Tag Archives: workplace environment

Architecture and the Five Senses

Proposed Periodical: ARCADE

Since the invention of the cubicle, mundane office life has plagued the working environment. This day in age employers have made efforts in trying to make the office a more comfortable and productive working environment. Big corporations like Google have resulted in building office space essentially comprised of adult playgrounds so that their employers feel appreciated and unknowingly work longer hours. While this seems great, what about the small businesses that cannot afford to build outlandish spaces? Designing an environment that engages and stimulates workers through the five senses leads to a more productive work environment. Studies have shown that designs that respond to the five senses are more successful than those that do not. Jinsop Lee, an industrial designer, gave a TED talk in 2013 about design that engages the five senses. He explained through his own sensory chart as well as an experiment his friend did in college that activities that included all five senses resulted in better experiences than those that just responded to one or two. While in college Jinsop Lee was asked to design a clock that used the sun. While he thought he was clever in using a sunflower, his classmate was more successful because he used cups of scented oils to tell the time. By appealing to more than one sense, his classmate made a more desirable and ultimately more successful product.

In design we often focus on sight and touch and forget that people also experience smell, taste, and sound. While taste may be hard to incorporate in the structure of a building, architects often design spaces where people experience taste, i.e. an office break room. By designing spaces that engage more than one sense, people evoke wider ranges of emotion. Most people associate experiences with how it made them feel. Subconsciously we evaluate our experiences based on what we see, smell, hear, taste, or touch. We then formulate a response based on these criteria to determine whether or not we enjoyed the experience. A person’s working environment goes through the same evaluative process; however, because it is a place of work people go there because they have to not because they enjoy the experience. Creating an enjoyable and comfortable workspace for employees is the most important thing a company can do and as designers we have the ability to put this thought into action. When one thinks of an office the first thing that comes to mind are cubicles; little confined boxes with a desk, chair and computer. These spaces carry a negative reputation of being boring, jail-like, and not helping a company’s productivity. Employees are the ones who represent and make a profit for a business so making sure they are productive and happy is vital. Designing spaces that focus on the other senses such as smell could lead to innovative office strategies. By stimulating workers through the five senses and providing an engaging environment people actually want to work in, office morale increases which leads to higher productivity.


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“Engage the 5 Senses to Inspire Workplace Productivity.” Convene. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. <http://convene.com/tag/sensory-design-principles/>.