Multisensory Research: Why Our Senses Should Guide Design
Melissa Marsh (PLASTARC, Inc.)
As the boundaries of work and life continue to blend, and a focus on the wellness aspects of buildings emerge, future spaces must prioritize functional needs as well as human factors. Humans are sensors. Multisensory design acknowledges that people experience and react to space in many ways. Taste, touch and smell are equally as important as seeing and hearing when it comes to our experience of an environment. Multisensory design can be the bridge between evolving user experience (UX) demands and exceptional delivery of workplace environments. An understanding of the multisensory experience in work spaces should inform future office design, programming, and policy. As practitioners who work to improve the user experience of workplaces, we are advocates of designing for the senses.
In this presentation, we will present two case studies of workplaces to understand the multisensory experience. We will describe projects looking at a coworking space and a corporate Activity-Based Working (ABW) environment. These two different environments have one thing in common: they both allow occupants to choose when and where to work at a given time. The coworking and ABW models allow us to study where occupants gravitate, and to draw a correlation between the spaces occupants choose, with the sensory and functional elements of those spaces.
Our observations suggest that there are two tiers of choice to use by the occupant that we can diagnose. First, by studying where people are choosing to work based on their function, we can better understand the functionality of different spaces. Second, by studying spaces that have the same functions but different sensory elements, we can understand preference based on the multisensory experience of the space. These two themes, functionality and multisensory, shed light on how to build desirable spaces, and should be used to inform the design of future spaces.