The visible and the invisible, the physical and the mental, these are the two main groups of elements which affect our perceptions toward a certain designated space ambience. The designers play a major part in it, and these days, it seems that designers focus more on the aesthetic side of the creations, which fulfills the visible and physical parts for human's pleasures and desires, so what about the invisible and the mental parts? Aren't they as important as the visible and physical parts for the design innovations? “Design thinking”, it is a design methodology by Tim Brown, who takes a human-centered approach, along with business and technology considerations of human behavior, needs and preferences, which demonstrates the practice of the important values bring out by the invisible and mental design innovation throughout the whole process of creating a new design with three main stages, inspiration, ideation and implementation.
So what does it take to influence people's perceptions, behaviors & emotions? “We see the things themselves; the world is what we see” (Ponty, 1969). If we ask ourselves what is this WE, what SEEING is, and what the THING or WORLD is, we enter into a series of difficulties and contradictions.
It is natural for human beings to be attuned to their surroundings. A physical environment affects various aspects of an individual: physically, emotionally, psychologically and socially. It defines individuality, coming to terms to the human side of our preferences and the choices we make.
In design the designer's choices, preferences and ideas are as important as the client's choices, preferences and ideas. In most cases if not all, the designer needs to come to terms of the client's needs and wants. When this happens the designer is actually creating that solution which answers the various requirements of a human-centered design.
A term commonly used to describe human-centered design is called ambiance. What is ambiance? The general definition of ambiance is, a feeling, tone, character and atmosphere of the environment or surrounding influence; or the mood associated with a particular place, person, or thing.
The look and feel of a space is highly relevant to the choices an individual makes in spatial design. This is where the visible and invisible concept in design comes in. Visible is what can be seen and noticed, invisible is what can be felt. These are two basic factors present in human-centered design.
“Interior Design is a world where creativity breeds innovation and tomorrow's trends become today's styles. It is a career where art mingles with science to transform an architectural shell into a total environment” (Haddad). These days, a lot of people practice on the visible side, concentrating more towards the physical aesthetics and form representation. Society lacks the attention to the invisible side, the emotional and psychological design elements. Architects and interior designers focus on designing dwellings, the form, structure and order of the space. We build these dwellings to satisfy most of our physical needs, pleasures and desires, but it seems that the more subtle, emotional and mental aspects of the space remain untouched. Perhaps a space is not just about the form and architecture. The elements of invisible design also need to be taken into consideration, which are the emotional and psychological design elements. As our basic needs increase with our standard of living, we expect experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meaningful. This will not be as simple as a single product; it will be complex combination of products, services, spaces and information.
The process of spatial information visualization is shaped by various factors including interactive, perceptual, navigational as well as organizational and metaphorical aspects and as such requires an interdisciplinary approach (Buagajska, 2003).
Thomas Edison created the light bulb and introduced it to the world. People perceived it as his main invention from the visible and physical aspects, but what was behind Edison's motive was that he understood the creation of the light bulb was a little more than just the surface result. His invention would be useless without the system of electric power and transmission to make it truly useful. His genius was his ability to perceive, not only the created device itself, but how people will use and innovate what he invented. And he worked with that approach, and gave a great contribution and consideration to users' needs and preferences.
Edison's approach was an early example of a methodology that influences the full range of innovation activities with a human-centered design philosophy. By this, it means that innovation is power driven by a detailed understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported (Brown, 2006).
In the past, design has been treated as a downstream step in the development process — the position where designers, who have played no earlier role in the substantive work of innovation, had came along and put a beautiful wrapper around the idea. Undeniably, this move toward has inspired market growth in many areas by making new products and technologies aesthetically as well as attractive, and therefore more desirable to consumers or by enhancing brand perception through smart, evocative advertising and communication strategies. During the second half of the twentieth century, design had became more and more important competitive asset in, for example, the consumer electronics, automotive, and consumer packaged goods industries. But unlike the most others, it remained a late-stage add-on.
