences”)
- Depressed, schizophrenic, and autistic people experience the world in particular, and unusual, ways. (RDC, Issue 3, 2010, “Psychological State Influences Our View of the World”)
- What design elements affect playground use? What defines a well-designed primary school? What features do children want in common hospital spaces? (RDC, Issue 2, 2010, “Designing for Children: Playgrounds, Schools and Hospitals”)
- What colors are favored by people who are depressed?Are those preferences different from those of people who are not depressed?(RDC, Issue 1, 2010, “Color Associations and Choices”)
- Healthcare facilities can be designed to please adolescents, elders, and everyone in between. (RDC, Issue 1, 2010, “Designing for Health at Any Age”)
- Design can enhance the lives of people living with neurological disabilities. (RDC, Issue 1, 2010,“Neurological Disability: Designing Residential Care Facilities”)
- Do members of different generations really have different place-based needs? (RDC, Issue 1, 2009, “Are Generation Y Brains Different from Baby Boomers Brains?” and Issue 1, 2008, “Facilitating Multi-Generational Interaction”)
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Not thinking counter-intuitively:
Every designer brings preconceived notions to his or her design projects. But designers and users can experience places differenly and in ways that may be inconsistent with established design practices.
- Brain-body synergies have been linked to the experience of designed spaces and objects (RDC, April, 2015, "Embodied Cognition and Brain-Body Links")
- Our brains themselves can be physically different in ways that influence how we live in the world. (RDC, Issue 4, 2011, “Same Place, Same Time, Different Experience”)
- Does the golden ratio rule? (RDC, Issue 3, 2010, “The Golden (?) Section”)
- Trying to incorporate “fun” spaces in workplaces may not be a good idea. (RDC, Issue 3, 2010, “Creating Productive Workplaces”)
- Not all cultures see the physical environment in the same way, and that holds for those with different religious beliefs. Some of these differences may be linked to neural function. (RDC, Issue 3, 2010, “Culture, Religious Outlook and Perception”)
- Walking enhances cognitive performance (RDC, Issue 2, 2010, “Walking and Thinking”)
- Tactile experiences influence social behavior. (RDC, Issue 2, 2010, “Tactile Experiences and Social Behavior”)
- Psychologists using sophisticated research tools are finding out that some of our metaphorical expressions are more than just expressions (RDC, Issue 1, 2010, “”Sensory Metaphors – More than Meet the Ear”)
- WiFi is creating places where digital and physical spaces do not align. (RDC, Issue 4, 2009, “Public Gathering Spaces”)
- Human behavior in sustainable buildings is not always easy to anticipate (RDC, Issue 2, 2009, “Knowledge, Expectations, and Behavior in Green Buildings” and Issue 1, 2009, “Psychological Responses to Green Workplaces”)
- Particular aspects of the physical environment have been linked to creative human behavior. (RDC, Issue 2, 2009 “Places Where People are Creative” and Issue 3, 2008, “Workplace Design and Employee Creativity/Innovativeness” and Issue 1, 2008, “Designing Places for Creative Work”)
Not mining other design disciplines:
Design of all types deals with the core of human experience. The fundamentals of human place experience are consistent across all sorts of spaces, and there are synergies between research done in each design field. Architects can learn from landscape architects, landscape architects can learn from architects, industrial designers can learn from interior designers, interior designers can learn from architects, and so on.
- Workplace design influences worker performance in many, often unexpected, ways (RDC, December, 2014, "Workplace Design=> User Performance")
- Retail design continues to have an important influence on vendors’ financial performance. Many of those influences are related to shoppers’ experiences and resulting moods. (RDC, Issue 2, 2011, “Retail Atmosphere”)
- Hospitals can be seen through different lenses, such as a business case lens, a cultural lens and an ethical lens, and all have implications for design. (RDC, Issue 1, 2011, “Healthcare Design: What, Where, Why”)
- People are likely to be more creative in workplaces designed with certain physical features. (RDC, Issue 1, 2011, “Designing for Innovation”)
- Perceived temperature can be influenced in urban squares through spatial forms and materials (RDC, Issue 3, 2010, “Perceptions of Sensory Stimuli”)
- Spiritual spaces are particularly challenging to design, but insights from research can be helpful. (RDC, Issue 2, 2010, “Designing Spiritual Spaces”)
- Both indoors and outdoors, more restorative environments are linked to higher levels of exercise. (RDC, Issue 4, 2009, “Increasing Exercise Outdoors”)
- Design and management of urban green areas can benefit from input from health practitioners, designers, and natural resource managers. (RDC, Issue 3, 2009, “Creating Life-Enhancing Urban Open Spaces”)
- Chairs, and the ways we use them, are changing – and staying the same. (RDC, Issue 2, 2009, “Rethinking Seating”)
- Literature reviews provide valuable tips for people designing retail spaces (RDC, Issue 3, 2008, “Designing Effective Retail Spaces”)
- As more meetings become virtual, it is important to design meeting spaces that support both co-located and virtual meetings. (RDC, Issue 2, 2008, “Designing Meeting Spaces that Support Both Local and Virtual Collaboration”)
- Place experiences happen everywhere. Shopping malls are designed as entertainment destinations – and so can parks, zoos, museums, and urban downtowns. (RDC, Issue 2, 2004, "Shopping as Entertainment: The Mall as a Happening Place”)
- Environmental psychologists and ergonomic experts have spent a lot of energy developing optimum operating room designs and other disciplines can learn from their experiences. (RDC, Issue 3, 2003, “Lessons from Operating Rooms”)
Ignoring the total place experience:
We do not experience places one sense at a time, but holistically – all of our sensory mechanisms are continuously employed. Each sense can be used to augment or reduce the impression being created by the other senses.
