Discovery Centre


Conduct an in-depth research analysis on the effectiveness of the Discovery Centre as an active learning environment.

what is the discovery centre?

The Discovery Centre is a dedicated floor of Carleton University’s library designed as an active learning environment. The intention was to create an open and fluid learning space that students can change and interact with in a way that promotes collaboration. The floor is anchored by media booths, huddle tables, secluded group areas, while white boards and node chairs are scattered for movable work.

our role:

We partnered with the Discovery Centre of Carleton University's Library to research and improve its effectiveness as an active learning environment. We utilized a multi-modal approach to analyze our observations, which was used to form an action plan to approach our designs.

*This project was done in collaboration with Kaamil Ajmeri and further expanded independently.

The Solution:

Our solution was to establish a full assessment of the Centre and present a design plan to address the issues found within it.

We plan to adjust the furniture to have consistent seat and desk heights to have better compatibility with each other. Desks would be redesigned to snap fit together for more group work areas. Media booths will be made accessible and new collaboration work areas will be added.

Improved wayfinding and a central booking system would be added for better organization across the Centre.

research and observation

Using a breadth of methods of observations and interviews, we tried to get the most information about the nature of the space, the stakeholders involved, and the problems that they face.

stakeholder mapping

Having defined the student as our central stakeholder, we established other stakeholders by spreading our scope on the visual map out from who has the most contact with the central user to who has the least contact.

Keeping the student at the centre, our other key users were:

•IT services
•Discovery Centre Staff
•The Director of the Centre

These key stakeholders are who we plan to have the most influence in our design opportunities.

behaviour map

Even though the Discovery Centre is a free form space, there is a level of control added through signage and boundary lines placed on the floor. Mapping out users’ general work clusters and where they are will also play a key role in helping us create design opportunities that fit well and unobtrusively integrate into the space without disrupting current patterns of movement.

This map will be used to understand:
•where space is under or overutilized
•where are the optimal areas for wayfinding instructions and points of interaction
•how to ensure differently abled bodies can use and navigate the space safely

affinity diagram

Our affinity diagram organized all our findings into nine common issue categories. The turquoise notes are our granular data points from both interviews and observations and the pink notes are our affective statements from which to move forward with for further analysis.

Developing these statements allowed us to identify the three most important areas of improvement regarding the design of the Discovery Centre:

1. furniture cohesion and accessibility
2. bookings and availability
3. Training for equipment.

kano analysis

Using the Kano Analysis, we were able to determine which of our statements fell into which categories. Moving forward, we used this to help us understand what were the fundamental wants and needs of the user.

Furniture cohesion

To maintain the fluid and flexible nature of the space, its furniture needs to work well in and between each other. To create this cohesive transition between all surfaces and seating, the worktop height must be the same throughout.  Existing circular side tables, node chairs, movable desk tops, and couches, should all be adjusted together and for the largest percentile of users.

This is intended to address issues presented to us in our semi-structured interviews which revealed issues students had while trying to use node chair desks and circular end tables with the provided couches.


An underutilized feature of the space are the node chairs and their ability to create satellite group workstations. If we were to give them the ability to snap together, it would give more structure to their worktop space and open the potential for customization with larger groups and desks for differently abled populations. These desks can also freely move to open and secluded areas in the space as the user sees fit.

standalone desks

The Discovery Centre has an abundance of couch spaces and ottomans which are great for individual users but is not conducive to productive work because there are no available standalone worksurfaces that are at the correct height for them. These would also provide additional workspace for node chairs.

accessible media booth

By making some key changes to the existing media booths, they can easily be made more accessible to differently abled populations.

*adjustments have been made in compliance with Ingenium accessibility standards


Caster wheels and a lock lever to ensure booth sections remain in place once moved.


Velcro backing between booth sections to provide a flexible hinge for the movable sides.


The booths protruding back shape has been flattened to accommodate movable side sections.

Central booking system

In a space meant to facilitate group work and collaboration, it is important for users to immediately identify what resources are available and that they can book spaces. The current Discovery Centre struggles in communicating exactly how and where to book available space, what other tools can be accessed, or that they need to reserve space at all.

A central booking system located at the entrance of the space will draw traffic and consolidate all needed interactions to a single point. Having a dedicated physical hub for the Discovery Centre will also encourage more students to actively engage and utilize the provided tools in the space in an organized and streamlined fashion.

collaboration spaces

Based on our behavioural mapping, one of the more underutilized areas of the Discovery Centre are the lined couches where users gather for individual work. In our interviews, users want more privacy and areas for group discussion with less distraction. By creating a spatial divider with open whiteboard space, we can create semi-secluded work areas where users can freely talk with less ambient distraction.

covid -19 implications

As we slowly move through our first year in quarantine, we must consider what effects covid will have on educational spaces. We will inevitably move back into in-person learning and collaboration environments, so the question becomes how do we improve this environment for health and hygiene? What opportunities does this give us to effect change in the space and user behaviour.

Much like in public gyms, it will be important for users to have ample reminders and opportunities to clean up after themselves. Stations for sanitization will be built into the end caps of the collaboration booths to encourage cleaning before and after groups leave and mobile stations will be sprinkled about the floor in high traffic areas to catch users as they pass.

End cap stations
Sanitation stations


The current Discovery Centre lacks consistency and organization to properly provide information and communicate to its users.

Signage for the individual tools offered in the Discovery Centre will serve as an analogue method to help people identify, navigate, and understand the environment. This will help make a consistent template for future reference that stays branded to the University colours as well.



Bebas Neue Pro, Expanded Bold, 100 pt, Leading: 120


Bebas Neue Pro, Expanded Regular, 75 pt, Leading: 90

primary colours

Cardinal Red I BE202E I CMYK: (18,100,90,8)

Black I 000000 I CMYK: (0,0,0,100)

White I FFFFFF I C:0 M:0 Y:0 K:0

improved floor plan and wayfinding

To integrate new improvements into the space, we worked with the existing natural walking paths and general work clusters. In doing so we hoped to create the least disruption in the natural order of the space while still offering improvements.

The new collaboration spaces are located on the left most side in place of the lined couches that had seldom use. The media booths remain as they are but with improved accessibility booths placed on the far side with more room. Node chairs and standalone desks will be placed together and more purposefully around tables to encourage use as an alternative modular workspace. Signage will act as wayfinding points to help users navigate around the space and learn more about the tools available.

Collaboration spaces
Accessible media booths
Clustered node chairs and standalone desks