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Designing for Personality - Part 1

Personality affects the environments where people thrive.

The personality factor that pops into casual discussion most regularly is extraversion-introversion. Extraverts are energized by the social and physical environments that surround them. Introverts gather more energy from their own thoughts than they do from things external to themselves. Extraverts focus on the world outside themselves, while introverts are more centered on their own inner world.

Whether you are an extravert or an introvert has a big effect on how you interact with your physical world. Extraverts relish being in areas with high levels of sensory input; these are places that overwhelm introverts. An unchecked extravert designing their home will use so many energizing colors, scents, shiny surfaces, visually complex arrangements of objects, etc., that introvert visitors are reduced to quivering jelly.

It seems that extraverts are not as good at processing information they get from the physical world as introverts, so more does not overwhelm them; it is just right. Extraverts decorating for the holidays need to remember that not everyone will be as delighted with sensory stimulation as they are – less really can be better for all.

Extraverts decorating their homes use more couches than introverts; they enjoy the direct access to others that couches provide. Introverts are more apt to use chairs in their homes. They like to be at a slight larger distance from their conversation partners than extraverts. Everyone, but especially introverts, benefits from a focal point in a room to which they can divert their eyes when they need to take a momentary “interaction break.” A fish tank, window, fire (in a fireplace), or piece of artwork can do the trick here, for example. Extraverts are more likely to select a home with an open plan than introverts; introverts prefer wider hallways than extraverts.

Whether you are an extravert or an introvert also influences the sorts of places in which you will work well. Extraverts who are doing work that requires uninterrupted concentration should be seated so that they cannot catch another’s eye – extraverts looking at other people really want to speak with them. Don’t seat the extravert on the team near the coffee pot or the Xerox machine either. Extraverts want to orient themselves so that they can see passers-by from their desks and so that there are as few barriers between themselves and visitors to their workspaces as possible.

Extraverts would rather sit beside a visitor at a table than have a desk separating them from their visitor. They are more apt to display objects of personal significance in their workspaces than introverts. Extraverts will display these photos and knick knacks – if you are designing a workplace make it easy to position photos and souvenirs around a workstation.

In a workplace, oblong tables serve both extraverts and introverts well. Tables of this shape make it easier for introverts to gracefully break eye contact than round or square tables do.

Are you an extravert or an introvert? What about the other people who will use an environment? The answers to these questions should guide your design choices.