Episode 2 – How to Design with Sensitivity in Mind
Hear about the benefits and key principles of designing with sensitivity in mind from design principals, Kay Sargent and Mary Kate Cassidy of HoK.
Have you ever noticed the most amazing things happen when one is posed with a simple innocent question? That is how it started for Kay Sargent, a recognized expert on workplace design and strategy issues. She is an award-winning designer who has worked with several Fortune 500 companies to optimize their global real estate portfolios and create innovative work environments. Kay is currently a director of HOK’s Work Place team
Mary Kate Cassidy's career focus was to either become an architect interior designer or a special ed teacher. She chose the former and is now a senior designer at HOK focusing on corporate workplace design. In her graduate studies, she researched neurodiversity and its relationship to workplace design.
I invite you to listen and learn as we speak about:
- 00:04:46 - How Mary Kate and Kay got into neurodivergent design
- 00:05:47 - Designing for Adults on Autistic Spectrum
- 00:07:07 - What is neurodivergent
- 00:09:23 - Value in belonging
- 00:09:53 - Legally designing for inclusivity
- 00:12:28 - Spectrum of Sensitivity
- 00:13:00 - The differences between noise and sound
- 00:14:30 - Sensory Intelligence
- 00:17:32 - Six modalities of work types
- 00:19:32 - Rest at the workplace
- 00:21:05 - Human Sustainability and well-being
- 00:22:45 - Work like athletes
- 00:25:00 - Onboarding process
- 00:28:45 - Being in touch with their needs
- 00:30:07 - Breaking up tasks during the day
- 00:33:25 - Principles and Elements of Design
Learn more about and follow HOK:
This podcast is hosted by Clare Kumar. As a productivity catalyst, highly sensitive executive coach, and speaker, Clare cultivates sustainable performance in busy professionals so they can keep making rich contributions in all areas of life and achieve greater fulfillment. She inspires leaders, professionals, employees, and entrepreneurs to respect humanity and boost performance through marrying productivity and pleasure. After all, why shouldn’t you have fun while getting things done? If you're a visual learner, please watch this episode on YouTube.
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Song Credit: Cali by Wataboi from Pixabay
This is a Crackers In Soup production
Clare Kumar: This is episode two of the Happy Space Podcast. Today, we're exploring space design with sensitivity in mind, with principles from the global architecture and design firm HoK.
Welcome to the Happy Space Podcast, a place where highly sensitive people thrive. Not only will we learn how to better navigate life with our superpowers. We'll find ways to better manage the challenges too. We'll hear from product and service innovators, space designers and leaders who believe in creating an inclusive neurologically, safe world.
If you are highly sensitive or want to better understand and support someone who is then you are in the right place. I'm your host, Clare Kumar and I'm so very happy you are here.
So before I became an entrepreneur, I worked corporately for about 15 years, and I really noticed the environments within which I worked, they contributed so greatly to my ability to focus and sustain my energy or not. I remember one office where the president and other employees were running around with Nerf guns. That was a little tough to concentrate at times. And another office where I was invited to sit in a really dark space, another where they forgot that I was coming and didn't give me a desk at all. So, an environment can influence us so greatly and paying attention to Don Norman's classic book, The Design of Everyday Things. I remember he commented that the majority of accidents are really the result of poor design. The same can be said for modern day workspaces, so I was thrilled to discover forward thinking insights from HoK a global design architecture and planning firm spanning 23 offices over three continents. They recently shared a video, outlining the new inclusivity, leveraging the superpowers of the neurodiverse through design science.
And that's what we're going to tap into today. I am so pleased to have Kay Sargent who's the director of workplace, a senior principal in the firm and Mary Kate Cassidy, senior interior design professional, who both are really at the forefront of looking at the science behind designing for sensitivity. I am so thrilled that they join me and please listen in.
We explore really, you know, why it's important, what companies can do to think about creating with sensitivity in place. We'll look at some of the variety of things you can do and, at the end, Kay lets the kitten out of the bag. So stay tuned for that. I hope you'll enjoy this episode.
