Sensory Example 1

Doctor’s office needs a design to calm patients with touch, smell, or hearing.

In this example we understand the location as an office or institutional-like space with seating, hard surfaces, and a staff that can be removed from the patients. The senses selected can have different solutions, and a combination of the chosen senses is open.

For touch, we want something that is comforting, reassuring, and personal, although it needs to be easy to clean and re-use. With touch, we can use pressure that reassures, and this can be employed in the furniture. The chair or sofa can be welcoming and positive with enough cushioning and careful curves, folds, and creases to accommodate the human body. Another option is soothing material, such as a sheer fabric. Can this fabric be easily cleaned and re-used? Yes, a synthetic fabric could work well for this. There are other options for touch that we will look at later.

Using smell, we would like something that is subtle and does not remind someone of healthcare facilities, cleaning, or be too sharp. Many perfume and soap makers use complex but quiet scents such as earth, grass, or tree, to comfort people but also not be too intense, being pervasive and ever-present. In combination, there can be occasional scent notes that complement or even contrast with the general smell can enliven a space. The ping of an orange scent at an instance can be like a firework in the night. Or, a vanilla note to pair with the smell of grass can create a wonderful chord like major triad.

Finally, hearing can meet the design requirement. We may want to deaden the sound in a space, if it is too busy and difficult to speak. However, we may want to add a naturalistic sound that counters the artificial interior–the sound of birds at dawn, wind through grass, or water over stones? Something else? On the other hand, in some instances we might want to heighten the current experience whether to highlight some part of the interior or as entertainment or relief. The sound of paper brushing over paper could be amplified with hard, smooth surfaces. The whirring of motors can be a relaxing background noise. What about the footsteps of the staff or people passing? The steady rhythm and variation of the walkers can create an interesting composition.

These are a few options for the case of a doctor’s office that is trying to calm the patients. Again, one sense that is brought forth in the design is fine, but would it be even better with two or more sensory events? We must try the combinations to find what is best then test it on the users and update as needed.


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