22 April, 2011

Environmental Psychology – Perception

By Emily Anderson, Allied Member ASID
Environmental psychologist Dak Kopec was the featured speaker at an ASID "Distinguished Speaker" event I recently attended. I found myself inspired by his holistic approach to designing for the physical, behavioral and biological needs of a space's inhabitants.
He talked about how part of our job as designers is to consider the end user's perception of a space, or even a particular material. I found this concept fascinating, and it got me thinking about how our perceptions affect how we interact with a space.
One example Kopec gave was a school's use of chain link versus wrought iron for fencing around its property. When students were surveyed, they consistently said chain link made them feel locked in. But a wrought iron fence made them feel protected. It would be interesting to consider the implications of drop-out rates based on this simple design decision.
There are many examples like this in residential design as well. For instance, our perception of a sofa with two seat cushions is that only two people can sit on it comfortably. Although, our perception of the exact same sofa with three cushions is different. Someone would feel like they could sit in the middle.
These sofas from Lee Industries demonstrate this.

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