Design is about solving problems. And we know that one of the biggest problems workers face today is distraction.
Human beings yearn to be in a state of flow, where we are so fully immersed and energized by what we are doing, that we actually experience a sense of pleasure—even joy—in the task at hand. Yet the tension we all face as humans is that we are easily distracted.
Some of the distractions we face are innate. Just as we crave flow, we’re also hardwired to seek out what is novel and new. We are drawn to voices in a crowd and motion in our peripheral vision. It’s almost irresistible. Our emotions can motivate and propel us, yet we worry and stress when we feel a diminished sense of control over our environment. Sometimes the greatest distraction we face is the inner workings of our own minds.
The environments in which we work and learn are also full with distractions: too much information, people surrounding us, noise, discomfort. Some of the stimuli that add life and energy to an environment in one context, can feel overwhelming in another.
As designers it’s our job to create environments that mitigate these distractions and that enable and inspire people to do and be their best. The products we make are not solely a question of taste. They are based on tangible insights. We observe explicit, emerging and latent needs. We solve for them and express those solutions through appropriate means true to a relevant and consistent design vocabulary.
To be human is to be distracted. Yet we yearn to harness our energy and find purpose and meaning in our work and learning.
This paradox is at the core of our human experience. The following pages offer a glimpse into our process and our journey as designers to help resolve this fundamental tension.
Our early ancestors’ peripheral vision developed to be extremely acute so they could detect motion from potential predators. It’s no wonder why in our workplaces and campuses today, we almost can’t help ourselves from glancing up when we see someone walk by in our peripheral vision. Brody™, a high-performance worklounge, was envisioned as a microenvironment that addresses this primal human response and encourages focus, concentration and flow.
“Design is a highly-iterative process. I like to start with the sketch. It clarifies our thinking and it’s the quickest way to visualize an idea. Through drawing we can verify what we want to build.”
– Markus McKennaDesign Director, Steelcase Education