The science behind meaningful design

Written by People and Culture Consulting

Psychology, research and being trained in rigorous statistical analysis can support workspace strategy by creating an understanding of human thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

Workspace strategy is becoming increasingly prominent due to end-users and project consultants, including designers, realising the benefits that data has on developing intelligent design solutions. In a bid to set the scene, the purpose of a workspace strategy is to align the workspace design with how organisations – including their teams and individuals – need to strategically function.

It is important, however, for experts in workspace strategy to also be specialists in human behaviour and have sound knowledge of organisational factors such as performance, value propositions, wellbeing, leadership and culture.

The collection of relevant data can provide additional pieces to the puzzle, further informing design objectives and decisions. The intention of this is to clearly understand the design needs and desires for both the organisation and the people.

There is a common misconception that data is always aligned with truth. The assumption is that if we can quantify behaviour, attitudes, experiences and functional needs for the workspace, then we can ensure the workspace design meets its users’ long-term requirements. However, the process taken to collect this data can have a significant impact on its accuracy. There are many biases and research considerations that can influence how valid the data is. If done incorrectly, the truth that we seek through data can be misleading and can lead to insufficient design solutions. In brevity, good quality data can maximise the alignment between the workspace design and the holistic organisational needs.

Additionally, understanding the cognitive biases (learned unconscious mental biases that distort our thinking, influencing what we believe and impacting
our decisions) that affect a person’s approach to responding to questions (whether in an interview, focus group or survey) can influence the quality of the data collected. The table below explains some of the important considerations to ensure the data collected is as accurate as possible to support workspace design decisions:

By addressing these considerations, accurate and reliable design objectives emerge and a more intelligent design can be achieved. Overall, workspace strategy benefits from the inclusion of specialists in research and human behaviour to capture a holistic understanding of an organisation and its people. By developing an accurate workspace strategy, designers can create workspaces that not only support how the organisation functions and represents itself aesthetically, but also promote positive employee experiences and drive productivity and innovation.

This article originally appeared in the DIA’s national newsletter, SPARK.