Today's episode of the Happy Space Podcast is sponsored by ClareKumar.com. Not only am I excited to spearhead the Happy Space movement. I love coaching busy professionals to achieve greater productivity and wellbeing. The two go hand in hand. I also adore taking the stage. If you are looking for an interactive engaging event to inspire and invite action, whether it be on successful work-life integration, sustainable performance, organization and productivity or expanding inclusivity, please visit ClareKumar.com and find out more.
So I'm thrilled to have Kay Sargent and Mary Kate Cassidy from HoK you'll have heard that in the intro an amazing architecture and design firm from all over the world. And I was really drawn–I first found out about Kay's work, learning on LinkedIn and was just so impressed and Mary Kate, I'm so thrilled that you're here too. And we're going to dive into conversation around why it's important to design with sensitivity in mind. So I want to ask you and maybe I'll start with you Kay, and then Mary Kate, you can jump in as well. What prompted you to focus on the challenges of the neurodiverse population from a design perspective?
Kay Sargent: Well, it, you know, I think it all really started for me with a very simple, innocent question. Probably about five years ago, I was in a client meeting and at the end of the meeting, the client said, you know, just kind of as a side. “Do you have any information about how to design space for people that have ADHD?” and having designed some educational facilities I had, you know, some input for that and I could answer some of the questions. But it wasn't a good enough answer. And I am driven by curiosity. I always like to have good answers. I always like to dive into topics. And so I went back and I started to do a lot of research. And what I found was a total void of any significant material that would really help guide on that path. So we really believe that we have a responsibility as designers to create inclusive environments. And so we made a concerted effort to dive into it and we did, and we published our first piece and I got a lovely email from someone within my own company who was like, “Huh, I might be able to add something to this conversation.” So Mary Kate over to you.
Mary Kate Cassidy: Yes, it was a perfect match. I'll say that, in grad school, you know, I personally always was on the career path to either become an architect, interior designer or a special ed teacher. So I was drawn to both and my master's thesis was on designing workplaces for adults on the autism spectrum.
And what was so interesting about that? People who identify on the autism spectrum are able to tell you kind of the minute details of what works for them and what doesn't. So whether you're at one end of the spectrum or the other, they're able to really dive into specific design details of “I need lower lighting”, or “I need to be in a more vibrant space”.
And so that translates perfectly into design. So it worked great as a design thesis and then when I started at HoK, as Kay mentioned, it was perfect because, you know, the research was already ongoing and from there it has evolved to not only be a discussion on workplace, but all sectors of design and not only the autism spectrum, obviously, but the whole neurodiverse spectrum.
Clare Kumar: I love that. So it begs a question, Kay, you said the answer wasn't complete enough. Was it not complete enough for you or for the client or both? Is this something that wasn't really dug into in design school?
Kay Sargent: Well, you know, there isn't a lot of material out there and quite frankly, four or five years ago, when we first started to talk about this, nobody even knew what the term neurodiversity was, so in our world that was not common terminology. And so we really started by having to define what that is and connect with a lot of experts and what we found was there were tons of people in the HR realm that were thinking about how do we onboard differently? How do we reach out to greater, more diverse population and how do we bring them into our organizations? But once you brought them into the organization, there really was a drought of information about how do we create environments where they'll want to stay? And there's a great quote. And I always mess it up, so I apologize in advance, but, “Diversity is about counting people. Inclusivity is about making people count.” Think it's Tony M, that talks about that. And you know, if you hire people because they can have amazing talents but then they don't feel comfortable where they are, they won't stay. And so we believe as designers. That we really do have an impact on everybody that's in that space and that impact can be positive or it can be negative. And we need to assure that we're doing everything that we can to make sure that it's positive.
Clare Kumar: Yeah, I so appreciate that. So you're speaking right now to listeners who are interested in high sensitivity and that aspect of neurodiversity.
And it's broader than that, I mean the high sensitivity traits are one in five, but then we add in all the other conditions and then also situational sensitivity, we add in PTSD, and traumatic brain injuries.And I would say suggest hangovers because people also understand, you know, there's temporary sensitivity and you know, to your point that we weren't talking about neurodivergence, we didn't know what it meant.
