Design Psychology is one of the fields I study and it is defined as the practice of architecture, planning, and interior design in which psychology is the principal design tool.
This interdisciplinary field had its conception only in 2000 being a relatively new field. Its founders are Dr Toby Israel and Dr Susan Lee Painter. The purpose of Design Psychology, says Dr Toby Israel is to create environments that reflect the individual or group as well as encourage positive change.
Dr Toby Israel is an environmental/design psychologist and has over 25 years of experience in design, psychology, the arts, and education. In 2003, she published a book entitled: Some Place like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Places. In this book, she introduces the new field, using in-depth interviews with famous designers and architects to examine how places from the past contain the seeds of future choices for home locations, dwellings, and interior design. The last part of the book she focuses on practical application of Design Psychology by showing examples of residential, corporate, and institutional projects created via the Design Psychology process. This book is the only one published hitherto in the field.
This new field can help architects and designers have a better understanding of the emotions, feelings and the memories that places we inhabit trigger. By understanding better these principles and by developing better ways of analysing the occupants of spaces we can plan better interiors. Designers and architects have to be more aware of the psychological and social dimension of the places they are designing. Here I can give an example where even great architects sometimes forget to calculate the impact of the building on the population and how a design can prologue trauma and not promote healing. The project called Thinking Big – A Plan for Ground Zero and Beyond, commissioned by New York Times with its architecture critic Herbert Muschampas curator, involved 15 famous architects that were asked to rebuild ground zero in New York. Peter Eisenman an american architect proposed the building of three office towers that looked like partly collapsed structures.
Peter Eisenman, 2002, Office towers proposal
In the NYT Flash Presentation of the project Eisenman described the buildings like this: You get the effect of …a moment of frozen time, where the buildings are collapsing, and what we tried to do was record in the buildings that moment, a moment of impact on the surrounding buildings that would be recorded as part of the memorial. He forgot to think that having this project built they would actually froze the first 24 hours. As a comment to such project, Toby Israel affirmed thatthese buildings would enshrine and extend our trauma rather than heal the American psyche. And she concluded with a question: How could designers come to propose such a disjuncture between people and places?
Dr. Susan Painter is a developmental psychologist and designer psychologist and is a principal at Forrest Painter Design, a Venice, California Design Psychology practice. She teaches a Human Factors in Design course at UCLA. The course focuses on teaching the designers to fulfil the psychological needs of clients and users of space, rather than simply using aesthetic factors to serve as the basis for design. The students learn how to observe and they learn interview methods derived from psychological research to find out how people really use space. This is particularly important in the design of schools, hospitals, residential communities for the elderly, and other projects where people are under high levels of stress.
Design Psychology is an important field because it sets a benchmark for new methods in interior design. My research involves the designing of Youth Detention Centres; the recent methods from Design Psychology cannot be applied in this project but can give an example of how the interrelation between the methods used in psychology, and interior design intertwine.
Because of ethics considerations I cannot interview the young from the Youth Detention Centres or the workers there. I will focus more on research already done in hospital design and the design of schools that can be applied to Youth Detention Centres as well.
<http://www.designpsychology.net/dpsycho.html>%5BAccessed 20 February 2012]
Eisenman, P. (2002) The Master’s plan. The New York Times [Internet] Available from:
<http://www.forrestpainterdesign.com/FPD/Home.html>%5BAccessed 20 February 2012]
Israel, T. (2003) Some Place Like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Places. John Wiley & Sons.