How to design for connections?

Micène Fontaine, July 19, 2022

Connections - meaningful ones - we all crave them. Even hardcore introverts like me need them, and after two years of semi-isolation, I am reminiscing on hours spent working in coffee shops. Dubbed the “third place,” coffee shops are the ultra local/decentralized hubs of community life. The inevitable pinboard offers a window into what the community is up to and how to get involved.

Coffee shops are a popular place to get work done and one of the places I miss most. Judging by the popularity of coffe shop soundtracks on YouTube, I am clearly not alone. Yet, the sound alone falls short of the whole experience. So, what makes them such a great place to connect? Can lessons learned from designing for connection in the third place be applied to other spaces? And, what do we stand to gain?

These are the questions I asked interior designer Dr. Lisa Waxman so I’ll let you check it out but I'll share a bit about what we stand to gain.

Let’s start with a bit of trivia. Take a guess. What is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day1, increases the risk of premature death by 30%2, and costs the US government an extra $6.7 billion in healthcare spending per year3? If you guessed loneliness, you guessed right and you get a sense of what we stand to gain by designing for meaningful connections.

“connection isn’t necessarily the opposite of loneliness, but more or less the experience that’s desired.”
Andre Reid, founder of design practice KIONDO 4

9780367745936If you want to crack the code for what makes the hustle and bustle of coffee shops so irresistible, grab a copy of Lisa's book "Designing Coffee Shops and Cafés for Community" or check out her Change by Design session on Designing for Connection in the Third Place. Either way, you'll learn what you can do in your architecture/design practice to help combat loneliness and set the stage for meaningful connections - by design.

Until then, you can connect with me on LinkedIn or share your thoughts in the comments below.  ☕

1, 2, 3, 4 Future Spaces Foundation's Kinship in the City report.

:Sustainable Cities and Communities