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Students’ Plan to Create a More Inclusive Workplace is a World Changing Idea

By Andrew Connor

May 4, 2021

Fast Company World Changing Ideas 2021
Fast Company honors the Inclusion Diagnostic Floor Plan Tool

Fast Company has announced the honorees of its fifth World Changing Ideas Awards. Among them is the Inclusion Diagnostic Floor Plan Tool. The program, which was created by Institute of Design students Jessica Granger DeMeester (MDes 2020), Mrinali Gokani (MDes + MBA 2021), and Minyi Zhang (MDes 2021), has the potential to make a post-pandemic return to in-person workspaces more equitable.

This is a great example of how data-driven design can be used for good. ID students have considered the system of the workplace—the humans in it as well its physical constraints—and applied an algorithm to generate an alternative workplace that honors the needs of its constituents. We are proud that this work can stand as an example of how we at ID believe we create better futures: by building the best relationships between humans and technology.
—Denis Weil, Dean, IIT Institute of Design

The Inclusion Diagnostic Floor Plan Tool, which uses AI and machine learning approaches responsibly while maintaining human agency in data interpretation, is a generative design program that can map out areas of exclusion and inclusion in office floor plans. The program can scan a floorplan for zones of inclusivity or exclusivity based on a chosen value: privacy, sense of order, sense of security, social interaction, or flexibility. It does so by analyzing certain building elements such as walls, doors, and windows and their properties (distance, dimension, position, etc.) based on how the elements physically inhibit or promote those values.

The tool was created by ID students with ID faculty member Zach Pino in ID’s spring 2020 course, “Steelcase Workspace Futures.” The workshop was sponsored by Steelcase—the world’s largest office furniture manufacturer—as a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the spatial challenges the world faces as people begin reentering in-office work environments.

During such a difficult year, we were inspired to see so much important work continuing, and so many new projects designed to help people through the pandemic—and to thrive after. The collection of World Changing Ideas we honor shows that there is a collective human ingenuity that proves it will be possible to solve the other crises we face.
—Morgan Clendaniel, senior editor at Fast Company

This 2021 recognition marks the third year in a row that ID’s socially responsible student work has been recognized by the leading technology, business, and design magazine. Last year, ID’s collaborative project with the City of Chicago, Non-Moving Violations: Advancing Equity among Low-Income, Minority Chicago Residents was a 2020 Innovation by Design finalist. And ID’s Miranda Rights in Translation project, which also focused on advancing equity, was named a 2019 World Changing Idea in both the Social Justice and Students categories.

The Inclusion Diagnostic Floor Plan Tool was selected from a pool of more than 4,000 entries. It can be viewed alongside other honorees at Fast Company‘s website. 

Learn more about the Inclusion Diagnostic Floor Plan Tool and how it works.