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Evidence

How Design Could Make You Calmer, Thinner, And Better At Your Job

But it could also make you lie and cheat! Here's what science had to say about design in 2015

  • <p><strong><a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3045217/evidence/everything-science-knows-right-now-about-standing-desks" target="_self">The Complete Science Of Standing Desks</a></strong><br />
We took a look at <a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3045217/evidence/everything-science-knows-right-now-about-standing-desks" target="_self">everything science knows right now about active desks</a>, which include standing desks and treadmill desks. The major takeaways: Workers who switched from sitting to active desks lost weight and had other physiological benefits, such as higher levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). They were also happier and as adept as their jobs as they were before (though people using treadmill desks had some trouble typing). Of course, not everyone wants to stand, or power-walk, for hours on end. "The best option for many workers might be a hybrid sit-stand workstation," we wrote. "It offers all the benefits of standing but avoids some of the new muscle aches that might emerge from standing all day."</p>
  • <p><strong><a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3047647/evidence/why-offices-full-of-ping-pong-tables-and-video-games-might-be-onto-something" target="_self">The Aesthetic Of Arrested Adolescence: Maybe Not As Silly As It Seems</a></strong><br />
Employees who feel younger than their real age may be <a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3047647/evidence/why-offices-full-of-ping-pong-tables-and-video-games-might-be-onto-something" target="_self">more likely to achieve their goals at work</a>. It stands to reason that the playful design elements that have become tech-office cliches--bean bags, ping-pong tables, video game consoles--help workers stay young at heart, which in turn benefits how companies perform. 2016 prediction: the tech world's most in-demand interior designer will be an 12-year-old boy.</p>
  • <p><strong><a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3054109/evidence/the-air-in-your-office-is-killing-you" target="_self">The Air In Your Office May Be Harming Your Productivity</a></strong><br />
Concentrations of CO2 found in many office buildings can <a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3054109/evidence/the-air-in-your-office-is-killing-you" target="_self">impair workers' cognitive function</a>, including thinking modes related to productivity, scientists at Harvard and Syracuse say. What to do? The more people you have in a space and the worse the ventilation, the higher the CO2 concentrations (our breath is the source of CO2). So companies would be wise to incorporate better ventilation into new office designs. "An executive isn't paying your health bills, but they are paying for your productivity," architecture professor Vivian Loftness <a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3054109/evidence/the-air-in-your-office-is-killing-you" target="_self">told Evidence</a>. "You don't want your workforce to not be as productive as they could be."</p>
  • <p><strong><a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3053942/evidence/the-case-for-staying-away-from-your-boss" target="_self">How Close You Sit To Your Boss May Influence How You Treat Others</a></strong><br />
To the list of reasons why <a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3032419/evidence/can-better-acoustics-make-open-offices-suck-less" target="_self">open office are the worst</a>, add this: Sitting close to your boss <a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3053942/evidence/the-case-for-staying-away-from-your-boss" target="_self">could make you more likely to mistreat your own subordinates</a>. (Inches chair away from boss.)</p>
  • <p><strong><a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3048373/how-tetris-can-prevent-ptsd" target="_self">Tetris Can Help Prevent PTSD</a></strong> <br />
Playing Tetris shortly after a traumatic event may <a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3048373/how-tetris-can-prevent-ptsd" target="_self">prevent patients from developing PTSD</a>. According to researcher Elizabeth Holmes, the game's visuals help form a cognitive bulwark against traumatic memories--an effect you might find in other games that rely on visual processing, like Candy Crush.</p>
  • <p><strong><a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3054339/evidence/how-a-logos-color-shapes-consumers-opinion-of-a-brand" target="_self">A Logo's Color Can Shape Consumers' Opinion Of The Brand</a></strong> <br />
A logo's color can influence whether consumers think a brand is ethical or not, researchers from University of Oregon and University of Cincinnati found. Most intriguingly, both green and blue--colors associated with environmental friendliness--could make consumers perceive an ethically ambiguous company as more ethical. "Understanding people's innate emotional connection to colors could help companies make their branding more effective, "<a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3054339/evidence/how-a-logos-color-shapes-consumers-opinion-of-a-brand" target="_self">we wrote</a>. "For better or for worse."</p>
  • <p><strong><a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3043041/evidence/why-our-brains-love-high-ceilings" target="_self">High Ceilings Tap Into Our Need To Explore</a></strong><br />
Why do we love high ceilings? According to one paper, they encourage a freewheeling mindset, one that favors freedom, creativity, and abstraction over the confined thinking associated with lower ceilings. A separate neuroscience study found heightened activity in brain regions known for visuospatial exploration when subjects looked at images of high ceilings.  "Knowing that people's preference for rooms with higher ceilings might be driven by the ability of those spaces to promote visuospatial exploration helps partly explain why people opt to live in such spaces, despite the fact that they cost more to purchase and maintain," psychologist <a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3043041/evidence/why-our-brains-love-high-ceilings" target="_self">Oshin Vartanian said</a>.</p>
  • <p><strong><a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3052745/evidence/how-packaging-influences-the-way-we-taste-food" target="_self">Packaging Can Make Food Taste Better</a></strong><br />
The Crossmodal Research Lab at Oxford University is shedding light on how packaging can influence the way we taste food. "Their research suggests that the whoosh-ing sound of a can opening may make a drink seem fizzier, for example, or that the yellow hue of 7Up can make the soda taste more lemon-y," we wrote. Such insights could be used for ill--for instance, to nudge kids to buy more junk food. But they could also be used to develop packaging that helps combat obesity.</p>
  • <p><a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3041823/evidence/are-we-designing-nutrition-labels-all-wrong" target="_self">Nutrition Labels Are Making Us Fat</a><br />
The <a href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3041823/evidence/are-we-designing-nutrition-labels-all-wrong" target="_self">subtle ways packaging influences our behavior extends to nutrition labels.</a> And, as a pair of psychologists at McGill University in Montreal say, we're doing it all wrong. In a study, participants made the least nutritious food choices when they consulted the standard U.S. food package label compared with alternative label designs. The researchers suggest a new label called NuVal, which offers a simple 1-to-100 nutrition score.</p>
  • 01 /11

