Designing Space With a Human-Centered Perspective (with Chrissy Fehan & Sarah Davis)

Episode #293 the Wingnut Social Podcast

Designing Space With a Human-Centered Perspective

What the heck is human-centered and data-driven design, and how can it help you in your interior design business? Chrissy Fehan and Sarah Davis of Pophouse are here to fill us in on the importance of designing space with a human-centered perspective, and how the physical environment can have a positive impact on individuals. They’ll also share how this approach informed the Rock Ventures Headquarters, recently featured on the cover of Interior Design magazine’s 90th-anniversary edition.

Sarah has over 17 years of experience working in business intelligence. She has performed extensive research on workplace strategy and has been instrumental in developing the strategy that informs the design for many Pophouse projects. Chrissy leads an interiors and industrial design team and oversees all brand strategy. Prior to her current role, Chrissy was an industrial designer and created numerous pieces of furniture, lighting, reception desks and outdoor spaces.


Chrissy and Sarah pride themselves on doing unconventional strategic and human-centered design. They use different types of evidence obtained from clients via interviews, surveys, and observations to understand how clients need to function in space. This combined with external research is used to drive their design. They believe spaces can positively impact people – how they interact, how they engage with each other. The space needs to be beautiful and aesthetically thoughtful, but if people can’t function in this space, it misses the mark. Chrissy and Sarah work to bring beauty and function together.

Pophouse thrives on a particular set of systems and processes that can be catered to different clients. The process usually begins with data collection, including client surveys and observation. Pophouse has also created mock settings for clients to utilize, and led focus groups. Talking to their clients in this manner helps gather feedback, which the clients are very willing to give because they care about the space they’re sitting in. To learn more about the teams they design for, Chrissy and Sarah gather information such as org charts, cultural documents, mission statements, core values, and more. They pair these internal findings with external discovery like benchmarking, research, and academic work. All of this information serves as the foundation for the design project and ultimately acts as a North Star to follow for the project’s duration.

Chrissy says that niching down their business has helped Pophouse in many ways. It has allowed them to bring on the proper team members that they need, and to grow their business. They are better able to see their future goals and pivot them around their clients’ needs. It’s helped them laser focus more – they aren’t stretched between many different types of design. Niching down has also helped Pophouse more thoughtfully select their clients and make sure their cultures align. Sarah explains that, even when niching down their business, there is still lots of diversity within the commercial office design space. Whether they’re designing a commercial office for a tech team, a marketing team, or a sales team, they all look totally different as the needs for each team vary. Chrissy explains that the scale of projects differs as well. Sometimes they take projects where they help a smaller client’s brand be visualized through their space.


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Resources & People Mentioned:

“Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brené Brown

“Identity Designed: The Definitive Guide to Visual Branding” by David Airey

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