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Does your facility tell a story? It might have to, if you want to survive

September 21, 2011
by Mitchell S. Elliott, AIA
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Daniel Pink, in his opening keynote address at the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living’s 62nd Annual Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, stated that “design” was going to be an important consideration in thriving within our new economy. When Pink referred to design, he was emphasizing more than aesthetics. He included packaging design, process design, functionality and user-friendliness. He challenged the attendees to raise their awareness of good design and bad design on a daily basis ... even to the extent of journaling what we see and experience.

At this convention, good and bad design was everywhere. At the tradeshow expo hall, I encountered an interesting design element for the first time—and I have been to my share of tradeshows! The designers of the tradeshow floor broke the grid. The north/south walkways remained consistent and straight, but the east/west walkways were staggered. Just, wow. This “change” in design actually caused a person to slow down as they walked through the show floor.

I truly think that coming to a T-intersection in the walkway created more eye contact opportunities for those displaying at the tradeshow. If I were a vendor at the next show, I would look for this staggered layout and demand a spot at one of the T-intersections. From a designer’s standpoint, the broken grid did add a lot of interest to the tradeshow floor. Good or bad design? Depends on which side of the sales interaction you were on.

As I walked to the convention center from my hotel room, I realized the inspiration for the tradeshow layout. One could not walk anywhere in a straight line and without going through the casino. Pretty smart design, again, depending on which side of the “table” you were on. In both situations, the controlled circulation had a major influence on the users. I couldn’t help to consider how we influence our residents, patients, families and staff by the way we design circulation within our buildings.

Are we breaking up those long corridors? Are we giving people the opportunity to pause? And when we do, is there a story that we are telling at the pause? What do we place at those T-intersections? Hopefully not a slot machine. But hey, if the shoe fits….

Speaking of the stories we are telling in and through our buildings, how about that signage? The signage in the convention center was absolutely atrocious. It was sad to watch all of us attempt to find our first education session. None of us would have passed the mini-mental. The layout of the breakout rooms was confusing and their numbering system was actually backwards from conventional logic (pun intended). Shouldn’t Parlor A be the first room one comes to and not the last in a corridor?

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I would love to see the photo of the layout you described. Some of us residents would like to see what's going on. Our Vegas days are probably over.

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MElliott

@MitchellElliott

www.vetterhealthservices.com

As Chief Development Officer, Elliott serves on the Executive Leadership Team for Vetter Health...