Neuroaesthetics: The Study of How Design Impacts the Human Brain


As the Wellness trend continues to impact on all areas of the home, approaching the design of every environment as a chance to reduce stress could be a powerful game changer

Surrounding ourselves with objects that we love has long been our approach to decorating our homes. We collect art that we enjoy and choose colours that please us.

But what if the architecture and decor of any building that we’re in has the power to alter the way that we feel?

For instance, can the design of a space influence our state of mind at a given time without us realising it?

Neuroaesthetics is an area of study that delves into the effect that colours, lighting, textures, sounds and the shapes of rooms can have on our sense of wellbeing. Driven by the Wellness megatrend, the field explores the idea that spaces can be more than functional – they can satisfy certain design needs to create an atmosphere that has a positive impact on us on an emotional level.

Driven by the Wellness megatrend, Neuroaesthetics explores the idea that spaces can be more than functional – they can satisfy certain design needs to create an atmosphere that has a positive impact on us on an emotional level. Click To Tweet

As a way of exploring this concept further, at this year’s Salone del Mobile, Google partnered with Johns Hopkins University’s Arts & Mind Lab, furniture design studio Muuto, and Reddymade Architecture to create an installation entitled A Space for Being. Described as ‘an interactive’ three-room installation, the idea behind it was to look at how design and the elements around us have the potential to impact our biology and wellbeing.

As they entered, visitors were given special wristbands that measured specific physical and physiological responses to the three rooms as they moved through them, with a view to ascertaining which space they felt most at ease in.

The rooms were named according to three different themes – Essential, Vital and Transformative – and featured different lighting, aromas, music, art and decor, and were different sizes to help create a variety of experiences.

The Essential room was designed to be warm and womb-like, the Vital room had a livelier, more playful design, while the Transformative room was elegant and pared back.

Collecting data relating to the visitor’s heart rate, breathing rate, skin temperature, skin conductance and body motion, the findings were analysed at the end of the tour for results. People were able to see when they had felt more relaxed, and also the moments when they had been excited or stimulated by what they saw.

Measuring each individual’s response reinforced the fact that reactions to certain aesthetic experiences are unique to each person. People have markedly differing reactions to environments, depending on their previous experiences and the connections they make with them and the different sensory triggers.

This approach brings plenty of scope for personalisation when it comes to interior design and architecture, with people potentially being able to commission particular aspects that they know for a fact have a soothing effect on them for their own homes.

However, approaching the design of every environment – whether that’s a hospital, prison, school or office – as an opportunity to reduce stress and create positivity could turn out to have broader relevance and be life-enhancing for all.

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