    The Complete Science Of Standing Desks
    We took a look at everything science knows right now about active desks, which include standing desks and treadmill desks. The major takeaways: Workers who switched from sitting to active desks lost weight and had other physiological benefits, such as higher levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). They were also happier and as adept as their jobs as they were before (though people using treadmill desks had some trouble typing). Of course, not everyone wants to stand, or power-walk, for hours on end. "The best option for many workers might be a hybrid sit-stand workstation," we wrote. "It offers all the benefits of standing but avoids some of the new muscle aches that might emerge from standing all day."

  • 02 /11

    The Aesthetic Of Arrested Adolescence: Maybe Not As Silly As It Seems
    Employees who feel younger than their real age may be more likely to achieve their goals at work. It stands to reason that the playful design elements that have become tech-office cliches--bean bags, ping-pong tables, video game consoles--help workers stay young at heart, which in turn benefits how companies perform. 2016 prediction: the tech world's most in-demand interior designer will be an 12-year-old boy.

  • 03 /11

    Bring The Sounds Of The Outdoors Inside
    Listening to nature sounds might make you better at your job. One study found that subjects who listened to birdcalls during a break performed better on a cognitive task compared with those who didn't. Another found that study participants who listened to ocean waves had lower heart rates and reported less stress compared with those who listened to classical music or nothing at all. Time to revamp the office soundtrack?

  • 04 /11

    The Air In Your Office May Be Harming Your Productivity
    Concentrations of CO2 found in many office buildings can impair workers' cognitive function, including thinking modes related to productivity, scientists at Harvard and Syracuse say. What to do? The more people you have in a space and the worse the ventilation, the higher the CO2 concentrations (our breath is the source of CO2). So companies would be wise to incorporate better ventilation into new office designs. "An executive isn't paying your health bills, but they are paying for your productivity," architecture professor Vivian Loftness told Evidence. "You don't want your workforce to not be as productive as they could be."