Nowadays, rather than asking designers to create an already existing idea that is more attractive to consumers, companies are asking them to create ideas that better and suitable to meet consumers' needs and desires. The former role is well planned, and results in limited value creation; the final result is strategic, and it leads to dramatic new forms of value.
Complexity is increased by the growing potential for personal customization. ‘Do your own brand' thinking can be seen especially in the communication cultures of youth groups. In the near future, the customer will be even more tightly linked to design processes (Koskinen, 2008). Let us take a few examples from the present. The personal ring tone, wallpaper and theme of a mobile phone is a classic example of personal customization. Some people go even further with engraved towels, pens and stationeries.
In a nutshell, this paper will talk about how ambiance is not just seen through physical means and by just by having the space itself. Ambiance is more literally, through human perceptions, behaviors and emotions that the space will be filled up with life.
Ambiance refers to the design of an environment via visual communications, lighting, colours, music to stimulate people's perceptual and emotional responses and ultimately to affect their behavior and/or reaction. Many businesses have discovered the subtle benefits of developing atmospherics that complement other aspects of design and merchandise.
The visible and the invisible, the physical and the mental, these are the two main groups of elements which affect our perceptions toward a certain designated space ambiance. The designers play a major part in it, and these days, it seems that designers focus more on the aesthetic side of the creations, which fulfills the visible and physical parts for a human's satisfaction and desires. So what about the invisible emotional and the mental aspects? Aren't they as important as the visible and physical elements for design innovations? In this paper, it looks into the “design thinking” methodology, which is a design methodology lead by Tim Brown. Brown takes a human-centered approach, along with business and technological considerations for human behavior, needs and preferences, which demonstrates the practice of the important values brought out by the invisible and mental design innovation throughout the whole process of creating a new design, which comprises of three main stages: inspiration, ideation and implementation.
In spatial design, ambiance of the space is generally created through the room's function, the aesthetic of the space itself with object elements, including the primal elements within a space: staircase, floor, roof, wall, door, window, lighting, colour, tables, bed, chair, and furniture. If we are looking at it only through physical perception, the design would work just fine, because human emotion and the physical elements of design are connected. Things such as a designated space, structure, product or an image, forms and aesthetics are what we perceive in the first place of the physical phenomenon. A well-designed visual representation is needed. This representation can be seen as the expression of the physical ambiance design. All these design elements and methods do fulfill the needs for visible pleasure and desire, yet it seems that other important design elements are missing, not taken into consideration, or emphasized on much. These aspects are the invisible side, the mental and psychological perception from the users toward the ambiance within the space, and how they will perceive and express their behaviors and emotions. But ambiance doesn't exist just by having the space itself. Only through perceptions, behaviors and emotions can the space be filled up life.
Architects and interior designers are not only designing to provide people with physical shelter, facilitate purpose and inspire sensory pleasure. “Man-made structures tame the world for human habitation and understanding” (Pallasmaa, 2008). The function of buildings and spaces should cater to the physical and mental well being of people. However, people have started to ask designers to create new ideas which suite and meet the clients' needs. Their objectives have shifted away from just physical satisfaction and need.
A rough idea would be the county jail. It's a place with the same environment and space layout for each individual bar space, but different kinds of criminals live in it. Each individual perceives the ambiance, behaviors and emotions of the space differently. Perhaps due to the individual's background, memories and experiences, it turns into different place in the end. For the criminals who have hope, they might take it as a turning point that gives them the chance to turn over a new leaf, so they might perceive the space as a confession box. For the criminals who have no hope, they might just take it as a daily routine, day after day, because they have no beliefs and confidence in themselves anymore, and don't see that there is a turning point or chance for them, sucking them deeper into the darkness. So in this paper, an exploration for the possibility of an ambiance design method that will create the positive benefits for both visible and invisible; physically and mentally designated space, which helps the well being of the people, is conducted.
