Through user engagement design, the design and engineering team is more accurately able to understand the work and standard operating procedures that researchers are conducting. This enables us to take a holistic approach to lab design that considers the full spectrum of issues that contribute to an optimized environment for research and results in a 21stt-century lab setting which can evolve with the changing needs of its users, their tools and the science. It is not only about the physical space, but also about critically evaluating the processes and procedures that influence the success and/or failure of not only the environment, but oftentimes the science as well.
Laboratories have been rooted in the basic design principle that form follows function, but the key question designers have stopped asking is—the function of what? Most designs are the result of infrastructure requirements and EHS policies that do not always promote science and discovery. With the new approach of Laboratory User Engagement Design, organizations can examine and understand the briefing requirements from the users fully—to allow a cultivated and appropriate environment that allows research to flourish. This not only helps create a great built environment for the user, but has been shown to reduce operational overhead and real estate commitments providing organizational savings across the board while maintaining, if not increasing, effectiveness of scientists. This affects the physical design of the space and also includes operational and social interaction design to enable the fullest impact. A user engagement approach allows for a more accurate understanding of needs of an infrastructure design that will allow for future developments, yet avoid over spending.
When a user experience design approach is used for a research environment, clients often envision organizational and cultural change. Changing the foundations of how people work is hard, especially in a research environment, but to realize full potential of users and research environments there does need to be a fundamental change in how they interact. Embedding Change Management as part of a user driven design process enables this change and provides a platform that reconciles and unifies the vision of leadership with the needs of an organization’s most valuable asset—its people.