Design Workability

My interest in design workability is an outgrowth of my marketing accountability modeling. As I advanced my behavioral model from conceptual to statistical applications, I discovered how useful this modeling could be as a design process tool. In my corporate exhibit management work and in my event marketing accountability work I found many exhibits that failed the test of use. In a sort of reverse-engineering way, I studied exhibit visitor behavior to develop a predictor model to apply to the designing of selling and learning environments.

I’ll write more about methodologies as I develop my marketing accountability pages. For the moment, I’ll say that this work is based on integrating statistical analyses of marketing survey and observation research. I began this work around 1990, published articles about it in the Design Management Journal and Exhibitor Magazine, and presented seminars at marketing and museum conferences during the 90s. My conceptual and statistical models are three-dimensional: patterns of behaviors leading to a desired outcome; possible influences on those behaviors; audience segments. Thus, we’re usually studying the potential interrelationships among thousands of cells.

While there are many approaches and considerations in designing and design process, I’ve found that behavioral modeling is a useful tool in approaching the workability component of design. This is not always an easy sell. It’s often more fun to think about the way something looks than how it works. Ultimately though, workability is important.

This area of my work, like my marketing accountability, is done for clients, and the knowledge bases are proprietary. While I work toward securing permissions to publish case studies, I’ll show an environmental application in an area that I call orientation, wayfinding, and identification (including, but not limited to, signage).

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

kiaThe Kalamazoo Institute of Arts expansion and renovation project, completed in 1998, required reorienting and rerouting visitors. Challenges included changing locations of parking lots and museum entrances, traffic patterns of one-way streets, and maintaining a sensitivity to the forms of International Style architecture. Behavioral modeling was applied to designing an exterior and interior signage system and studying its effectiveness.

The project was accomplished in four phases, and spanned 17 months. A custom signage system was designed, fabricated, and installed that met aesthetic, building, budget, and ADA requirements. A post-occupancy evaluation of visitor experiences was conducted applying the same modeling that guided the development of the system. A final report detailed recommendations for enhancing visitor orientation and wayfinding that related to signage, and more broadly to maps, guides, and other materials.

Teaching Design Workability

I hope to develop a design applications or special topics course in design workability. The course would include approaches to design process, design workability concepts, and methodologies for assessing and analyzing design workability. In order to structure a manageable and relevant pedagogy, the course would focus on Web-based and environmental communications and installations. Through these applications, students would learn how measures of professional standards of excellence should be complemented with measures of design workability – critical acclaim and box office are not mutually exclusive!