- Functional soundscapes make it more likely that people will think and act in desired ways (RDC, September, 2014, "Functional Sound")
- Light color has a significant effect on mental and physical well-being (RDC, Issue 3, 2013, "What Color Light is Best?")
- Color chroma significantly influences office worker performance. (RDC, Issue 4, 2011, “The Power of Color”)
- People who see downward pointing triangles anywhere have a negative response. (RDC, Issue 3, 2011, “Emotional Links to Shapes”)
- Colors should be selected for retail environments after considering other design elements and shopper characteristics. (RDC, Issue 3, 2010, “Retail Environments: Designing Places to Sell”)
- Boys and girls prefer different colors. (RDC, Issue 2, 2010, “Color Preferences for Boys and Girls”) and even infants display color preferences under certain circumstances. (RDC, Issue 4, 2009, “When Red?”)
- Music can help heal. (RDC, Issue 3, 2009, “Music in Cardiac Care Environments”)
- Light levels have a profound influence on human experience. (RDC, Issue 3, 2009, “Light Levels and Perceived Openness”)
- Aircraft noise can be detrimental to children’s mental health. (RDC, Issue 1, 2009, “Exposures to Noise and Deteriorating Neighborhoods affect Mental Health”)
- Any pleasant smell will improve the performance of a retail space, but some smells might be more effective than others. (RDC, Issue 4, 2006, “Good Smell Never Hurts”)
- The right sort of background music can increase the money spent in restaurants (RDC, Issue 4, 2003, “Classical Music Increases Money Spent in Restaurants”) and stores (RDC, Issue 1, 2004, “Retail Design – 1-2-3”).
- Scents and sounds can enhance a healing environment (RDC, Issue 2, 2003, “Hospital Designers Become ‘Sense Aware’”; RDC, Issue 4, 2002, “Lemon Scent Reduces Agitation”); scents can easily be introduced into a variety of environments with diffusers.
Bonus - Underestimating the value of nature:
People need to take mental breaks continuously during the course of the day. Positive distractions and access to nature can provide just the sort of refreshing nudge people need for optimum place experience and performance.
- Therapeutic gardens/landscapes boost mental health and well-being (RDC, March, 2014, "Healing Design in Therapeutic Gardens/Landscapes")
- The denser the neighborhood tree canopy, the stronger the social ties binding people living in that neighborhood (RDC, February, 2014, "Trees and Social Capital")
- Trees near homes positively influence pregnancy outcomes. (RDC, Issue 3, 2011, “Positive Urban Planning”)
- Wood in interior spaces can be restorative. (RDC, Issue 4, 2010, “Restorative Effects of Wood”)
- In-office plants boost human productivity (RDC, Issue 3, 2010, “Creating Productive Workplaces”) and green plants in classrooms enhance the learning experience and green school ground improve children’s mental health by alleviating stress, even when children live in a rural setting (RDC, Issue 4, 2009 “School Design: Thinking Green”)
- Spending as little as five minutes in a nature setting results in large improvements in self-esteem and mood. (RDC, Issue 2, 2010, “Workplace Research: Distraction, Stress Relief and Exercise”)
- Gardens can be designed as alternatives to air-conditioning. (RDC, Issue 1, 2009 “Sustainable Cooling in Gardens”)
- Want calming and attractive hospital rooms? Add plants. (RDC, Issue 4, 2008, “Plants Increase Hospital Room Attractiveness”)
- People are happier when looking at trees than inanimate objects and are happiest when viewing spreading trees. (RDC, Issue 4, 2006, “Spreading Tree Forms Desirable”)
- The aim of a healing garden is to provide a place of respite and renewal. Yet such a goal has to include the different needs of patients, visitors, and staff. An evaluation of how 3 healing gardens at a pediatric cancer center were used and appreciated provides insight into maximizing the use of healing gardens for diverse populations. (RDC, Issue 1, 2006, “Healing Gardens: Case Study Results and Design Implications”)
- It seems intuitive that outdoor views and plants can decrease stress for office workers. But how might plants and views affect people when used together? (RDC, Issue 3-4, 2005, “Workplace Windows and Plants - Identifying the Best Stress Relievers”)
- Aquariums have repeatedly been shown to positively influence state of mind, with the general population and with special populations, such as Alzheimer’s patients. (RDC, Issue 4, 2003, “More Evidence of the Positive Influence of Aquariums”)
- Housing complexes with more trees and grass present have been linked to lower violence levels (RDC, Issue 1, 2002, “Designing with Nature to Reduce Crime") and supportive environments with natural elements can be used to reduce attention deficit symptoms in children. (RDC Issue 2, 2002, “ADD Children: Nature’s Helping Hand")
AND. . . designers can’t ignore the value of learning from others’ experience by reading post-occupancy evaluations (POEs).
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