Another example would be how a restaurant's design can affect people's choice and preferences. A cosy and comfortably designed restaurant can give people the sense of serenity and tranquility while dining in. An upbeat and modern restaurant on the other hand may give people a certain lively and vibrant feel. It actually depends on people's moods and preferences that whether they decide to dine in any of these restaurants.
After looking at the outside of the restaurant and deciding to go in, and checking out the place before being seated, people look forward to how they are greeted. They will often go to an establishment before inviting business associates to dine, because not only does the restaurant need to make a good impression but so does them, so if the restaurant makes a unfavorable impression that would most likely reflect on myself as having bad taste. The next thing worth observing before ordering is the décor of the restaurant, does the theme stay consistent? After sitting down people check for cleanliness of the eating area, are the tables sticky or spotless? Is the server well groomed? And are the seats comfortable?
Ambience has become a pivotal concern for tourism and hospitality managers worldwide. In an effort to improve the ambience, different groups of professionals are involved, in particular hospitality managers and outside experts, e.g. designers and architects.
So how do we achieve a successful ambiance within a space, which is perceived by someone's mental aspect, the invisible side? Ambiance design is not created by the designers only through the personal aspect, sense, experience and style, but molded together based on the understanding and knowledge that atmosphere has a multi-sensory effect on people. There is a new area of design, such as service design, user-centered design, interactive design, information design, and systems design which have become a new topic within the design field. Principles and disciplines such as sociology, psychology and medicine are entering the arena of design management process. With the supportive ideas and embrace how they bring philosophical considerations and anticipatory approach into design, which help to make up for the shortage of the invisible and mental design elements of a designated space or product. In order to achieve such a result, collaborative relationships are the main factor in the approach. To achieve the finest result, the process involves a wide range of fields, such as industrial design, interior design, graphic design, service design, information design, systems design, interactive design, user-centered design, light design, soundscape and scentscape design.
“Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes—and even strategy” (Brown, 2006). Tim Brown is the CEO and president of IDEO, a company associated with clients such as Daimler Chrysler, Microsoft, Motorola, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble and Steelcase. Recently he joined the Advisory Council of Acumen fund, a global organization provides a not-for-profit service for improving the lives of the poor. He has won numerous design awards and has held exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Axis Gallery in Tokyo and the Design Museum in London. All that should not be part of the essay, but the reference.
IDEO is an innovation and design firm from the USA, where designers exercise on “design thinking” methodology through three main stages: Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation. This discipline uses the designer's sensibility and methods to meet people's needs with what is technology phenomenon and what a practical business strategy can convert into customer value. A good design thinker doesn't work alone, so IDEO is a company that employs engineers, marketers, anthropologists, industrial designers, architects and psychologists. By thinking of “people first” in their approach, design thinkers can see potential problems, imagine the solutions for all intents and purposes, meet the needs, and observe the things that others don't. Designers then use their insight to apply and inspire innovation. This supports the idea I have for designing a space ambiance by emphasizing on the mental perception.
One of their projects which benefits a company was the large health care provider, Kaiser Permanente, which was seeking a possibility to improve the overall quality of both patients' and medical practitioners' experiences. So in order to inspire the practitioners, the new concepts, techniques, and ideas of the “design thinking” method are taught to the nurses, doctors and administrators. Both Kaiser and IDEO teams participated in the workshops, which led to the innovations. During the first stage of the project, they acknowledged a number of issues and problems of the nurse shift routine, and one of their main objectives became redesigning the shift changes at the four Kaiser hospitals. They spent the first 45 minutes of each shift for a debriefing about the status of patients in their nurses' station. Their original methods of communicating information, such as data exchanges, were different within their four hospitals. Exchanges varied wildly from recorded dictation to face-to-face conversations. From there, health professionals tried to compile the information which they needed, and quickly noted them down on any available piece of paper. Doing so made the information inaccessible, which lead to the nurses often failing to learn some of the things which are important to the patients. Administrators had learned that there were many patients that felt a lack in their care after each shift changed. This is a negative act that shouldn't be happening in the healthcare industry, and that is why I am very particular about the consideration for both invisible, mental design elements within a space. By observing these important issues, the teams explored possible solutions through brainstorming and prototyping. Prototypes work efficiently only with investments in time, effort and funding. A positive idea could be generated through useful feedback, and prototyping allows it to be done on a small scale so that they could learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the idea, and to adjust and modify for a better direction.
