common names: Human, sub-species Designer and Non-Designer
scientific names: Humana, Excogitatoris; Humana, Non Excogitatoris
diet: Way, way too often
size: See response to diet, above
intelligence: Often questionable
habitat: Human’s place-based thoughts and behaviors have been systematically investigated by scientists. Applying insights derived from their findings increases the likelihood that single humans and herds of teammates in a particular habitat achieve species-valued goals. These objectives often include sustained market success and financial health.
Researchers, working in labs tucked into the darkest recesses of psychology department basements, and in spaces as publicly accessible as Grand Central Station, have learned that the responses of members of the sub-species Non-Designer to their habitat can differ from those of humans in the other sub-species, Designer. The most frequently identified reason for these differences is that design training influences how humans experience the world around themselves.
Both Designers and Non-Designers share the same cognitive structures, however. The rest of this section will focus on the form of habitats in which both Designers and Non-Designers exhibit their highest levels of professional performance, with sub-species differences noted, as relevant.
The ways that today’s humans are affected by the world around them can often be linked to collective experiences as a new species, many thousands of years ago. Being in the same sort of environments where early humans would have felt comfortable has a positive effect on the mood of today’s humans. That’s important because, achieving the goals detailed in design briefs depends on humans being in one particular mood or another.
Rigorous research studies have found that when humans are in a more positive mood, they think more broadly. As a result, they’re better at problem solving, coming up with creative ideas, and getting along with others, for example. When they’re thinking more broadly, humans are also healthier, because their immune system functions more effectively.
There are times when negative moods are best, however. When they’re in a negative mood, all humans are better at quickly and accurately running through emergency protocols, for instance. So, don’t eliminate the flashing lights and annoying sirens that come standard with each nuclear power plant control center, at least in the movies, just yet.
Humans, both individually and in teams, are in better moods and do a better job on cognitive tasks when they can make choices about the spaces where they’re working—that means they can adjust light levels and temperatures, for example. People, however, can become stressed when they need to make more than 4 or so decisions about their physical workplaces; so curated option sets should be provided. It is better to provide humans with lighting fixtures with a finite and carefully selected set of light color/light intensity options than rheostats with infinite numbers of light color and light intensity possibilities built in, for example. It is particularly desirable for humans to be able to choose where they will do solo work that requires concentration and, in so doing, avoid distractions whenever possible. Distractions generate stress and destroy positive moods.
For humans doing cognitive work to feel comfortable in a space, and be in a positive mood, they must feel secure. Humans (of either sub-species) feel sheltered in the same sort of spaces that chipmunks (scientific name: Tamias) do. Chipmunks are regularly social creatures who rely on their wits to survive, just as the earliest humans did. Chipmunks are in relaxed positive moods when they sit on a shielded tree branch with a view out over the nearby meadow, just as people like to survey a restaurant from a high-backed booth with a view of the door. Neither humans nor chipmunks will do their best at work requiring focus when they’re sitting with their backs to passersby in an open area or when they’re being watched by hoards of others, for example. The “chipmunk test” reliably distinguishes spaces where humans are in relaxed positive moods from those where they’re in tense, negative ones.
Researchers have identified numerous pleasant experiences humans had in places where they prospered long, long ago that can be conceptually replicated in modern environments to create spaces where all humans perform well cognitively and are in positive moods. For example, gentle air currents can move things such as mobiles, just as mild spring breezes caused flower heads to bob slightly. Also, a range of sensory experiences at a variety of scales can be incorporated into spaces.
Humans are pack animals and never ignore the relative status of those they’re with. Many of their social processes depend on having rank-related information. For example, the distances that humans stand or sit from each other depend on their social standing. Not knowing relative status makes humans tense.
Humans today judge their own rank and that of others just as courtiers did centuries ago, by determining what goodies are provided to them—a seat near the manager? A special task chair? Eliminating differences in options provided doesn’t reduce humans’ need to determine the relative standing of others. People use whatever tools they have to signal relative rank. In one case, when everyone was given an identical workspace and coat racks were randomly distributed across the office floor, after a little while, all of the coat racks mysteriously migrated to be beside the work areas of those of highest rank.
The sorts of places that make it more likely humans will be in a better mood make them feel appropriately respected. Non-Designers put a lot of effort into deciding if a place indicates that they’re valued (which Designers do as well but don’t like to talk about). Both human sub-species share a deep-seated interest in knowing what other people think about them—so they’ve become good at working with whatever clues they can find to do just that. Are bathrooms appropriately designed and maintained? Are finishes used unhealthy? Do spaces provided support the work that people need to do, really?
Spaces silently convey additional information that can influence human mood. Organizational and national cultures create the context in which messages are sent and interpreted by users. The only way to understand the symbolic language being spoken in a place is to spend time with the people who use it. Habitats that send unwelcome unspoken messages are extraordinarily stressful for humans—and stress diverts mental energy from the task at hand, degrading cognitive performance.