sensehacking the workspace

guidance/scheme as a basis for designing specific space solutions in line with fundamental objectives based on the basic idea of "sensory hacking of space"

design reasrch
conceptual study
spatial design
product design

How to elevate comfort and mood across various settings, how can sensory experiences be seamlessly integrated into space design to accommodate diverse tasks and activities?

sensehacking - new lexicon built on the idea that through sensory stimuli, we can "unlock" comfort and evoke positive and specific moods, depending on the situation we are in

Spence, C. (2021.). Sensehacing - How to Use the Power of Your Senses for Happier, Healthier Living.

Space can be divided into various obvious physical and utilitarian categories, such as indoor/outdoor, private/public, commercial/residential/exhibition, and others. However, besides these divisions, when designing a space, it's essential to consider users' needs and define the type of space that directly meets those needs and provides comfort during its use. Accordingly, space design must cater to individuals'

sensory needs during specific situations and activities carried out in that space. Therefore, the "sensehacking the workspace" project is based on guidelines/blueprints that serve as a foundation and inspiration for designing a specific implementation of the spatial concept, aiming to fulfill the basic "sensory hacking of space," with the workspace serving as the "terrain" for experimentation to execute these guidelines in practice.
Hierarchy of guidelines for spatial design, whose determinants are built according to the basic idea of "sensory hacking of space"

Due to its complex structure, interactions, dynamics, and adaptability, the workspace resembles a living organism. Thus, understanding sensory needs requires viewing it as such, defining macro and microelements and ensuring their connectivity.  This foundational understanding enables further analyses and interventions in workspace sensory hacking:

  1. Defining subspaces within the office space for which further instructions apply.
  2. Defining sensory needs within each of the defined subspaces
  3. Proposal of spatial elements in individual spaces and guidelines for their use
  4. Suggestions for the arrangement of spatial elements in individual spaces
  5. Proposal for the arrangement of the entire space



a schematic representation 
of the guidelines

1. Defining subspaces within the office space

Based on historical experience in workspace development, I conclude that optimal workspaces should meet two key parameters: accommodating the number of users (individually and collectively) and serving specific functions (formal work and informal relaxation/entertainment). Consequently, an effective workspace should include four types of spaces: personalized work areas for individual needs, personal relaxation zones for breaks and privacy, communal workspaces for collaboration, and shared relaxation areas for informal networking.

a schematic representation of
the distribution of space

2. Defining sensory needs within each of the defined subspaces /  3. Proposal of spatial elements in individual spaces and guidelines for their use

The next step involves defining sensory needs within each designated subarea and linking these needs to the context of space usage and the logic of physical element placement. This integration of parameters provides instructions for the functionality and appearance of spatial elements in individual areas. It's essential to  specify the focus when addressing a specific space, determining the  activities taking place, participants involved, their interactions, and the  general appearance of the space in reality,  

thus facilitating interventions to enhance the sensory experience.

Regarding sensory needs, it pertains to the general requirements of an average person concerning sight, smell, hearing, taste, or touch, depending on the context set. Although all senses have a "sensory need" at any given time, our attention is typically directed towards those senses most prominent in a particular context.


Throughout workspace design history, personal work units have evolved from individual offices to open spaces promoting collaboration. Recognizing both benefits and challenges, it's crucial to adopt a broader office context while addressing shortcomings. Using the "open space" layout as an example, it fosters collaboration but can lead to distractions. Each person has unique sensory needs, and design should consider adaptability and user comfort, particularly concerning auditory, visual, and tactile senses. Elements should be intuitive, allowing for easy adjustment and versatile use across different layouts.

The proposed element is a desk with added functionality for isolating auditory and visual stimuli through layers of fabric. One roll provides visual isolation, another offers complete visual and auditory isolation, and a third layer enhances auditory isolation. The concept ensures minimal visibility when not in use but maximum functionality when needed, also serving as a communication tool for signaling conversation or isolation preferences.
The cubic-shaped spatial element offers simplicity in layer stacking and flexibility in creating various spatial compositions within open office spaces.

