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Focus Spaces

Typology cards that encompass the concept of focus across Cornell University​

User Research | Design Methods

Spring 2017  


In an effort to understand how design enhances the larger university’s mission our team looked primarily into “focus” space types and how key stakeholders use them today. Our challenge was to create a set of typology cards that not only encompasses this space type but could also function as a tool in design workshops.  

Research Methods
  • Industry research  

  • Survey 

  • Field studies

  • Key stakeholder interviews

  • User journey mapping

  • Live testing 

My Role
  • Survey creation

  • Field studies 

  • Data visualization 

  • Illustration 

In collaboration with Sarah Lee & Kelly Guo

Understanding The User

We conducted primary and secondary research as a benchmark to explore the space typologies at large

Secondary Research

  • Set the stage for our in-depth research at Cornell 

  • Researched the concept of focus and developed a framework for it

  • Generated user case studies looking at: 

    • Universities ​

    • Outdoor Public Spaces 

    • Libraries

    • Workplaces 


Primary Research 

  • Conducted observations of varying space types across 12 campus locations 

    • identified recurring patterns of similar behaviors

  • Distributed an online survey to the millennial student population 

  • Led 10 one on one interviews with randomly selected stakeholders 

  • Developed a student experience map to understand different focus needs throughout a typical day 

Defining the Problem

Based on our research, we found that people, whether they were studying, talking to others, or just reading a book, preferred quiet environments, flexible furniture, natural lighting, and outlets.  

An identified gap was that people would ideally want to be close to nature for focus if they had the option to do so. However, the university lacks designated spaces with easy access to technology and seating that are deemed critical for the user's chosen activities.

Starting the Design

Based on our findings, we developed eleven typologies that encompass the concept of focus across campus. Our typologies went through a series of iterations as shown below.

Refining the Design

With the initial draft of cards, live prototyping sessions were conducted to test out the typologies. All main stakeholder groups - students, faculty, staff, and alumni - participated in the sessions.

We asked for general feedback as well as which typologies they would associate with their work, social, and relaxation focuses. 

Final Results

After our live testing, we refined the typology cards based on the recommendations users provided. The final product can be seen below. 

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