44 interiors+sources december2016 interiorsandsources.com
The term “UX design,” or user experience design, has been around since the 1990s, but only recently has it permeated our day-to-day vocabulary. It’s typically
associated with technology—how we interact with
websites, our smartphones, and other gadgets.
Successful UX design means we engage with
technology intuitively and smoothly; Apple UX
designers are often called the best in the business,
so it’s no coincidence that it was one of their
researchers who coined the term.
But hold on … is designing for the user really all
that new? I would argue that interior designers are
the original—and the best—UX designers. While the
new Amazon Alexa and the latest VR headsets may
grab headlines, the interactions good interior
designers have always been concerned with
include improving the usability, accessibility, and
pure delight of our physical spaces. Designing to
enhance the human experience is at the core of
ASID’s “Why Statement,” and it’s also the very basis
of our profession. And because we spend 93 percent
of our time indoors, the design of our interiors have
much more of an impact on our overall well-being
than that of some electronic device.
How people interact with spaces, though, is
changing. Coffee shops now double as mobile
offices; airports have morphed into dining and
shopping destinations; libraries have become the
multimedia showcases. The old archetypes no
longer apply, and interior design has kept pace.
A single building can be a mash-up of spaces that
were never located together before. A modern
senior living facility, for example, might contain a
pottery kiln, demo kitchen, library, and dance studio,
all under one roof.
Not only are the building types evolving, but
users themselves are changing. The “silver tsunami”—
the significant middle-aged Baby Boomer generation—
was predicted decades ago. Both the life expectancy
and the lifestyle of today’s active Boomer have very
little in common with that of his or her parents. And
even among Boomers of the same age, there are
marked differences in expectations and needs.
One thing we do know is that people are no
longer automatically retiring at age 65. Whether
for economic reasons or because of a desire to
stay engaged and relevant, there are now more
older workers than ever. My thesis project in design
school seemed a little far out at the time: an assisted
living facility with a co-working wing for winners
of a fictitious MacArthur Award-like fellowship for
seniors. Now it no longer sounds so outlandish. To
recognize and support the needs of today’s seniors,
ASID sponsored a documentary showcasing how
prominent designers are creating spaces to support
longevity and vitality. The film, called “Thriving in Place,” was previewed at
High Point and will be shown on PBS in 2017.
Much as UX designers pay so much attention to testing their products
on users of all abilities and ages, interior designers are doing the same.
Evidence-based design has its roots in healthcare design but is now
becoming more common in workplace design. At our new ASID headquarters in Washington, D.C., we’ve begun conducting post-occupancy to
assess the efficacy of the LEED and WELL Building elements that permeate
every square inch of the office. We’ll be sharing the results of that research
next year to further demonstrate the impact of design beyond accessibility,
beauty, and even functionality.
The Internet of Things, or the ability to leverage sensor technology to
control and monitor our environments, is an exciting development that marries
interiors with technology. It will offer wonderful opportunities for interior
designers, product designers and, yes, UX designers to work together. Our
profession continues to evolve and I am incredibly excited to be part of it.
Charrisse Johnston, ASID, LEED AP BD+C, Associate AIA,
is the Chair of the Board of Directors and a principal and
the firm-wide interior design practice leader at Steinberg
Architects. Learn more about ASID at ASID.org.
By Charrisse Johnston, ASID, LEED AP BD+C, Associate AIA
THE USER The experience of interior design
continues to evolve with the progression of generations and their needs.