And so I love this bringing together, especially Mary Kate, with your deep understanding, bringing together the community interest and then the design and the thought process. And there's a generous nature, this sense of inclusivity means there's a valuing that we all belong. So if you are going to say something out there to the listeners which are both, groups of HSPs and people who want to understand and support them, and also leaders of base of culture of community products and services that I'm hoping will all be inspired to create with sensitivity in mind, what would you urge them to consider as they go about thinking what they're creating?
Kay Sargent: Yeah. I think we would say it's not only the right thing to do, but in several places, it's the law that we design for inclusivity. You know, we consider people that are neurodiverse, many of them have super powers, but technically it is a disability and the American with disability act or the UK equality act would both say that you need to make accommodations. And for a long time, people that were neurodiverse didn't necessarily want to talk about that, they kind of kept it to themselves, but if somebody knocked on your door tomorrow and said, “Hey, I'm on the spectrum or I'm, you know, ADHD, I need you to make special accommodations for me. “Would you even know what that meant? Right? And so we now have a generation that has been raised with a much deeper understanding of what they need to be successful. And so those knocks on those doors are going to start coming a lot more frequently. So yeah, we need– it's the right thing to do. We need to start thinking about what do we do? How do we need to address it?
Clare Kumar: Yeah, you're right. There's an empowerment and awareness building. And you touched on something here, because right now there's a lot of requirement for a diagnosis to get accommodations. One of the things that I'm really excited about doing is furthering the thinking about just creating with sensitivity in mind, so a diagnosis is irrelevant. Someone can say, you know what? I just actually, “I don't enjoy a visually chaotic environment. I need to work in quiet”. I just did a poll on LinkedIn actually and there's over I think 140 responses already. And the question was, “What kind of noise soundscape do you like?”
And, I think 44% right now said quiet. And when we know, I think we talked before that the biggest stress is noise. So if someone was to say, what can I do? What's low hanging fruit to be able to invite contributions for more people? Do you have suggestions? Mary Kate and Kay what, what might be things that can practically be done that might not break the bank?
Mary Kate Cassidy: Yeah. Well, first of all, I'll say that it is so important to understand that everyone falls on that spectrum somewhere of sensitivity. And as you mentioned, it's not just a diagnosed condition. I feel like we kind of ran into that at the beginning of our research and presenting on this topic, that people would say, “Well, I'm not neurodiverse, but if I was”, but then all of a sudden, as you start talking to them, they're saying, “Yeah, I can't focus unless I'm in a quiet room” or “I always need to sit by the window because of this”.
So it's just so interesting that, you know, we talk about the spectrum of sensitivity, of hypersensitive to hyposensitive. Hyper, basically being more controlled environments with hypo being the opposite, being a lot more engaging and active. And everyone falls somewhere on that. It doesn't matter if you're diagnosed with ADHD or HSP you know, I think that's just so interesting to highlight because that's definitely something we run into,
Kay Sargent: But Clare I want to go back to something that you said, and this is why we need more research and more information. So you talked about noise. There's a difference between noise and sound and many people will say that noise bothers them and so they want to be in a quiet space, but I want you to think about this. If you walk into a restaurant and it's eerily quiet, you are the only people there and there's one other table all the way across the restaurant. Is that a good environment? Most people would say no. And the same thing holds true in the workplace. If you walk into a restaurant and it's so loud that you can't even hear the person sitting across from you, that's a bad environment. And what we need to try to understand is what is the activity and what is the right level of sound? Because not all sound is noise. And so when people say, “I want to sit in the quiet”, no, you really probably don't because that can be really uncomfortable and very uneasy and so even the people that are sharing those stories don't necessarily have the understanding about what is the right thing. And what's really important is that we zone spaces, you know, activity level, sound level, lighting level from very calming, to very energized. We all need a different thing. And going back to Mary Kate's point, we made a pivotal shift in our research, probably about two years. We were talking about neurodiversity, but literally we've kind of shifted more to talk about sensory intelligence, every person, even those that are neurotypical, respond to the stimulation that is assaulting us every day in a different way.
And even if I'm neurotypical, I might have a stronger sensitivity to sound than somebody else, but I might need more visual stimulation. So we all can be impacted by that sensory input that we're taking. And so really the research that we're doing is applicable to everyone. and in a day and age where we have a heightened sensitivity, because of COVID about how close we are to other people about what we're touching about what was that smell? You know, I think it really does impact everybody to a much greater level, so we really need to understand how that sensory assault that is coming at us impacts us. And it impacts everybody differently, but it impacts everybody.