Their solution was to merge shift changes with nurses passing on the information in front of the patient rather than at the nurses' station, which saves time and errors. With this new system implemented together with some simple software, the nurses were able to call up the data information from the previous shift notes and edit patient's information throughout a shift rather than rushing at the end to pass it on, which minimized the possibility of errors. The results were positive, and showed that the new method saves time on preparation, provides better knowledge through information transfers and a better informed healthcare staff taking care of patients. Kaiser saw the potential impact of this whole new idea and system and applied human-centered design methodology, which created a small process innovation that produced a massive impact. They found that time management had improved in efficiency, which added a huge amount of nursing time across the four hospitals, as well as affect the quality of the nurses' work experience, adding invisible value to both nurses and patients, satisfying both groups.
Kaiser and IDEO accomplishments didn't happen instantly overnight. They put in a lot of time and hard work into the project by using a creative human-centered discovery process followed by numerous cycles of prototyping, testing and adjustment. The process is best described as a symbolic system of spaces rather than a series of fixed steps. Then whole space was designed for different activities which together form the innovation. The result might not be perceived in a short term, and this method might take a longer time to see the intended results, so the main key is patience, determination and observation. Edison's approach was an example of what now we called the “design thinking”, a method which improves the innovation activities with “human-centered” design approach, which is driven by fully understanding, through observation, of what people really need in their lives, their likes and dislikes toward certain things, along with business and technological considerations. When the process includes research based on direct observation, it leads to unexpected insights and inspirations to process the best solutions for the consumers.
Throughout the whole process, it actually achieves the invisible and mental designs areas significantly through the “design thinking” innovation methodology, making it so that not only the patients receive the benefits, but also the nurses working in the hospitals. For the patients, they get full attention from the nurses and satisfaction for both physical and mental pleasure while staying in the hospital. The nurses will gain positive experiences, and the positive feedback will lead to better attitudes toward their job, creating an optimistic positive working environment at the same time
In 2004, IDEO was invited to collaborate on another new project with Shimano, a Japanese manufacturer of bicycle components, which was facing a flattened growth in its sales in USA. Shimano's intention was to introduce their high-end casual bike to a new area of consumers who are potentially worth exploring. During the initial inspiration stage, teams were formed from both Shimano and IDEO, comprised of designers, behavioral scientists, marketers and engineers, who worked to explore appropriate potential solutions and constraints. They decided to focus on other areas as well rather than just sticking on the high-end market. They started with searching on the statistics and facts, and found that 90% of American adults don't ride bikes, so they continue the research and try to find out why. They put in a lot of effort into surveying different kinds of consumers, and found that most of them had ridden a bike during their childhood, and had positive memories. One surprising thing they found out was that many Americans are intimidated by cycling today for a few reasons: the retail experience, the high cost of the bikes, accessories, hidden dangers of cycling on the road, and the maintenance fees. After gathering all the information they received, which were collected and summarized using the human-centered exploration method, it led to the realization that their new created category of bicycling might be able to solve the problems of reconnecting the consumers with their childhood and at the same time to dealing with the intimidation of cycling on the road.
