Eye-tracking Architecture at Ux+Design/2019 Conference

Thanks to the attendees and presenters at Ux+Design/2019, the 1st International Conference on Urban Experience and Design on April 26 at Tufts University. This conference brought together creative thinkers from around the world who are shaping ‘evidence-based’ design practices, ones that embrace the hard data of our ‘unconscious’ responses to external stimuli.ETBostonStateHouse

At the conference, we showed pictures of eye-tracked buildings in Boston and Somerville to show what really draws people to buildings and how our brains are set-up to take in their surroundings.


On display were photos like this of former Mayor John F. Collins (1960-1968), immortalized on the south side of Boston City Hall. The heat map (at right) glows brightest where people look most, showing how they head straight for the mayor’s face within 7/10’s of a second (TTFF or Time To First Fixation is 0.7s), and keep focusing on it in the seconds that follow – they simply can’t help it!

And, in Somerville, the photos below, of the view exiting the Davis Square T, show how people tend to focus on the building edge and tree at far right—not at all on the blank wall in front of them. Their behavior totally changes, however, if the building’s decorated with wonderful art, like the Matisse print below. Then, they can barely take their eyes off the structure.


Key takeaways from our conference were how ‘unconscious’ processing, outside of our awareness, directs behavior in the built environment—and that includes how our eyes move when first presented with new stimuli. We demonstrated how biometric tools, such as eye tracking, can predict behavior—determining how we ‘approach’ or ‘avoid’ architecture without ever thinking about it. The blank wall greeting transit riders exiting Davis Square station, for instance, is ‘avoidant’ and always will be (unless it’s painted with great art!). And as for Boston City Hall? The mayor’s face, at least, if not the architecture, is totally approachable.

For more information on the Ux+Design conference, click here.

This entry was posted in Architecture, City Planning, Design, Eye Tracking, People-centric Design, STEM, Walkability and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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