Clare Kumar: It really does. I wrote a post on LinkedIn the other day, too, about a conference. I attended a big conference collision in Toronto in 2019. And I walked into that space excited because world class speakers, panels, like so much learning to be had, my appetite was right up there. I walked in and I was overwhelmed. It was one big space, no soft furnishing sound, dampening divisions, nothing, a big keynote presentation stage, mics going, lights and a panel discussion with four people amplified to be over that, so you could hear a hubbub of thousands of people talking. And then the fire alarm goes off and then the fire alarm announcements go off and I made it half an hour and then I looked for the escapes. The doors were blocked because they wanted to channel people to specifics. I burst through the door. I'm like, “I'm outta here”. And I talked to the organizers and I said, “Gosh, you know, I'm an apt target audience for this content. How was I ever going to engage in there?” So you're right, as we think about all of these spaces, whether they're permanent or temporary, we've gotta think of everybody and what struck me as– so I'm highly sensitive, but I'm of the high sensation seeking. You can tell if you're seeing my room right now, this hot pink wall behind me gives you an idea that I like some vibrancy in my life, right? Yeah. And so even in the sensitive community, even in the neuro divergent, there are going to be moments where we need that calm. We need psychological safety, physiological safety and I like to say neurological safety, that our nervous systems aren't being taxed. And so in a space, then if we're thinking about a workspace, for example, we need zones. How many different zones do we need? What kind of zones? What should we be thinking about so that we can have more people happier for more of the day?
Kay Sargent: So Mary Kate, you want to talk about the six modalities?
Mary Kate Cassidy: Yeah. So for the workplace specifically, we've identified six different modalities and that is based on what type of work you're doing and, you know, who you need to be collaborating with. So you think of a focus space being one where it's just a space for one person, versus a social space, a space to really socialize, maybe it's a area for an all hands meeting or, you know, an all staff meeting at the end of the day, a pantry area, perhaps. And, you know, that's a completely different environment for, if you think of those as kind of the two, you're designing those in such a completely different way. We like to talk through six different specific modalities as far as work types, and then evaluate those across the spectrum because you're never going to design a focus room, for example, or a focus space for one person the same if you're a hypersensitive person versus a hypo, that's completely different, but you also can't say that hypersensitive people can't use a social space because there's just too many people involved. So you need to design this ecosystem, then it becomes because there's the six different modalities, but then there's also designing for the different ends of the spectrum. And so we like to think about a social space, you know, there might be different zones even within that space where you might be right in the middle of just a pantry area. For example, if you're picturing like a lot of open seating and high ceilings and bright light, and that's where kind of the main hub of the meeting is happening, but then you might have areas off to the perimeter to kind of tuck under a lower ceiling or have dim lighting where you're still in the same space. You can still take place in the same meeting, but you're able to feel a little bit like you're in a comforted environment while still being able to take place.
Clare Kumar: I love that. And I looked at the six different modalities and I got really excited when I saw contemplate/refresh, because one of the things that I've experienced and, you know, I worked corporately 15 years ago and I remember in my third trimester of pregnancy, I was exhausted and the only place for me to lie down was under my desk. So I crawled under my desk and lay on the floor and just hoped nobody came by. Right? So I'm curious, as we look at this is more about respecting the depth of humanity and the breadth of humanity and how we show up here. And the fact we're human animals, not robots means we might need to have rest during the day.
What are you seeing if anything, about the corporate world in particular, embracing this concept of embedding rest opportunities, recovery opportunities in the workplace?
