Worktech Dubai 2017


Invisible Design

9 Jan , 2018  

We tend to take great design for granted. In the midst of our busy lives, we invariably fail to notice the subtle elements that help build the experiences responsible for our sense of comfort, productivity or wellness. As humans, we evaluate the value of things based on emotions and experiences. And it’s a lot easier to notice the obvious than to look for the subtle.

Behind every great design experience are hundreds of decisions that went right. Interior designers understand that every single detail matters including the textures, proximity, orientation, lighting, and so on. Let’s take a look at design details you probably didn’t notice.

Golden Ratio

I love the golden ratio. It’s ridiculous how many applications make use of this seemingly divine number. It plays a major role in what we perceive to be good design. When used the right way, the golden ratio can make your space appear more aesthetically pleasing.

A major reason for this is balance. Figuring out furniture layouts is a lot easier when you fit them into a 2:3 ratio. The 10-30-60 rule is also based on the golden ratio of 1:1.61. Here, the dominant color takes 60%, the secondary color covers 30%, and a bolder accent takes up the final 10%. This ratio is considered the perfect balance when choosing color palettes and prevents any one color from becoming too overwhelming.

Eight Inc. and Summertown Interiors
D3 Business Centre by Eight Inc. and Summertown Interiors


Most people are only able to comprehend the aesthetic appeal of biophilia. However, its benefits stretch beyond visual beauty, and there is increasing evidence that indicates how our sense of wellness is connected to biophilia. Biophilia is the instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems, and it only makes sense that biophilic elements invoke the primal connection between man and nature.

Before I begin to list the benefits, it’s important to note that biophilic design includes so much more than plants and living walls. Biomorphic forms and patterns, auditory stimuli (e.g. sounds of oceans, forests, etc.), views of water bodies, thermal and airflow variability are just a few of them. In total, there are 14 patterns of biophilic design.

The benefits of biophilia in a built environment are not only numerous but diverse depending on the pattern used. Plants and living walls offer reduced carbon dioxide and improved acoustics, playing natural sounds and using a mix of natural and ambient light help improve concentration in workspaces, and keep the mind calm. One study even claims that having a view on the outside world improves heart rate recovery by 1.6 times compared to a wall or a TV screen.

Invisible Design
VE Experts Office by S2 Interiors


The effects of colour on our subconscious mind are far more profound than one can imagine. According to researchers, certain colours trigger subconscious associations to memories or items that then manifest in physical behaviour.

In a 2009 study, psychologists attempted to study the effects of color on imagination using a variety of cognitive tests on university students. They discovered an interesting difference between students placed in red rooms and those in blue. While those surrounded by red walls fared much better on tasks involving accuracy and attention to detail, those in blue rooms performed much better on creative tasks.

Designers are critical of what colour scheme they pick, especially in areas that would be occupied for long periods of time. The wrong colour can cause mental fatigue over a period of time, while the right colour helps add to the productivity of the workspace.

Invisible Design
Gensler's Dubai office by Summertown Interiors

Illusion of Balance

Balance is critical in achieving a sense of wellbeing in an office or home environment. I’ve come across some clever tricks used in spaces to convey a sense of balance; features you’d never notice if you didn’t look close enough.

Bookshelves are a popular choice in spaces of all kinds. Organizing 60% of books vertically and 40% horizontally creates balance yet spontaneity. Placing rugs large enough to allow furniture to not seem out of place. Hanging artwork at the right height is crucial. If you fail to do so, you’ll have people staring either at a void, or not knowing where to rest their eyes – the sofa or the artwork.

Invisible Design
The library at Arcadia Preparatory School Dubai by GAJ


In design parlance, textures are “the sensations caused by the external surface of objects received through the sense of touch.” There’s no way we can cover the importance of texture in this one post. But what I can do is give you a primer.

Textures help manage visual weight in a space. This means that objects in a space have the ability to draw attention to itself. Using a mixture of textures helps take away some of this attention. An example would be to place a smooth texture directly next to a rough one, while making the latter object stand out more and seem weightier. This balance brings about a sense of stability.

Textures also work in the same way colours do; rough textures are more likely to make a space feel intimate and grounded while smooth textures bring a sleeker more aloof tone to the room.

Invisible Design
Trattoria-Toscana by Plafond

Sustainable Design

Most design firms are starting to set a standard for the quality of furniture present in their spaces. Not only because they want to do their part to protect the environment, but because the health and well-being of employees and residents are also influenced by the quality of furniture found within a specific environment.

Let’s take furniture used in schools as an example. Unfortunately, classroom desks and chairs are often bought cheaply, the logic being that students aren’t the most responsible users. But cheap furniture is made by using low-priced glue, which, when exposed to heat, releases harmful gases. Exposure to this over a long period of time results in health issues in young children.

This is what organizations like LEED, Estidama and WELL building look to promote: building and spaces that encourage healthy working and living through the use of sustainable materials.

Furniture Layouts

The way furniture is placed dictates movement in a space and helps direct traffic effectively. Leaving enough physical and visual breathing room is important; just ask anyone forced to work in a cramped corner of the office. The way furniture is positioned can affect the overall look and feel of the space.

In an office, a truly effective layout ensures no employee feels isolated and is able to interact with other people simply because the layouts ensure what is called ‘serendipitous encounters’.

Invisible Design
Adidas at D3 by Perkins+Will

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