  • 05 /11

    How Close You Sit To Your Boss May Influence How You Treat Others
    To the list of reasons why open office are the worst, add this: Sitting close to your boss could make you more likely to mistreat your own subordinates. (Inches chair away from boss.)

  • 06 /11

    Your E-Signature Is Making You A Liar
    In seven clever experiments, researchers showed that people who e-signed were more likely to lie and cheat than those who hand-wrote their signatures. Designers can help by crafting more customizable e-signature tools--like signing with a mouse or a stylus--that let users "exert a greater sense of self," we wrote. Love, Co.Design.

  • 07 /11

    Tetris Can Help Prevent PTSD
    Playing Tetris shortly after a traumatic event may prevent patients from developing PTSD. According to researcher Elizabeth Holmes, the game's visuals help form a cognitive bulwark against traumatic memories--an effect you might find in other games that rely on visual processing, like Candy Crush.

  • 08 /11

    A Logo's Color Can Shape Consumers' Opinion Of The Brand
    A logo's color can influence whether consumers think a brand is ethical or not, researchers from University of Oregon and University of Cincinnati found. Most intriguingly, both green and blue--colors associated with environmental friendliness--could make consumers perceive an ethically ambiguous company as more ethical. "Understanding people's innate emotional connection to colors could help companies make their branding more effective, "we wrote. "For better or for worse."

  • 09 /11

    High Ceilings Tap Into Our Need To Explore
    Why do we love high ceilings? According to one paper, they encourage a freewheeling mindset, one that favors freedom, creativity, and abstraction over the confined thinking associated with lower ceilings. A separate neuroscience study found heightened activity in brain regions known for visuospatial exploration when subjects looked at images of high ceilings. "Knowing that people's preference for rooms with higher ceilings might be driven by the ability of those spaces to promote visuospatial exploration helps partly explain why people opt to live in such spaces, despite the fact that they cost more to purchase and maintain," psychologist Oshin Vartanian said.

  • 10 /11

    Packaging Can Make Food Taste Better
    The Crossmodal Research Lab at Oxford University is shedding light on how packaging can influence the way we taste food. "Their research suggests that the whoosh-ing sound of a can opening may make a drink seem fizzier, for example, or that the yellow hue of 7Up can make the soda taste more lemon-y," we wrote. Such insights could be used for ill--for instance, to nudge kids to buy more junk food. But they could also be used to develop packaging that helps combat obesity.

  • 11 /11

    Nutrition Labels Are Making Us Fat
    The subtle ways packaging influences our behavior extends to nutrition labels. And, as a pair of psychologists at McGill University in Montreal say, we're doing it all wrong. In a study, participants made the least nutritious food choices when they consulted the standard U.S. food package label compared with alternative label designs. The researchers suggest a new label called NuVal, which offers a simple 1-to-100 nutrition score.

In Evidence, our column on the science of creativity and visual culture, we try to unpack the subtle ways design shapes human perception and behavior. Consider how color can make you trust an untrustworthy brand, packaging can alter how food tastes, and playful—some might say juvenile—offices may help you achieve personal job goals.

In 2015, researchers made particularly enlightening discoveries on how workplace design influences employees' health, productivity, and happiness. Some takeaways the architects and designers of tomorrow would be wise to heed: Invest in standing desks. Bring the great outdoors inside. And whatever you do, don't seat the asshole boss next to his employees.

Click through our slide show above for more of the year's most intriguing research on design.

Read More:

Slideshow Credits: 03 / Vimeo user Microdac; 04 / Dougal Waters/Getty Images; 05 / ColorBlind Images/Getty Images; 06 / Celine Grouard for Fast Company. Handwriting: Joel Arbaje; 07 / Flickr user Minyoung Choi; 09 / ELWYNN VIA SHUTTERSTOCK; 10 / Flickr user James;

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