Kay Sargent: Yeah, I think we're starting to see more of an uptake. I mean, in certain cultures naps are part of the day. You know, they design nap pods and, and desks that can convert to nap and you know, a lot in a lot of the Asian countries. In North America, you know, the jury is still out on that. There are certain people that are huge advocates of that and other people that aren't, but it's not just about naps. I mean, sometimes it's just having the ability just to step away for a minute and just kind of catch your breath. So, you know, in a lot of very stressful environments, like call centers and contact centers where you might be dealing with very, you know, people in crisis, the ability just to step off to the side. And sometimes it's not, you know– refreshing could be walking outside or the ability to get up and physically move, right? Or just to go to a different space. There's a lot of different ways that we can do that. And I think for the last 10 years, there's been a big focus, a growing focus on human sustainability and wellbeing. And of course, during the pandemic, the spotlight has gotten very, very bright on that, and people's need to be able to kind of escape every now and then has gotten very, very bright. And so there's a lot more attention on creating spaces where people can find that respite because we know that that will help everybody function better.
Clare Kumar: Yeah, I love it. And there's a couple of things that leaves me feeling very optimistic. There's also the culture piece. I know a lot of people that said, “Oh yeah, we have a quiet room, but no way, no way am I ever going in there”, because you know, our celebration of the work ethic and that if you're not seen to be at your desk means you're not doing anything. Also has to evolve to allow for this respective humanity and this human sustainability. I know I have a close friend working in a call center and she's allowed 20 seconds between calls. You can't recover and catch your breath in 20 seconds, you know, especially if it's been difficult.
Kay Sargent: Yeah. And I think a lot of, you know, there's this philosophy that we should work like athletes. This notion that you're going to sit down at a desk and four hours later, you know, have a little break for lunch and then sit down again for four hours and be functional, you know, it's just not realistic. And so this notion of working like an athlete is that athletes tend to work in 90 minute spurts, and then they have to refresh their bodies to take a break so that they can recover, build stronger and then go back at it for another 90 minutes. And so you know, several of our clients have embraced this whole notion of work like an athlete and, you know, take breaks and do it in spurts.
Clare Kumar: Okay. So my love was an athlete and part of his day was a really good massage at the end of it. So if we can work like athletes I'm all for it.
Kay Sargent: I'm very jealous of that, right? You know, when you hear that Russell Wilson gets a daily massage, I'm like that might actually make it worth being hit, you know, 20 times on a Sunday for right. We know from athletes that that's part of the recovery, your body doesn't recover, your muscles don't recover unless you are taking care of them.
And, so it's the same thing with our minds and our spirits. I mean, look, it should not be lost on anybody that we are at an all time level high of burnout. And we were getting there before COVID, but you know, everybody is like, you know, remote work is so great and there are absolutely benefits of remote work, but many people are sitting stagnant, glued to a computer for not just an eight hour day, they're rolling that commute time into it. They're sitting there for 10 hours a day, constantly on, being on in a zoom call, you know, takes more mental capacity than being in a meeting. And so we literally are just burning ourselves out and most people don't even really realize that. And so we really need to think about how we are functioning to be able to get people, to be able to thrive.
Clare Kumar: That's my word of choice. We're barely surviving. And in fact, if we're going towards burnout, we really can be inviting serious, long term challenges, health challenges in, and we've seen overwork in Japan. Koshi, the death by overwork. So we're on a slippery slope if we don't turn this around and design has such a powerful place to play in this. And so I'm really optimistic when you sense that things are turning around and we're on the cusp of something here. If a leader is listening and thinking about their team and their place, how can they connect?
How can we inspire action here to say yes, so it's the right thing to do it's law, but this makes good business sense too?
Kay Sargent: So I think there's a lot of different things that we could do and I'll just give you one and then I'll let Mary Kate give you some of her favorite examples, but you know, we all respond to things differently, we've established that. If you are telling somebody, when they come in, that you need to sit at this spot and that's your spot, without any thought about what it is that they're doing, their sensitivity levels, etcetera, you could be short circuiting that person before they even get started. So let's say that I am, uh, really distracted by visual stimulation and sound bothers me and maybe I've been through some trauma so I have a little sensitivity and I need a little bit more prospect and refuge. I feel vulnerable sitting in a space where I have no control over any of those things. And let's say I'm on a corridor with people constantly walking by me and my back is exposed and I'm by an elevator with the ding, ding, ding, all day I'm done before I've even started. And so allowing people some choice in where they sit. And how much freedom or flexibility they have. Some people have to sit in the same spot every day. It's really important for them to have that control, but they should still be able to choose where. They sit and then that might become their home.
