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The True Measure of a Space

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

By Jennifer Busch

Whether sophisticated about design or indifferent, most people would agree that some spaces feel good and in others we experience discomfort and unease. The visual language of a space communicates and informs, often evoking an emotional response and potentially leading us to pass judgment on the enterprise that shaped it. Any interior space provides information and offers messages received in the form of scale and proportion, color and shape, texture and detail. How then do we create spaces that send the right message, and anticipate the physical, psychological and narrative effects of any given space?

Teknion’s newly released research book, The True Measure of a Space is How It Makes Us Feel, addresses these questions, exploring how the places we work have an enormous impact on our bodies and minds, which in turn, affects our productivity on the job and our happiness in any context. The book reveals how designers can engage and inspire workers by using scale, light, materiality, color, sound, shape and detail to make employees feel welcome, empowered, connected, calm and comfortable. By leveraging the power of design in this way, organizations can create a workforce that’s a great deal more likely to exhibit creativity, commitment and a spirit of community in the collective effort. This is an important outcome since recent studies indicate that as many as 70% of workers feel disengaged at work.

For example, by providing a spectrum of settings that emphasize community and differ in scale, enclosure and furniture selections, designers can set the stage for human moments of connection ranging from the formal meeting to the casual exchange of ideas. To create these workspaces in which people feel connected requires thinking about and experimenting with the allocation and organization of space, the proximity and density of furniture, surface treatments and the character of lighting, artwork and other components. For another example, as corporate design trends continue to emphasize “we” space over “me” space, design can nevertheless accommodate the basic human need for periods of quiet. Even in an open plan with no private offices or enclosed meeting rooms, designers can create partial refuge by means of reading alcoves, booth seating, high-back chairs and semi-private hubs that allow for retreat, while maintaining some connection to the larger space. For a deeper sense of refuge, no-talk zones like a library or meditation room can help to mitigate feelings of stress and preserve cognitive and emotional health.

Given the expressive potential of buildings and our human tendency to associate ideas and feelings with the settings we encounter and inhabit, designers must consider the elements of an interior that we perceive and respond to either consciously or unconsciously, and what formal and material features of an environment have an impact on how we feel, think and behave.


Jennifer Busch is a Commercial Interiors Brand Strategy/Business Development Executive based in New York.

The True Measure of a Space