When John Takamura walks into a lobby, he doesn’t beeline to the elevator while pondering the day’s work; the lobby is the day’s work. Takamura studies and improves lobbies, taking unpleasant governmental front rooms and “reviving” them with the tools of his trade, industrial design.
“A lobby has to be able to accomplish several things,” explains Takamura, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s College of Design. “It is a welcoming area, the organization’s gateway. Second it needs to function as a waiting area, a place to meet, a place to converse, and it has to be conducive to that interaction. Third, it serves as the ‘face’ of the organization.”
Takamura’s own experience with organizations is of the name-brand variety; in his 17 years of industrial design work he’s collaborated with Porsche Design, Sharp, Fitch Inc., and legendary industrial designer Luigi Colani, in addition to running his own consultancy. His experiences have made him “a firm believer that design influences behavior,” he says. “There are many design cues that people react to, like the colors on the wall. Terrible lobby design has very little design elements, insufficient seating, and no regard for people with disabilities.”
Working with elements such as warm lighting and botanicals, Takamura (and his team of industrial, interior, and visual communication students) recently redesigned lobbies for Arizona government officials on a possible lobby design for its human services offices. The Arizona Department of Economic Security, a governmental branch, has about 250 offices which offer families support with challenging issues ranging from meeting basic needs to child welfare--not exactly cheerful places to visit. To change that and induce feelings of hope, Takamura and team created the image of a bridge made from human silhouettes, inspired by the concept of “people helping people,” and incorporated that into the DES brand.
“We [also] wanted to bring some of the desert and botanicals into the environment,” Takamura explains, pointing to his use of Spectar, a type of sheet plastic that one can embed materials inside of through a company called Veratas; Takamura chose dried plants and made a wall out of the stuff. “Greenery was an essential element to keep that warmth and homey feeling. It is really beautiful, it looks like fresh flowers.”
“The lobby has to function [as a lobby],” Takamura continues. “On the other hand, it should be a cost effective, comfortable and pleasing experience encouraging an efficient work flow.”