Other people want to move, they need to move. And so we need to be able to create environments that allow people a little bit of options and a lot of control. And that goes a long way to empowering people and helping them be in a better situation.
Clare Kumar: Oh, my gosh. It's taking me back to my very last corporate job. And you might understand why when I relay the short story. So I took a job. I had successfully negotiated four days a week, which was great. And I had to commute downtown every day. And I ended up going to the office and I was told, “Oh, this cubicle right here you can sit in.” And that was in the middle of an older office building and so there was no natural light there whatsoever, and it was outside my director's office and she had a door. I could see the window and all these open desks and then I saw people's names on the desk. So, I recently moved from Montreal to Toronto and I saw the names. I'm like, oh, these are the people I used to talk to I can't believe they sit right here. And so I found an open desk and I said to my boss, the first day, I said, you're going to find me over there. And if somebody needs that space, then I'm happy to move. And this was on the back of a conversation in the interview that said, I need natural light to be at my best and this was November. So we were sliding into the dark half and November is when I just, you know, I knew I was going to be in dire straits, so I was speaking up right away. Clearly the writing was on the wall, there was a real sort of disconnect in terms of a leader's understanding. I remember one of our conversations. She was like “I could write, I could work anywhere on the back of a napkin anywhere I could just, I could do anything anywhere.” Yay for you. So I've of long thought to your point in the onboarding process, when we're thinking about attracting and inviting humans to be collaborators with us, can't we embed this, this no need for flexibility and autonomy, which is valuable for anybody, but so critical to the success of the neurodivergent population. Can't we embed that in, and that can be a willing, an easy first step that I think, you know, maybe there's an open-mindedness and a de-tethering from some of the rigid policies that have been in place.
Mary Kate Cassidy:Yeah and that can include working from home, maybe coming into the office at all, doesn't work for, you know, some people.So, I mean, I think companies are willing and we're hearing from our clients that they're willing to be more open about their policies, but I agree completely at the very beginning, if you have a very specific need that needs to be identified because as I mentioned, that translates completely into workplace design, like you're able to see a direct correlation. These are the things I need to perform at my best, it offers a good business argument because then I'll be a superstar and I'll be more productive. So it's an easy connection to make between, okay, you need to sit here or whatever. For me, I definitely agree that a tool that I've learned working from home in COVID and being able to really customize my environment is I have to have that movement around. It's not that I just need to be in one specific space. And I find myself, you know, it depends on the type of task that I'm doing. Which I feel like so many people relate to, and that's why there shouldn't just be a pantry in an office and then your desk, there needs to be such a wide ecosystem of different types of spaces that have all different designs to them. Because I mean, I find myself in the morning, I need to be like a kitchen counter and that's going through emails and kind of start in my day. I'm not ready to just dive in and lock myself to my computer. But I might need to be in a more lounge position or, you know, a quieter area if I'm working on a task and that's been a very important tool for me to learn that I can't just go back into an office and sit at one desk. It also gives you that opportunity to break up your task during the day you're moving from one spot to another. You have those areas where you might go to just reset and recharge after a meeting before kind of switching your mind into a different kind of task.
Kay Sargent: But Mary Kate, I love what you're saying. And I love the fact that you said you had to learn this. So you've been working for a long time and you're still learning things. And here's the problem. We all on our whole team, we have about 40 people on our team take a sensory intelligence test and we all had an aha moment. That was that it pointed out something that we might have suspected, but it just was like, “Wow, that's why I do X, Y, and Z.” Right? Or, “Oh, I never really knew that. That makes sense.? Most of us really are not that in touch with what our real needs are and, or we think we might want something, like, for instance, people saying, “I want to be quiet”. Yeah. I guarantee they'd be running out of a quiet room,you know, and, and so I don't think people are as in touch with their sensory intelligence as they need to be just like, you know, when you understand people's personality types or their skill sets, you know? And so not everybody is well suited to work from home. Not everybody is well suited to do things. I think one of the best things that we can do is help people have a deeper understanding of what their sensitivities are. So then they can make better choices and we can provide them the right choices and the right settings that will really help people be high functioning versus just everybody guessing and making false assumptions.
