Spaces for Creative Thinking: Integrating Neuroscience Research

What environment brings out your creativity? This is a question at the epicenter of workspace design, and one I studied in collaboration with Environmental Psychologist Dr. Sally Augustin from the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces at UC Berkeley. We recently presented our findings at the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) national conference in San Diego, CA. Our study investigated multiple environmental factors linked to enhanced creative performance. Participants were first assigned a task to assess their individual creativity at a particular moment in time (1). The study participants then used creativity linked design elements including: color (surface and light), visual complexity, plants in view, natural light, visible wood grain, aesthetic factors, soundscapes, environmental controls, audio/visual distractions, ceiling height and opportunities for movement, among others to categorize and describe the physical environment in which they performed the task. Results showed that the highest scorers completed the creativity task in spaces with the following characteristics:

    1. Greater concentration of plants
    2. Visible wood grain pattern
    3. Natural light
    4. Cool colors predominating
    5. Relatively more curved than straight lines
    6. Higher ceiling heights

We’ve determined that designers and researchers can use our findings to develop spaces that support their own work and to inform future project work. Designers can apply the information derived by our study to develop environments (at home, corporate offices, co-working sites, etc.) that support creative thinking/problem solving for clients. At Ware Malcomb, our workplace strategy solutions deliver a competitive advantage to our clients by using data to transform spaces that enhance company culture, support business objectives, and maximize experience and performance.

(1) Green, A. E., Spiegel, K., Giangrande, E., Weinberger, A., Gallagher, N., & Turkeltaub, P. (2017). Thinking cap plus thinking zap: tDCS of frontopolar cortex improves creative analogical reasoning and facilitates conscious augmentation of state creativity. Cerebral Cortex. 27(4), 2628-2639.