Rebecca Trenorden on designing for sensory inclusivity

10 May 2023
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Associate Director Rebecca Trenorden explores the need to be cognisant of designs that impact the senses in Indesign’s annual Workplace Design Special Issue.

Potrait of Carr Associate Director, Rebecca Trenorden. Photography by Gavin Green.

Indesign #89 draws together myriad conversations around the evolving workplace and presents them in a beautifully designed, insight-filled edition that explores what makes a workplace magnetic.

In the ‘Magnetic Workplace’ Issue, Rebecca Trenorden discusses how designers can help organisation’s listen and better understand how an environment can inclusively support broader demographics and positively impact those with neurodiverse needs. Here is an excerpt of what Rebecca had to say.

At Carr, to better understand designing for social sustainability, we have been interrogating how the population experiences the workplace and what it means for a space to be inclusive.

Through conversations with our clients, the large impact of seemingly small nuances of an environment’s design are being understood across aural, visual and physical experiences. These impacts can hinder, and in worst cases, become a barrier to an individual’s ability to be part of a workplace or activity.

How can we be more cognisant of designs that impact senses to support broader demographics? How can we design equitable spaces with purpose and sensitivity?

Sensitively designing active spaces

An acoustically designed space can have the ability to create energy and promote activity; conversely, it can allow for hyperfocus and retreat. In the case of spaces for activity, the experience of increased sound reverberation by employees and clients can be overwhelming, making siuations and a space difficult to participate in.

One example came from a client during a networking event: a visually impaired participant attended who relied upon their aural senses to communicate and navigate space. The acoustics of the venue created spatial noise that interfered with their interactions, while sound reverberation induced disorientation.

Greater consideration for sensitive acoustics and the associated activities enables a better outcome and experience for all. In complex spaces, we often seek support from acoustic engineers to ensure an audibly inclusive experience is achieved.

Introducing retreat spaces

In any environment, increased noise, interruptions and multiple sources of sound without the ability to escape creates anxiety and mental barriers.

To combat these issues, clients are increasingly supportive of implementing retreat spaces in their workplace – spaces not assigned to first aid or parent rooms, but purely for retreat and sensory deprivation; dimly lit and quietly isolated spaces that are discreet and offer people a place to regain cognitive balance.


You can read the full article in Indesign ‘Magnetic Workplace’ Issue. Purchase a copy here.