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Design understandable floorplan

Overall, legibility is related to how quickly people can understand, and navigate, the interior layout of a building, and effectively understand the intended use of all the workspaces within. One aspect of legibility is to have the paths between locations, the “hallways” formed by groupings of furniture, form a pattern of connections that is easily learned and retained by the user.

The layout of a legible floor plan is clearly organized. People can easily create a “mental map” of the layout and find any location within the building, even with limited experience within the space. In terms of design, the layout of routes or paths within the office should set up a predictable rhythm that makes it easy for people to learn, or guess, where a desired destination or resource might be found.

Conversely, a “cube farm,” where the floor plan is laid out with monotonous regularity and every location looks the same, forms a disorienting maze. Complex “illegible” layouts can suppress desirable movement of workers between workspaces, increase wasted time, and reduce overall sense of control in people. If the intended use of a space and its technology is ambiguous (such as café spaces, lounge areas, etc.) people will avoid using them or waste time trying to figure out how to use the space and furnishings. Poor legibility of floor plan and spaces has been linked to negative health impacts.


Review the overall floor plan, and minimize the number of intersections (choice points) in which people have to make a decision.


The solution to a legible floor plan is not to design a layout that repeats with monotonous regularity, nor is it good to repeat that same pattern on every floor of a building


Consider zoning the space with “main highways,” wider paths that people can assume take them to major or commonly accessed destinations, and narrower “side streets” that take people to neighborhoods where departments and other specific work destinations are located.

Read more

If you want to learn more, we suggest the following resources:

How to create a legible workplace. WorkDesign Magazine. 2015.

De-Stress the work experience with a new language for office design. M. O’Neill, 2020.

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