Inspiring office wellbeing through tactile design

11 June 2018. Features.

In our previous post we identified five key workplace trends from Milan Design Week: flexibility, design for introverts, tactility, waste as a raw material and wellbeing. The same office design trends were evident at London’s Clerkenwell Design Week, so we caught up with Caroline Till, co-founder of futures agency FranklinTill to delve deeper into just one of them, tactility. At the end of this article, we'll reveal a few of our top tactile picks from CDW18.


The importance of tactility in office design

PR: Caroline, you’ve just given a talk at the Desso / Tarkett showroom about tactility why is this trend such a big deal right now?


CT: Human hands have taken millions of years to evolve – touch is the first sense to develop in the womb, and no other species has hands as sensitive as those of humans. Positive touch is essential to our physical and emotional wellbeing. Over and above its effects on mental and physical health, touch enhances success. A survey carried out by the US National Basketball Association found that teams that exchanged hugs, high fives and fist bumps played more cooperatively – and won more matches. Other studies show that touch boosts teamwork and confidence, things that are of course also essential in promoting wellbeing in the workplace.


PR: That’s all pretty compelling stuff, but why do you think tactility has become so important now, particularly within design?


CT: Because, despite the well-documented benefits of touch, tactility is actively being discouraged. The Medical Defence Union in the UK has warned doctors that comforting patients with a hug could be deemed ‘inappropriate’ and even lead to complaints or legal action; and employers are similarly discouraged from making physical contact with their employees. Our jobs are becoming increasingly digitised, all of which means we are craving touch more than ever before. Designers and creatives have a key role to play in supporting our innate desire for tactility. The people who produce the physical items that we hold in our hands every day, and create the spaces we live and work in, add immense value to our environment.


PR: What are some of the ways that tactility is manifesting itself in design?


CT: We’ve identified four design approaches. ‘Flesh’ is about exploring what makes us human – designers are creating sensual, tactile experiences drawn directly from biological materials and textures. ‘Messy play’ acknowledges that the well-known benefits of children getting their hands dirty don’t go away when we mature – adults also need to let go and have fun with the creative process. ‘Digital reality’ is somewhat of a contradiction in terms, but it’s about the elusive goal of creating a digitally generated tactile experience. Finally, ‘luxe touch’ represents a fresh appreciation for the skills of the hand, which are becoming the new hallmark of luxury, whether that’s investing in handcrafted combinations of materiality and creative expression or making something ourselves and the luxurious use of time that represents.


PR: That all sounds fascinating, but how does it translate to workspace design?


CT: The average person in Britain spends 92% of their time indoors. Leeds Trinity University have found that 60% of men and 54% of women spend at least five hours of their working day sitting or standing still and one in seven employees sit for more than 8.5 hours a day. In terms of workspace design, it’s about combating the worldwide ‘office syndrome’ – employees suffering from health problems due to body postures at work, a lack of exercise and smooth slick environments that just don’t stimulate their senses beyond the visual. Solutions include dynamic spaces that encourage people to move more, a more typically feminine expression of softness and comfort, environments that blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional to create a ‘home from home’, improving employees’ connection to nature through living walls, roof gardens and unprecedented levels of indoor planting, and multi-functional spaces that perform in different ways from meeting rooms that double up as yoga spaces to wall finishes that sparkle and reflect light.


Top tactile designs of 2018

Inspired by our conversation with Caroline, we've rounded up Clerkenwell Design Week’s top tactile offerings…

1. Benchmark’s Ovo collection designed by Foster + Partners

‘A bold simple design with soft geometry which imbues the collection with a quiet solidity and tactility,’ says Benchmark.

tactile design - benchmark Ovo collection


2. London City Furniture's 3D plaster wall panels

A simple way to bring a tactile finish and a point of interest to your meeting room walls.

tactile design - 3d wall panels


3. StudioSCAPE by MARK Product

This modular seating system with integrated planters makes greening up your workspace easy.

tactile design - studio scape


4. Trellis shelving by John Eadon

Launched at Clerkenwell Design Week, this shelving will bring the warmth of a wood along with a touch of nostalgia into your workspace.

tactile design - trellis shelving


5. Haru: Stuck on Design

Let your team get hands-on and decorate their own workspaces with this versatile tape.

tactile design - Haru stuck on design


6. Street View and Street Tracks by Desso

Designed to ‘give architects and designers the option to play with textured, material effects when creating an urban, industrial feel within open plan office spaces,’ says Desso.

tactile design - desso street view


7. Nini by Clar

Made from Italian Pergamenata that has a cloudy texture like the ancient natural parchments, these lights bring a touch of the tactile into any workspace.tactile design - nini by clar


8. Deadgood's Scafell

Create cosy corners in your office that encourage human interaction.

tactile design - deadgood


9. Iso Side Tables by Petite Friture

The overlapping geometrical cut-out patterns create tactile interest and cast intricate shadows.

tactile design- iso sidetable

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