Google Reveals How the Body Responds to Good Design at Salone del Mobile 2019

Diving into the field of neuroaesthetics, Google teams up with Reddymade Architecture, Muuto, and Johns Hopkins University to explore how design impacts our emotions and well-being.
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Google Design Studio plans to follow up its Salone del Mobile debut last year (they hosted an exhibition called Softwear exploring the integration of technology and handicraft) with A Space For Being. The three-room installation at Spazio Maiocchi engages the field of neuroaesthetics—a branch of learning that investigates how the brain responds to aesthetic perceptions—to track visitors’ biological responses to beauty and design.

The project was envisioned by Google’s VP for hardware design Ivy Ross in collaboration with Christian Grosen, design director at Muuto; Suchi Reddy, founder and principal at Reddymade Architecture and Design Studio; and Susan Magsamen, executive director of the International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University.

Each of the three rooms incorporates design, artwork, colors, textures, lighting, sounds, and scents to evoke physical responses from visitors.

During the conceptualization phase, architect Reddy focused on the mood of each space and how the diverse stimuli could evoke a unique reaction. Following her firm’s mantra of "form follows feeling," Suchi used "shapes, light effects, textures, and colors that could evoke the characterisitics we wanted to define spatially, then [assembled] them almost like a three-dimensional collage."

From soft and intimate, playful and bright, to natural and neutral, each of the rooms exudes a distinct personality. Furnishings from Muuto echo the architectural concepts. Design director Grosen explains, "We place human senses at the heart of spatiality through atmospheres that trigger emotions and sensory reactions."

Music by Trevor Oswalt of East Forest, scents by Mandy Aftel of Aftel Perfumes, art by Claudy Jongstra and Sabine Marcelis, and accessories also distinguish the feelings in each space, intensifying the immersive experience.

Exhibit visitors will get a wristband that captures data on heart rate, skin temperature, and motion as they pass through each room. At the end of the exhibit, an algorithm created with the help of Johns Hopkins’ Arts + Mind Lab will summarize how visitors reacted to each of the rooms. According to VP for hardware design Ross, A Space For Being is Google’s way of "helping to make the impact of design more visible."

Knitting together science, wellness, and design, Google aims to make a statement during the design world’s biggest week. Says Magsamen, "Art and design have been used as healing tools since the beginning of humankind. Research is really just catching up and providing the why." Perhaps this is the beginning of a deeper push to understand how the things we surround ourselves with impact how we feel. 

A Space for Being will be on view at Spazio Maiocchi, April 9 - 14.

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