Design for use

Well, today was going to be a post about Eltham Palace. But, it was not to be. When I took out English Heritage membership last August, visiting there was top of my list of places to use it for. Scroll forward to today and I still haven’t managed it. Real life always seems to get in the way (and it being shut on Saturdays doesn’t help). One weekend we planned to go we ended up ‘having’ to move house, and then this weekend the flat turned into a plague house and we were both too sick.

Next weekend we’ll make it. Or have an even more outlandish excuse anyway.

So, I went to work in a slight mood, and one of the things that annoys me about our office seemed like a good thing to mention… It’s a brand new office, the layout is exactly as planned still. And it REALLY doesn’t work. I’m sure it worked really well for walkarounds when it was being set up, but it fails at actually being good to work in. Spaces to get through to get to desks are just odd and awkward. This is best exemplified by the meeting rooms. They have doors, perfectly lined up with the gap between two desks. I’m sure when no one was working there you could get in and out great. Sadly, when people are actually working at the desks, they sit in chairs, which then take up more space than they did neatly tucked in. You’re left with three choices: Squeeze between people’s backs, making them uncomfortable. Squeeze yourself between the wall of the meeting room and the desk – a space of about three inches – making yourself uncomfortable if you even fit through or finally stay trapped in the meeting room until the end of the day or they all leave for lunch.


It’s extreme, I know, but I get the same feel in some show homes I saw when looking for a flat. They looked lovely (well, some of them did), but they didn’t look like they would actually work for real people really living there. For me, the primary function of the space (to live in, cook in, work in) has to be met and met well before you think about the aesthetics. If you can’t do that, you’re failing as a designer. Sounds basic, but I think people forget…


One thought on “Design for use

  1. As a slight aside, I think the same criticism applies often to the (high) fashion industry. An item of clothing has a primary function – to be able to be worn by people to make them look good. If it can only be work by highly atypical people and then makes a statement but doesn’t look good, I don’t think you can call it fashion any more….maybe art?

    Some people hate restrictions on their work, but they are the fundamentals, and I think the point….


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