By using the “design thinking” methodology and cooperates with human-centered design method, the design team looked into every aspect to foresee the possibilities, and came up with the concept of “Coasting”, a way to enjoy life. This is designated more for the pleasure than for sports. It is featured with comfort padded seats, easy operation and minimal maintenance. Trek, Raleigh and Giant are three major brand bike manufacturers that benefitted from the research. They cooperated and invented new bikes together with Shimano by applying the same methods they used. But the design team didn't stop exploring and searching for opportunities from other areas. In order to complete this whole concept, which they are trying to publicize, they designed a public relations campaign which cooperated with local governments and cycling organizations, providing the bikers with identified safe places to ride. “Design thinking” was the key to come to this complete solution, and of course, for the visible, aesthetic part of the bikes was created later on in the development process, a reference design to inspire the bike companies' own design teams. After the successful launch in 2007, seven more bicycle manufacturers signed up to produce Coasting bikes in 2008.
They were successful due to that; they created breakthrough ideas that were inspired through the understanding of people's lives and what they really need and implemented the principles of design in order to create and adding more values not only for the visible, physical part, as well as the invisible, mental part for needs, desires and pleasures. By doing so, it is very possible that one of the main reasons is that, the innovation of creating the bike actually brings them back to the childhood, reliving fond and happy memories.
Another view that exists out there which talks about human-centered design is called, ambience design. Ambience design represents a new kind of design culture; it could even be said that it represents a change of paradigm. Ambience design's working culture is transdisciplinary. The one major innovation of ambience design is that designers from different working areas communicate with researchers. As such, ambience design is not built on the personal touch and style of the designer, but is based on the knowledge of the effect which a multi-sensory environment or atmosphere has on people. In effect, know-how in an ambience design project is developed through interaction with professionals and researchers from various science and business branches. Then the research results are accurately documented using various types of media.
This school of thought develops and moves our visually emphasized design culture towards becoming a more multi-sensory design environment. It does this by using the language of shapes, sound landscapes, odour worlds, textured contact surface, light and colour worlds and even the world of taste (this is by no means an all-inclusive list). Ambience design also means new forms of distinguishing and recognizing: fresh methods utilizing our multi-sensory abilities. This involves scent signs, sound logos and designed lights and colours as symbols of organization identity. Ambience design combines spatial design and the means of of multi-sensory communication.
It also talks about atmosphere design, i.e. by affecting people through the creation of a psychophysical entirety. In practice this means laying stress on experiences and phenomenology. Ambience design utilizes smart environments and materials at the same time. The use of these is aimed at increasing interaction in mediated and social environments.
The central themes of ambience design are adjustability and adjustment. These themes are connected with the changing and transformable communicational identity of different rooms and brands. For example, rooms become more usable when individual people or groups are given a chance to adjust them according to their changing needs. Ambience design utilizes narration, dramaturgy and the competence of drama experts. The challenge is the changing narratives related to spaces, with dramaturgical and multi-sensory applicability, and a link to, say, GIS systems. Ambience design can be connected to brand building. At its best, ambience design management will become part of the brand management process. Multi-sensory marketing, which uses things such as distinctive sounds and odours, can be employed in brand development more than ever before. The advantage of ambience design is that it connects multi-sensory interior design to multisensory marketing and communications.
This idea by Koskinen is ethically and environmentally aware. All activities are guided by an ethic code. A key objective of the ambience design team is to increase the well-being of people through transdisciplinary design and research. The future of design is human-centred, ecologically aware and ethically-oriented (Koskinen, 2008).
Ambience design, was first developed in Finland long before Martin Lindstrom touched the theme in his Sense Branding (2004). Internationally, however, the concept was not introduced until the summer of 2005 in a paper presented in the HAAHAMA conference, Ambience Design: Creating Multi-Sensory Moods within Built Environments (Karjalainen & Koskinen & Repokari 2005). The first comprehensive presentation on ambience design, reminiscent of the concept today, was in my article Ambience design in Minne matka luova talous (2006).
There are various important factors that must be kept in mind when applying human-centered design in any area. Proper adherence to the principles will assist in providing solutions to an individual's need or requirement. All of them play an important role in the attractiveness of a space, though they may be put to use in varied ways in different situations.