Considering parameters such as personal preferences, employee needs, and the nature of the company's activities, a customized layout of personal work units is required. The proposed spatial element is designed to adapt to different situations: enabling employees to arrange desks independently or in groups of two desks (illustration 1), facilitating collaboration among smaller groups of employees (illustration 2), or larger groups (illustration 3).


In the context of personal spac for isolation and temporary work, two main scenarios emerge: the need for privacy during office calls, requiring isolated spaces, and the need for temporary changes to stimulate creativity and productivity. Sensory mismatch, especially noticeable during phone calls, results from a lack of physical feedback, resulting with the need of moving. Also, alternative work arrangements, like standing or lying down, offer benefits such as reducing muscle tension or enhancing relaxation. Additionaly, anonymity in workspace design is crucial for individuals to feel unnoticed. Guidelines suggest creating spatial elements providing auditory isolation, flexibility for movement, and seating options, all while ensuring user anonymity.

The proposed unit allows for single occupancy and offers auditory and visual isolation. It features a movable platform for standing or climbing during phone calls, addressing sensory mismatch. This platform also serves as a standing desk and, when climbed upon, provides space for reclining. To ensure privacy, one side remains transparent but distorts the occupant's appearance.

The proposed cubic spatial element, akin to a personal workstation, is adaptable and can be arranged as needed in a given space

Additionally, anonymity is achieved through  strategically positioning within the space.


When discussing a shared workspace, we're focusing on where employees come together to find common solutions. Issues like hierarchy, lack of structure, and unequal participation hinder effectiveness. Using facilitation techniques, such as "Six Thinking Hats" by Edward de Bono, which symbolizes different thinking modes to improve group discussions and decision-making, helps structure discussions. Sensory distractions should be minimized, and smells, particularly effective in influencing emotions and memory, could be used as a tool to aid in this method. Additionally, visual stimuli, like colors, can impact moods, energizing or calming participants based on the environment's goals.

The proposed installation consists of paper lighting fixtures above a round conference table in a collaborative workspace, representing the "Six Thinking Hats" method through color, shape, and scent. Each scent, emitted through a "scratch and sniff" method upon touch, corresponds to a phase of the method, evoking specific atmospheres such as freshness, passion, intensity, refreshment, inspiration, and calmness. The standardized paper shapes and illuminated fixtures symbolize each active facilitation phase.

This spatial installation is designed for a shared workspace in a secluded room. While there's no need for interconnected spaces as there's no interaction between them, it's crucial to position the area centrally for visibility and easy access. During use, it's important to maintain auditory and visual isolation to ensure privacy and reduce distractions.


Social interactions in the workplace, often revolving around breaks like lunchtime, are typically associated with food and drinks. Therefore, it's crucial to have a separate space from work areas to allow employees to disconnect and focus on socializing. This can be achieved through the design of a relaxation area that caters to sensory needs during meals - vibrant colors and gentle shapes in this space enhance the dining experience and foster connections among colleagues. Additionally, arranging tables into smaller groups facilitates deeper conversations and bonding. To further encourage social connections without interfering with food sources, spatial design and scenarios can be employed to promote interaction during the breaks.

The proposed spatial unit allows for shared dining or drinking experiences for up to four people. With an elevated table surface and stools at 170 cm height, users must climb a ladder to engage in this unique mealtime moment, fostering conversation and connection among colleagues. It's designed in vibrant colors with circular shapes, enhancing the sense of hospitality and comfort, while the shared experience strengthens bonding among participants.

The proposed spatial element functions as a layout within the space. 
5. Proposal for the arrangement of the entire space

When designing a workspace, it's crucial to consider specific requirements for each area and how they relate to each other. Here are the proposed guidelines:

Buffer zone: Employees should transition gradually into the workspace to adjust to the environment.

Isolation and alternative workspace: These areas should be close to the working area but not too close to disrupt their function.

Socialization and relaxation/workspace: Communal spaces should be located away from the working area to allow for relaxation and socialization without work-related distractions. These guidelines ensure a workspace tailored to employees' needs while maintaining productivity.

Master thesis

︎ this project was nominated for the Annual School of Design Award for industrial design in 2023

4nd semester of Master Studies
Faculty of Architecture, School of Design
The University of Zagreb

mentors: Ivana Fabrio and Vedran Kasap