Flex desk

In this project I tried to answer the question: How can we communicate our preferences in an open office? In public people use the space around them to non-verbally (and often subconsciously) send messages to other people about how they are feeling. This is called sending 'spatial triggers'. The way people position themselves around walls and objects indicates for example how much privacy they need and what their intention of being there is. In open work spaces like flex offices, where almost all barriers are removed and there is little room for customization, sending spatial triggers becomes a lot harder. To try to solve this I designed a concept for an interactive desktop that uses abstract visuals to send non-verbal signals about a person's needs and wants in a flex office.

After reading up on how people deal with sharing space with others I went to flex offices to observe and experience it for myself. I paid attention to how people arrange their workspace with objects and how they use body language. I made a storyboard to show the average experience people have in open work spaces and I sketched early concepts.

To get more insight into how people deal with communicating in open work spaces interviews were conducted. The concept of using abstract visuals to communicate was introduced and people were given scrap materials and markers to create their personal abstract language. The visuals they created were used as inspiration for the final concept.

The final concept was an interactive desktop that uses a ring of lights with different colors and additional symbols to send messages to other people. Common things people like to communicate are included like how much space they need from others, how comfortable they are with the noise level and if they would like to talk or get/give advice. The control panel is supposed to disappear when the person continues working while the lights softly glow without too much disturbance to the user.

For a final evaluation the concept of the interactive desktop was projected onto a table and smalls groups of people were invited to work side by side while using the projection as they pleased. Overall the participants enjoyed having a non-verbal but quite clear way to indicate preferences. Other interesting findings were that people developed their own social rules for the visuals (going from green to red light without an orange transition was considered rude) and that going from 'needing privacy' to 'open to disturbance' was often forgotten while the other way around was easier done.