Bringing the Inside Out – Rethinking Spatial Design

While user-centered design is the new buzzword in the design community, architects are way behind the curve. For a long while, architects across the world have been focusing their designs on user requirements, but have not been thinking deeply about the relationship between the space and the user who inhabits the space. Unlike product, system, and service design where user-centered design is about making users’ lives easier by addressing their needs and challenges, user comfort may take on different meanings in the context of spatial design. Spatial comfort may not be only about meeting the functional needs of users, but also about creating an environment that allows the users to feel “one” with the space.

In one of the research studies conducted by CKS in 2010 to understand how Indian consumers perceive luxury, it was revealed that they define luxury as consumption of products and spaces, which are in-sync with their inner philosophies or personalities. Owing to the extremely busy, fast-paced lives of today, individuals are looking to create these “inner spaces” within the comforts of their homes to allow more frequent access as opposed to waiting for a vacation.

Space designers would thus need to rethink the purpose of their designs and it wouldn’t hurt to slow down and spend a couple of hours with the potential user to understand their “inner selves” as opposed to taking a quick brief of their functional requirements. The key question though is how do architects or other interior space designers make this shift? Headrush, Small Joys, Crystal and Awakening – themes of ColourNext ’12 – a trend forecasting exercise undertaken by CKS in collaboration with Asian Paints, demonstrate how these designers can look beyond visual trends to find inspirations for their designs from existing societal trends.

When I stumbled upon Natasha Badhwar’s article on Happiness, which talks about how individuals living in today’s society perceive happiness, I was amazed to see how closely it aligns with the concept of “Small Joys” theme. The article brought the realisation that designers may need to increasingly interact with professionals from other communities, such as sociologists, psychologists, and writers, who deeply think about consumer behaviour, human psyche, and societal phenomena, in order to understand how they can marry their designs to such aspects. One such platform to do so will be our upcoming event, ColourNext Dialogues in Delhi. Professionals from the design community will talk about design in a non virtual space and interact with professionals from other fields to think about the relationship between spatial design and the individuals who inhabit these spaces.

About Ekta Ohri

Ekta Ohri has a background in Architecture, Visual and Critical Studies, and Anthropology and is interested in exploring links between design, culture, and lived experience.
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