A last thought for 2012...
...in a recent copy of OnOffice magazine, an article entitled "Measured Response" outlined the benefits of a research-led approach to delivering evidence in design and how it was gaining new appreciation in office architecture and interior design.
The article highlighted how offices are often not used as the designer intended. As it says, "life is messy". The suggestion is that to narrow the gap between design and actual use, designers are turning more towards deeper research to provide better evidence of what the users of the space really need and want.
"A concept who's time has come" was how one quoted source described it. However to us, it is more a concept that has been there but has struggled to be heard perhaps until now. We feel that this approach is that the heart of a human factors-centered design approach. The research done at the pre-design stage is not about a quick survey or asking what is wanted but is about spending the time in getting under the skin of the organisation often using ethnographic techniques.
To be successful this requires a structured and methodological approach. It is observations and interviews but it is also about a detailed analysis of activities and tasks. It also requires a particular mind-set which is about seeing the wider user population and their potential differing needs.
The time this takes is an issue as the article points out as it results in higher fees and costs at the early phases of a design project. We would argue that this is money well spent as it increases the chance of getting the design right and the organisation getting the result they want.
Doing this also needs to be supported by some applied metrics so success can be measured. It's important that for the evidential approach to be persuasive that these are identified up-front and are later quantified post-implementation.
We hope this is a concept whose time as come as it is deeply embedded in the way we approach design projects that encompass all different types of work space.
Happy New Year!