Clare Kumar: Yeah. And in sort of having this concept, that everybody should have access to the same thing. Yes, and that should be good, that should be good enough for y'all right. We are all going to have the same size desk and then it's not even task related. I remember working and seeing the people in marketing with big ads to layout and look, back in the days of print. Right? And their desk was the same size as mine who had no paper whatsoever. So, it's taking a whole combination of things and making those spaces available. I looked at, I think it's CBRE's headquarters in LA. I think they had 19 different kinds of spaces and what I saw emerge, in the past decade were some kind of phone booth concentration, places that from my perspective were dark and claustrophobic, and I felt like I was going in some kind of jail if I was being asked to work there. So it's really going to be interesting to see how we put together that need for psychological safety and lack of exposure refuge, as you said, Also not to diminish light, potentially. I just saw on Nooks website, they have some Nooks by a window. Yeah. So you're getting some privacy and cocoon feeling, but you're not taking away lights. Like don't put me in the dark just cause I need to think.
Kay Sargent: Yeah. So here listen, you're talking to two designers. So, sorry it's taken me half an hour to get to this point, but now I have to say it, cause you've let the kitten out of the bag. Not all space is designed equally and not everybody really understands it. Okay? And one of the things that designers do is there is a science to what we do. If I put you in a small dark box, you probably would get depressed really quickly. Okay. If I put you in a small box with a bright red room and crazy patterns, you're going to be overwhelmed really quickly. Designers understand color, space, shapes, you know, we understand the principles and the elements of design and how to apply them. So that people can be successful. And I think a lot of people that don't necessarily do that, they might create like a focus room that is enclosed. If you pick somebody who's hypoactive and they need more energy and you put them in that box, they literally will be bouncing off the walls. If you put somebody that needs to control their stimulation but there's a crazy pattern and a really vibrant color on the wall. You've literally short circuited them. And not only do we have to provide the right types of spaces and understand what people need, but it needs to be designed with the science of design and what we know evidence-based design to make sure that we're driving to the right solutions.
Clare Kumar: I'm glad I let that kitten out of the bag. It's such an important point. And you know, I just do have to say I was once optioned for a TV show, which was organization and design kind of going a little head to head because I have seen some design that I'm like, that's not practical for somebody who doesn’t likes to have a lot of stuff out that clear glass desk is just it's really not going to work for them. They're going to be overwhelmed by the amount of stuff they see.
Kay Sargent: Yeah, contrary to popular belief we don't just do what's trendy or what we like. And quite frankly, if it's a corporate office, sorry, I'm going to say this. I don't really care what an individual likes, you are paying me to do what works for your workers, their work styles, their mobility, your brand, and what you are trying to achieve. And, you know, space absolutely can impact every single one of those aspects.
Clare Kumar: Such an important point. I remember being brought in as a consultant to look at the organization and ergonomics in an office. And I saw the same six foot four guy sitting in a chair as a five foot woman. And I'm like that chair her feet aren't even touching the floor. I'm like,” I hate to say your beautiful chairs are not really going to help her be at her best, you know?” And I was so unwelcome in that commentary. Right? It was like, we're not hiring you back cause you didn't go, “This is beautiful.” So yeah. Oh my gosh. That is, I think a great point to end on that, you know, we have to employ the science to address the sensitivity that's out there and invite the rich contributions from this really undervalued sort of marginalized population that has so much to give. So may I extend a thanks from myself because I was, like I said, overjoyed at finding your work. And, invite everybody to connect with you. I'm going to put links in the show notes for where to find some of the fabulous pieces of research that you've shared and to invite people to follow you, because you're at the forefront of this conversation as far as I can tell in the design space. I'm looking forward to talking to more people that get it and that are really making a difference in that rich contribution that neurodivergent people have to offer. So big, big thanks to you Kay and Mary Kate.
Kay Sargent: Yeah. Well thank you for inviting us. And I'm excited because you know, young professionals like Mary Kate, who are passionate and know they can make a difference are really going to take us to great places going forward and we are in the middle of some new research, stay tuned because we're going to be publishing more in the near future.
Clare Kumar: Well, we might need to have a part two. Thanks so much for joining me. Enjoy the rest of your sunshine day. Thank you.
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