First of all there's unity - this entails the idea that the entire home or any other structure is to be seen as a single unit, divided or separated only by walls and staircases, and that there should be a certain amount of internal consistency in the design of the unit as a whole. The overall theme must always be kept in mind to make ambiance work to its best.
Next there's balance. This means appropriately adjusting items in a particular space. It is always better to place things with equal visual features at diverse points so as to achieve a good balance.
This is followed by proportion. This is basically to do with the dimensions and proportions of the articles itself. It is vital that most articles in a space be proportional to each other. An absence of proportion will cause the room to lose its overall attraction as certain objects will be too prominent, while others may get buried in the background.
Another important thing of course is focus. Having a focus in a room is a sign of good design. Focal articles can be anything ranging from a furniture article to an attractive painting or some other art work. The item should be such that it is important in the overall design of the room and is able to attract the attention of the onlooker. It must look attractive, but blends in well with the place at the same time
Finally there's rhythm. Having a rhythm too is absolutely important for attaining a good design. This means that the design must give a feeling of continuity and smooth flow. This can be accomplished through the use of arcs, patterned walls or ceilings, through artworks or furnishings, and through repeating colours or shapes (Hilton).
Given all these perspectives, it is safe to say that human-centered design is one of the most creative powers that makes spatial design better. Through human-centered design, even everyday objects can be greatly enhanced with a better integration of functional innovation, human factors, material optimization, efficient production, and smart marketing. Good human-centered design gives us things that simply work well and safely, and at the same time have a great “look and feel”.
By using both Tim Brown's and K's methodology, the focal on physically and mentally design elements are well balanced. A designer shouldn't just design a space or a product for the intention of beatifying the world, but to think and look for a deeper meaning beyond, the beneficial towards the human well beings. With the realization that a human being is complex in nature, and in order to satisfy a human's perceived needs, the designers must study, observe and learn about them, the reality of dreams, behavioral patterns, images and memories, the dimension of the spiritual depth in terms of physical and mental characteristics of the space or product.
Emotion is one of the strongest and accurate differentiators in user experience, because it triggers unconscious responses to a product, website, environment or interface. Our feelings strongly influence our perceptions and often enclose how we think about or refer to our experiences.
Ambience is the embodiment of professionalism and creativity. The creation of the perfect spatial designs lies in the attention to detail. By combining the use of light, lines, texture, color, shapes and patterns, it also needs to answer and reflect the individual's style, needs and budget, too.
Maurice Merleau Ponty, 1969: The Visible and the Invisible, Northwestern University Press.
Juhani Pallasmaa, 2008: Encounters: Architectural Essays, Rakennustieto Publishing
Rebecca Purcell, Kathy Walton, 1998: Interior Alchemy: Secrets to Creating Expressive ambiance (Hardcover), William Morrow; 1st edition
Robert Haddad: Interior Design: The Needs of Practice
Robert Haddad: Interior Design: The Needs of Practice, 17 November 2009, <http://www.ndu.edu.lb/research/ndupress/palma/issue_1/Interior_Design. pdf>
Jari Koskinen, 2008 ambiance Design-Future-oriented viewpoints, service development and notions about changing communicational identities, 18, November 2009,
Tim Brown, 2005, Strategy by design, 18 November 2009, <http://www.tefl.ruc.edu.cn/video/englishJZ/04-2006-Innovation%20Through%20Design%20Thinking.doc>
Tim Brown, 2006: Innovation Through Design Thinking, 19 November 2009 <http://www.infinium.biz/pdf/strategybydesign_fastcompany_0605.pdf>
Malgorzata Buagajska, PhD, 2003, Classification Model for Visual Spatial Design Guidelines in the Digital Domain, 19 November 2009, <http://wwwswt.informatik.uni-rostock.de/deutsch/Interact/06Bugajska_2003.pdf>
Kenneth Hilton: Bid for Materials presents Industry News, 01 April 2010 <http://www.bidformaterials.com>