Evidence-based design or patient-centered design has been a focus in healthcare, behavioral health and elder care projects for quite some time. Education design has also used evidence-based design to further the quality of educational spaces for all levels of learning.

But has it been used as much in, say, an office environment? The answer is yes. It happens without anyone really noticing because designers use this technique instinctively.

The idea that we can learn from what we see happening in our environment and create better design is an intriguing way of approaching a design solution. We have all been trained to utilize our powers of observation and question what we see to gain a better understanding of our client's needs.

Decoration in its truest sense made use of observation, but in a way that was more focused on the "look" not the function. Decorators were hired in the past and are still hired today to make a place look and feel good by providing just the right touches to add a sense of style and sophistication to a room.

Clients hired them to tell them what to do, not be burdened with a long questionnaire that sounds more like a personality test. Decorating is more artistic than scientific, or is it?

Our profession has become more than just picking the right colors or furniture to create a look. Interior design has evolved to include more ways to make our lives better. We have seen this in action primarily in healthcare design.

When an environment is evaluated with a scientific mindset, we can truly see the value of our work. How? Well, I am sure everyone has a story of a client victory. That victory is when a client tells you how wonderful the space is that you created for them. They mention things like: "I love the way you designed the lobby, it works! We have people coming in all day long who now know how to find their way around without getting frustrated."

This is when we as designers know we are solving problems not just making a room look good. This is also what POE or post occupancy evaluation does, it gives us tangible evidence. It allows us to see just how our design decisions affect those who use the space after we have finished it. It creates value and an opportunity to improve our work.

Now, let's take it a step further. We learn in design school that there are adjacency matrixes and programming that needs to be done during the predesign phase of any project. These are the questions we ask our clients about what they need the space to do, who is using the space and what are those relationships.

After we get out of school, we still are using these techniques, but it is our past experiences and knowledge that help us more. For example, let's say you are talking with a bunch of accountants and they are interested in "redecorating" their office. You make an appointment to visit their existing office space to see what it is they already have.

You first notice that the furniture is worn and outdated, that the lighting is poor and that the chairs they are sitting in are causing them to have severe back pain. How do you know this? Well, it comes from seeing a lot of offices spaces both good and bad! It also comes from your continuing efforts to learn.

As designers, our best skill is quietly observing the world around us and taking mental notes on how it affects us and what we can do to improve it. The accountants know that something isn't working, and they know that maybe it is because of their office space, but changing the color of paint on the walls without thinking about how that color affects their overall productivity is not going to solve the problem.

As design professionals, we can show them case studies of other accounting offices that were designed to solve a similar problem. This is what is what evidence-based design does. It gives us more tools to help clients see what benefits good interior design can provide.

We need to help our clients see that interior design has a value that goes beyond just creating a "look." Interior design impacts our sense of well-being and helps us be productive.