It's official – good design creates great experiences, according to Gensler research

We’re now able to prove that design is the X factor that takes a good experience and makes it great
– Andy Cohen, Gensler co-CEO

Architects and designers breathe a sigh of relief... design officially has a quantifiable impact on human experience.

That, at least, is the verdict of global architecture and planning firm Gensler, who have published a new index they claim proves, once and for all, that design is a critical factor in determining how we feel about the spaces we occupy.

The Gensler Experience Index is the result of a multi-year, mixed-methods investigation that combined qualitative and ethnographic research, such as 30 two-hour interviews with people in five markets across the US, with quantitative research, including a nationwide, panel-based survey of over 4,000 respondents.

The research combined known drivers of creating a human experience – product, brand and service quality – with design factors, which Gensler claim “have not previously been factored into the formula”.

The results demonstrate that design is the key differentiating factor “between a good experience and a great one” and offer “a holistic framework for understanding human experience across retail, public spaces and workplaces”.

The findings revealed that:

• The quality of experiences at the “best-designed” spaces was rated nearly twice as high as those at the “worst-designed” spaces.

• Places designed to accommodate multiple activities — from working to socialising to exercising and everything in between — are far more likely to result in great experiences.

• More than half of consumers go to retail stores for reasons other than shopping, and three out of four who visit retail stores without the intent to buy end up making a purchase.

• People are 10 times more likely to share their in-store experiences on social media if those stores have unique design features. For workplaces, they are six times more likely, and for public places, three times more likely.

• Places that are considered "beautiful, unique, authentic, inspirational, intuitive, and welcoming" offer the best overall experiences.

Gensley concluded that a person’s intention when visiting a space, combined with their expectations, quality of interactions and quality of the space “together inform how it will be perceived”.

“The way people work, shop, and live has evolved dramatically — and our clients are constantly asking, ‘How is design the differentiator in creating great experiences?’”, said co-CEO Andy Cohen.

“We're seeing an exponential increase in people’s expectations of place-making and space. Our clients are looking to create human experiences that help them stand out to customers, visitors and employees. We’re now able to prove that design is the X factor that takes a good experience and makes it great.”

He added that businesses that do not invest in design are overlooking an opportunity to improve sales, build consumer loyalty and engage employees.

According to the Index, public spaces are the most aspirational space type, with one out of five users visiting specifically for inspiration or to learn something new.

“Every space we studied supported a strikingly wide variety of activities – a symptom of today’s everything/everywhere culture and a recognition that the spaces we spend time in must reflect the ‘blur’ of our modern lifestyles,” said Gensler.

“As we continue to conceptualise and create great places, public spaces offer a number of lessons that can be adapted to any space type, and with good reason.

"Public spaces support the widest diversity of experiences, offer some of the best experiences overall, and are the most likely to be shared on social media by visitors. Why? Their capacity to support unstructured time – providing a platform for reflection, inspiration, and unplugging as well as fun, socialising, and work – is a lesson in variety and adaptability. Their diversity and welcoming nature prove to be key components of success too, a goal toward which every space should aspire.”

The full Gensler Experience Index is available here.

Gensler  Gensler Experience Index  public space  architecture  design  wellbeing 
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