We’ve all been there. We’ve experienced places that seem to have been designed for something other than humans. Think of the typical bathroom at a shopping mall – designed almost as an afterthought with some leftover space down a forgotten utility hallway. This is the last place where you want to go with your new purchases.
And then there are other times when you have experienced what I will call “people places”; comfortable spaces that have clearly been designed with the needs of humans in mind. And not just any human, people places are designed for the humans who will be using those particular places.
A Well-Designed People Place
A few weeks ago, I was at the Tanger Outlets in Grand Rapids. After emptying my water bottle on the drive from Lansing, I needed to make the unfortunate stop in the shopping mall bathroom.
“Here goes nothing,” I thought. But as I entered the bathroom I was pleasantly surprised that the room was quite spacious. The stalls, likewise, were wider than the average stall.
“What a nice design feature,” I said to myself. Since these outlets are an outdoor mall, wintertime shoppers are bulkier with their coats and boots. I was impressed that the bathroom designers accommodated this need. They designed this space for people, and not just any people; they designed this space for people at an outdoor mall in Michigan.
Then I noticed my favorite design feature of the whole place. The feature that truly made this a people place for shoppers. Behind the toilet, off the potentially wet and dirty floor, was a beautiful shelf. It was nothing more than a cut-out cubby space. Nothing earth shattering here in the styling or the details of it. Except that it was earth shattering. The bathroom designers knew that shoppers would be using this bathroom with packages; new purchases that didn’t want to be placed on the ground. And they designed a space for these packages to placed while the shopper used the bathroom. It was so simple and yet the value of my improved experience was through the roof! This is great design. This is a designed space for people, and not just any people; a designed space for shoppers at an outlet mall.
As I exited the stall, I noticed another aspect of the room that was meant to improve the user’s experience and simplify their life. Under the sink was a foldable step that could be used by the shopper’s toddler to reach the sink to wash their hands.
No more awkward lifting of a child with an armful of shopping bags. The child can wash her hands, just like at home. This is a designed space for people, and not just any people; a designed space for people shopping with their children.
Why Do People Places Matter?
As interesting as a trip to the bathroom is, that’s not why I’m writing about this. I’m writing this because people places matter and should be the goal of any designed and constructed space:
- The user of a people place feels good because they know that someone thought about their experience and cared enough to make sure it would be a pleasant one.
- Because of this positive experience, the user of a people place is more likely to frequent the well-designed place. If the people place happens to be a shopping mall like the Grand Rapids Tanger Outlets, having people want to return is nothing but positive for the stores at the mall!
- People places don’t happen by accident. It wasn’t a coincidence that there was a shelf above the toilet in the bathroom stall. Someone, an Architect or Interior Designer, said, “Let’s adjust the water lines and other utilities in the wall so that we have open space above the toilet where we can provide a shelf for our shoppers to place their purchases.”
People places are designed spaces. They can be indoors or outdoors, large spaces or small spaces. The variables are endless, but the principle remains: a space designed with the needs and preferences of the user in mind is a space that is comfortable for people.
What people places have you experienced?