I started my design firm in 2004 and in the years since, the Asian design landscape has changed beyond all recognition. Over the past 15 years, I have witnessed a tremendous transformation, both in industry standards and consumer demand. But what I am seeing right now, is the biggest change of all. This change is being driven by science and it is revolutionising the industry entirely. The company at the forefront of this science is not one normally associated with design: Google.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

The living room set-up from “A Space for Being” installation. 

Google is pioneering research into a new science they call Neuroaesthetics – or the brain’s and body’s responses to the aesthetic world. They presented their discoveries during the Milan Design Week in 2019, in an exhibition entitled “A Space for Being”. They showcased three different rooms, each with subtle variations of lighting, scent, music, artwork, materials and proportion. Before entering, each visitor was fitted with a special wrist band, with integrated sensors, to measure five physiological responses: heart activity, breathing rate, skin conductance, temperature and body motion. Each visitor was asked to spend at least five minutes in the different rooms and data collected revealed in which room they were most at ease.

One of the key questions the Google-partnered exhibition sought to answer was how and why different coloured rooms evoke different memories and feelings within its inhabitants. 

Google has proven that design has a real and measurable impact on our physiology. They showed that a person’s response is determined by their unique genetics and conditioning. Moreover, the data revealed that many people were physiologically more relaxed in a room different to the one that they consciously preferred.

Technology is completely changing the way people are looking at design. Advances in neuroscience have enabled scientists to measure brain activity, metabolic and hormonal reactions to our environment, proving that habitat impacts health, behaviour, the way we feel and even how we interact with others. These revelations have led to whole new fields of study: environmental design, persuasive design and psychology of design.

FROM ANOTHER ANGLE

Nikki uses colour in most of her interior design works, from a pastel green wallcovering in this room to darker shades in others.

For as long as I can remember, design has been described as a visual art. Now, modern science is proving that design is so much more than a visual discipline: it is multisensory and it is as much science as art.

We experience our surroundings through our senses, so by stimulating the senses we can influence how we are affected by the world around us. Changes in light, space, geometry, scents, colour, texture and sound can influence how we feel and even how we behave. The right design choices will help us relax and sleep better – which boosts our memory and immune system and can even help us live longer.

The dark navy of the carpentry has a calming effect while textural beige lends warmth. 

Good design will improve concentration, alleviate stress, make us more creative or more friendly. Of course, design cannot change our nature or raise our IQ but it can help us make the most of who we are and be the best version of ourselves.

DESIGN FOR HEALING

This new science is ground breaking. It shows that design affects us at our very core, calming the mind and healing the body. The science corroborates what many of us in the design field have known intuitively, that good design improves our lives and is a building block of happiness.

Natural wood, soft lighting and plants all work together to create an inviting ambience. 

In the early years of my career, I used to think that design was about making things look beautiful and that good design was synonymous with good taste. But years of experience and this new science has shown me that there is no such thing as good or bad taste- only personal taste. If it makes you feel good, it has to be right.

At my studio, Design Intervention, we start every project by considering vital human needs such as happiness, comfort, fun, conviviality, beauty and mood right from the onset. We think about behaviour and how each owner will use their different rooms. We prioritise feeling and strive to create the ambience as well as the functionality that will make best use of the spaces, both physically and emotionally. It is a personalised, multisensory approach to design that goes beyond aesthetics to nourish the senses and create joyful, sensual, liveable homes.

Whether it’s mixing colours or patterns, Nikki’s tip for creating a welcoming space is that it “must feel right”. 

This is a metamorphic change to the Twentieth Century notion of homemaking as something frivolous. As the new science becomes main-stream, the role of design in our lives is being reassessed beyond aesthetics and beyond function. In the next decade home making will be seen as profoundly empowering and regarded as just as vital to our wellbeing as good nutrition or exercise – a super power to wield against an often stressful world.

The aim is a home that makes you feel fantastic, and that provides the ultimate foundation for a better way of living and there can be few goals more worthy than that.