Image Courtesy of HKS inc.

Image Courtesy of HKS inc.

Translational Guide for Workplace (Cornell University Project)

Read the partial report here


Rana Sagha Zadeh (PI), Gourab Kar, and Hessam Sadatsafavi, Cornell University

Tom Harvey, Principal and Senior Vice President, President of CADRE, HKS Inc., Dallas,  TX
Upali Nanda, Vice President and Director of Research, Executive Director of CADRE, HKS Inc., Houston, TX
Doug Bazuin, Researcher, Herman Miller, Zeeland, MI

HKS Architects, Herman Miller, and Cornell University Engaged Learning + Research

Executive Summary

Cornell undergraduate students had the opportunity to work with and learn from experts of the field at HKS, CADRE and Herman Miller to summarize the latest science and practice of workplace design. The team included nine undergraduate students ranging from sophomore to senior from the fields of Design and Interior Design, Ergonomics, Policy, Human Development and Information Technology. Madison Chung (DEA senior) conceptualized the graphic design, and Casey Franklin (PhD Student) mentored the design innovation process. Amy Vu, Teaching Assistant, led the communication, and coordinated the project. The research literature review and translational guide was led by Dr Hessam Safavi, researcher at Cornell and Gourab Kar, PhD Student at Cornell.

A series of lectures and workshops, including rich and diverse content, on workplace design was held by industry advisors. Key scientific literature was collected by the research director and faculty instructor and shared with the class. Students were paired with industry expert advisors who accepted to advise the students though a one-hour interview. The Industry advisors who mentored the students one-on-one for this class are Gretta Peterson (Herman Miller), Brian Green (Herman Miller), Dan Noble (HKS), Kate Davis (HKS), Tom Harvey (HKS), Jeff Stouffer (HKS), Karrie Cardon (Herman Miller), Doug Bazuin (Herman Miller), Emily Seibert (HKS), Dave McGlashan (HKS), Brian Green (Herman Miller), Upali Nanda (HKS), and Professors Lorraine Maxwell and Alan Hedge (Cornell University), who also guest lectured in the entire class and shared their experience in addition to one on one mentoring. Prior to the interview, students researched the topic and developed an unstructured questionnaire. Post-interview, they transcribed and systematically summarized learnings into the guidebook. Students also conducted an analysis of peer-reviewed literature and summarized literature in the form of a translational guide for practitioners. Finally they participated in a three-week innovation exercise to synthesize the gained knowledge and come up with creative ideas around three design challenges provided by the industry experts in Inpatient Setting, Outpatient clinic, and Education. The innovation project focused on application of evidence based design principles in workplace design to generate innovative approaches to critical issues facing workers, employers, and societies.

A translational document is a critical work that is proposed to fill the ‘gap’ between science and practice and make a difference in people’s lives. This document summarized the collaborative efforts of students, industry experts and academic advisers throughout the semester. It is meant to essentially translate evidence-in-research to inform applications-in-practice. The goal is to communicate the latest tested and published scientific knowledge on workplace design to the design practitioners who build and shape future workplaces and deliver a service to the community. Each student took responsibility for analyzing scientific literature one module related to his or her area of interest. The process of creating this document involved conducting a literature review of a diverse body of work covering topics such as wayfinding, lighting, views of nature, ambient air quality, patient safety and health, employee performance and well being, communication, visibility, organization culture etc to uncover patterns, discover insights and suggest guidelines for evidence-based design practice. Feedback from Cornell, HKS, Herman Miller and CADRE faculty supported the generation and refinement of the translational material.

The document is intended to be a working reference for design professionals to access, identify, adapt and apply findings from empirical research to specific design contexts and concerns. It is envisaged as a set of recommendations or guidelines for best practice; and is not intended to be a definitive set of rules that are universally applicable. This is a working document based on current evidence. As more research data is collected, and better methods to analyse findings emerge, the document will be updated to be in tune with the state of science. The translational material is meant to be for working professionals, and it needs feedback from the ‘consumers of research’ within the design community. We hope that professionals creatively apply strategies and guidelines suggested; and applications of evidence-based-approaches and methods in practice, inform and propel further research. Our goal is two-fold – to create a translational document; and more importantly, to enable a symbiotic dialogue between the spheres of research and application. We hope that such endeavors help bridge the gap between academia and practice, and advance the design profession.

The making of this document was a great learning process for the team at Cornell, and has been an intellectually enriching experience for one and all. We hope you will discover that the translational document offers actionable insights, suggestions and guidelines to base your design decisions; and also lead to new avenues for future research.