Make it Easy: The importance of a legible workspace

Well-designed office layouts allow people to collaborate, engage and navigate their space.

What is legibility? Legible offices ensure that employees can see and find each other, that they understand the layout of the interior space, and – most importantly –the proposed uses of each space are clear and obvious.

When the Haworth Research team reached out to 2,000 office workers across the US and beyond, they discovered that legibility of a space was a design feature that has a large impact on whether employees feel valued – which increases employee happiness.

Legible floorplans are easy to navigate. They make it easy for people to create a “mental map” of the layout. The layout sets up a predictable rhythm that makes it easy for them to learn or easily guess how to navigate the space. Using design cues, they can find any location in the building.

Conversely, cube farms (monotonous regularity where every location looks the same) can form a disorienting maze. Complex, illegible layouts can limit desirable movement of workers between available areas, decrease collaboration, increase wasted time, and reduce people’s sense of control.

To create a legible floorplan, incorporate these 5 elements:

  1. Landmarks outside and inside the facility can serve as physical cues about locations within the building. For example, a building or a prominent feature that can be seen through windows may be an exterior landmark. Significant interior features such a café or a wall with a contrasting color or artwork can also act as landmarks.
  2. Plan configuration of the space can affect ease of understanding space layout. Highly irregular layouts can be confusing and have too many decision-points (path intersections) within the space.
  3. Visual access allows people to see ahead to landmarks or other areas for navigation. Having workstations with low horizons and avoiding architectural elements that block visual access to the building core can help open the space. Visual access outside the space through windows gives people sight lines for orientation as they move through the space.
  4. Architectural differentiation is the design of different areas to be visually distinct. These areas can serve as secondary landmarks. Differentiation can be as simple as a unified color scheme that identifies a department or a similar look and feel of a large area.
  5. Signage and graphics can provide information about the location and intended use of spaces, including directions to common areas or behavioral expectations.