the interior of a high school where students are gathering on the stairs
Gallatin High School, Bozeman, MT

Cushing Terrell Leverages Research to Push Design Boundaries

Part of the Leading Edge series, Cushing Terrell’s director of interior design explains how her firm uses research to guide human-centric design.


What makes an architecture and design practice unique? How do firms and offices develop areas of expertise, deep insights, and passion projects? For the Leading Edge seriesMetropolis editor in chief Avinash Rajagopal sat down with 20 firms in 2022, speaking to practitioners about what distinguishes their work. Watch the full series on DesignTV by SANDOW.

Can design be a way of understanding people and spaces better? Multidisciplinary building design firm Cushing Terrell uses continuous research to create offices, schools, hospitals, and homes that exemplify what is possible through design. As part of the Leading Edge series, Sandi Rudy, Cushing Terrell’s associate and director of interior design, explains how her firm uses research to guide human-centric design.

the interior of a company where people are working in booths
Global Tech Company, Campus Quad Project, California

Design That Is Focused on the End User

“We have a design philosophy of ‘where design meets you,’ which means we’re always focused on the end user. As a firm, we apply this within all the markets and disciplines that we work, looking at how people are impacted by things like lighting, air, materials, and space when they all are combined. When we take this holistic approach is when we really elevate design.

We like to say that our design process begins and ends with research. At the beginning, we might start with an informal charrette session. We also partner with universities. For example, we’re currently partnering with the University of Texas to establish some tangible metrics within the unique intersection of design and psychology. Vibe Maps, which are also one of the first steps in our process, absolutely start with research. We look at the site daylighting, views to nature, the core location, and circulation. Then we analyze and identify—based on building features, geometries, and elements—buzzy and focus zones within a space.

But one of the most informative tools that we have in place is our post-occupancy evaluation process, which helps us gain actual data about the way that spaces we designed are being used and how they perform. These evaluations give our teams a wealth of knowledge that not only helps that client, but the next client. It gives us a bank of research and knowledge that we can leverage on any project going forward.”

Sandi Rudy is associate and director of interior design at Cushing Terrell.

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