same packaging or presentation; and be
tested in the same method. Therefore, it’s
vital the testing space itself also be the
same for each potential consumer. This is
achieved by providing an environment with
neutral color, lighting and sound, and by
providing consistent air quality through
temperature, humidity, pressure, flow rates
and odor control. This neutrality helps
keep the area distraction-free and prevents
any interferences with the ability to gather
reliable, unbiased test results.
BRINGING THE OUTSIDE IN
As mentioned earlier, bringing the public
into your space creates its own set of specif-
ic design factors to consider:
• Coordinating public interactions.
Security of your site and associates must
be maintained. What restrooms will the
public use? Which parking lot (and is there
enough access to adequate, convenient
parking)? How will the public’s access be
controlled throughout the facility to keep
them from wandering into areas where
they shouldn’t be? Do you want a dedicated entrance for consumers? Answers to
these questions, more than anything, will
help determine the appropriate location
for your sensory lab.
By: Roselia Harris, LEED AP ID+C ,
Senior Interior Designer, Hixson Architecture,
According to data from McKinsey, a leading market research firm, as many as three
out of four new products fail. In attempts
to curb their new product failure rate,
many companies rely on direct consumer
engagement to help put new
product introductions one step
closer to success. Using direct
consumer feedback on new
products isn’t a new idea: The
loop is only slightly pre-dated
by the first unsuccessful product
While the idea of consumer engagement isn’t new, one
emerging trend is a shift in the
timing of that engagement. Eliciting consumer feedback earlier
in the R&D phase is occurring
more regularly, often within the
R&D facility or campus itself.
The aim is simple: Lean the
product development cycle by
identifying opportunities and
shortfalls sooner. The earlier
issues can be caught and remediated (the idea of “fail fast”),
the less expensive it is to make
the necessary changes to meet
expected consumer demand. In
short, it’s cheaper to have a fail-ure-to-launch, than a launch-and-failure.
Although many companies may have
designed and built facilities on-site for
professional and/or employee testing,
developing an in-house sensory lab serving
the public consumer can lead to some challenging facility design questions. If creating
a consumer sensory lab for the public is on
your horizon, or if you are considering renovating an existing lab originally designed
for employee testing to accommodate
external use, below are some design factors
you should consider.
START WITH THE BASICS:
AN UNBIASED TEST
Certain components of a sensory
test and the sensory lab space should be
consistent no matter what’s tested, or who
is taking the test. For each evaluator, the
products tested must be the same—the
same size, quantity and color; have the
• Rewarding visits. How will consumers
be compensated for their time…coupons
for products? Free samples? Or even cold
hard cash? How the compensation process
will be managed, and by whom, also
should be considered during design. These
decisions could impact storage and security
needs, and could necessitate the need for a
cash drawer at the reception desk.
• Monitoring the test. How do you want
to monitor the testing process…visually,
electronically or a combination of both?
If focus group sessions are to be conducted, will observation be done electronically, or visually with one-way glass? Who
will observe, clients and/or sensory staff?
Planning for alternate monitoring methods and flexibility can be important.
• Knowing your targets. Are your target
consumers predominantly female or male?
Moms or kids? Teens or seniors? Would
having babysitting facilities help recruit participants? Is there access to public transportation for those who need it? Where will the
consumer keep their personal belongings
so they can feel safe leaving their coat and
purse? Clearly, the answers to these types of
questions can have design implications.
• Right-sizing the lab. How many testing
positions and how big should they be?
What’s the maximum number of partici-
Bringing the consumer sensory lab home
Mane sensory lab. Image: Hixson Architecture, Engineering Interiors