When we talk research in interior design and how design impacts the human experience, in most cases we are referring to environmental psychology research. Central to environmental psychology is place, and the concepts that branch out of it – for example, place identity, sense of place, and place attachment. Interior designers create places that augment meaning to the people experiencing them, which becomes the basis for these psychological concepts.
Meaning is the key piece that transforms space into place. The search for meaning in physical settings form our experiences within the space and can further impact future experiences in other environments. We tend to be most impacted by environments that we spend more time in, such as our home and workplace, or environments that relate to intense and memorable experiences. Both consciously and unconsciously we are interacting with our surroundings, and from those exchanges our psyche continues to shape.
What does this mean in our everyday life? The findings from the Capital One 2017 Work Environment survey* shed light on how employees find meaning in their workplaces.
- Alignment: Employees look for congruence between work and workplace design, especially when it comes to innovative work. 82 percent of respondents (86 percent of Millennials) agree to some extent that companies cannot encourage innovation unless their workplace design and environment is innovative.
- Agility: Employees look for support in the ever-changing nature of work. 85 percent of respondents (89 percent of Millennials) feel that it is important for their company’s workplace design to be flexible, and 82 percent (88 percent of Millennials) agree that they have their best ideas when they are able to use flexible workspace options.
- Amenity: Employees look for additional programs and options that reflect their values. Benefits related to healthy behaviors and flexible work were high on respondents’ wish lists.
I received added insight on these survey findings while participating in a roundtable hosted by Capital One to discuss the significance of office design and what today’s workforce looks for in current and prospective employers. Part of our discussion led to dialogue around creativity and the creative workplace. When it comes to creativity research, my mind goes straight to Rhodes** (1961) four P’s of creativity (Person, Process, Product, and Place/Press) or more recently, Glaveanu*** (2013) five A’s of creativity (Actor, Action, Artifact, Audience, and Affordances) . With these frameworks in mind, the key take-away I see from the survey findings above are in the collective of the three:
- Augmentation: Employees desire a workplace—both company culture and physical space—that encourages creativity in all aspects and provides an environment for growth. For innovation to happen, they expect the company to communicate the importance of it through workplace design (alignment), to make the spaces follow the work that is required (agility), and to have options that support and/or expand the scope of work (amenity). These three points tap into the three modes of existence (being, doing, and having)**** – in other words, employees expect the workplace to be a representation of their identity.
Unfortunately, more than half of the respondents indicated that their company’s current workplace design is uninspiring and does not encourage them to be innovative (59 percent of respondents; 62 percent of Millennials). For companies that require innovative work and look to secure creative talent, designing the workplace to afford employees with the opportunity to identify holistically with it is essential to stay competitive. With increasing emphasis on workplace design (the survey found that when considering a new job, nearly two in three office professionals believe that workplace design is equally as important or more important than workplace location), this is a prime opportunity for interior designers to demonstrate their ability to create meaningful places for employees to engage and for companies to thrive.
*The Capital One 2017 Work Environment Survey asked 2,500 full-time office professionals (500 each from five primary markets: Chicago, Dallas, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.) in a wide range of industries (including accounting, consulting, education, entertainment, healthcare, IT, media, law, manufacturing, marketing, restaurant/service, sales, engineering, etc.) to share their preferences and priorities in workplace design, environment, and benefits.
About the Author
Susan Chung, Ph.D., is the senior research associate at the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) where she connects design and research for improving human experiences in the interior environment. Valuing the needs of design practitioners, her work at ASID translates research on interior design issues and trends into applicable design implications, and directs projects that investigate positive impact on human experiences. She also devotes her summer time teaching students at Cornell University on how design is interconnected with our daily lives and how they can make a difference in this world through design. With a background in both interior design and organizational behavior research from her doctorate degree in Human Behavior and Design at Cornell University, she has a particular passion in how design attributes are related to creative performance in workplace environments.
**Rhodes, M. (1961). An analysis of creativity. Phi Delta Kappan, 42, 305-311.
*** Glaveanu, V. (2013). Rewriting the language of creativity: The Five A’s framework. Review of General Psychology, 17(1), 69-81.
**** Rand, Y. (1993). “Modes of Existence (MoE): To be, to have, to do- Cognitive and motivational aspects”, paper presented at the International Association for Cognitive Education. Israel: Nof Ginosar.