Is Good Design Good Business?
Examples abound. Patient confidence in medical procedures was shown to increase after the medical facility was remodeled. Student enrollment and applicants for faculty teaching positions in a school of architecture nearly doubled after a new student learning-centered post-modern facility was completed. Bank customers conveyed a clear preference for contemporary interiors with some design reference to regional residential design trends. Employee productivity can be substantially increased by skylights.
Of the many design factors that contribute to overall employee performance, productivity, and satisfaction, perhaps the most important is the ambient environment. Factors such as temperature, humidity, air movement, air quality, illumination, and acoustics influence individual moods, well-being, daily functioning, and interpersonal behaviors among workers. These environmental factors can contribute either to the reduction or amplification of stress in the workplace. This is especially important in office work, where stressful environments can cause overreactions to routine situations and too-narrow attention to detail.
Cool office spaces can improve the performance of administrative tasks while reducing day-end fatigue (even when workers prefer warmer temperatures). Air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, often found in buildings near major roads, restrict the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Reducing such pollutants can increase alertness and enhance performance. Minimizing noise can decrease chances of aggression and increase attention to social cues. Natural illumination can promote cooperation among workers, though full-spectrum lamps, contrary to manufacturers' claims, do not enhance performance.
Any design process evolves over time as new information surfaces. Whatever design concept matures to final implementation often must survive debate among diverse interested parties. These exchanges involve both quantitative and qualitative links between image, perception, and human performance.
In this kind of real-world context, designers can argue successfully for design quality by showing the many contributions good design can make toward basic business values.
Attila Lawrence is Professor and Coordinator of the Interior Architecture and Design program in the School of Architecture at the University of Nevada. He teaches qualitative research methods in the Graduate Architecture Program.
The spacious ambient environment of the Architecture Studies Library at UNLV ensures optimal air circulation, enhances knowledge work, and keeps the staff feeling refreshed.
Photo: Charles A. Wendelboe
Facilitec of Nevada, designed by Lawrence Ward and Carol Howes, includes informal meeting spaces accessible to all members of a corporate culture. The flexible spatial configuration offers inviting comfort and affords activity-appropriate privacy.
Photo: Greg Cava Studios
Skylights in Las Vegas's Sahara West Library and Fine Arts Museum, by Meyer, Scherer, & Rockcastle Architects in association with Tate & Snyder Architects, create the ambience of outdoor pleasures while enhancing a cooperative atmosphere for building users.
Photo: Attila Lawrence
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