Frequently Asked Questions
Neuroscience is the study of the brain and the central nervous system. It is a multidisciplinary branch of biology, that deals with the anatomy, biochemistry, molecular biology, and physiology of neurons and neural circuits. It also draws upon other fields, with the most obvious being pharmacology, psychology, and medicine.
Our focus and specialism is on Cognitive Neuroscience; the scientific field that is concerned with the study of the biological processes and aspects that underlie cognition, with a specific focus on the neural connections in the brain which are involved in mental processes.
Cognitive Neuroscience offers a methodical and practical lens through which we can understand how people perceive their environments and function in response; biologically, physiologically and cognitively.
We believe it to be the most effective tool to create a UX toolkit for the built envrionment. UX (User Experience) is defined as the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product. User experience design addresses all aspects of a product or service as perceived by users. We simply apply this framework informed by neuroscience to the built environment.
How is it applied?
In 2016 we won a highly competitive grant to work with leading neuroscientists from University College London to solve the problem that has been plaguing the science for decades - translation, frameworks and guidelines. Throughout 2017 we developed this and now have formats of work to offer clients.
Our focus is on people, not spaces alone, we are not neuro-architecture or neuro-aesthetics, we focus on the neuroscience of people and their responses to environments.
Isn’t this already done by architects?
In part through intuition, but not systematically. Over a period of time architects accumulate knowledge that informs their design decisions. However, with the ever increasing complexities of designing spaces for optimisation, material efficiency and social/business requirements, their time is simply not afforded by the industry to carry out the needed research. This is where we enter the fore, distilling information from the full spectrum of academic research, adding unique and relevant data & IP to shape the design process.
Our work builds a bespoke scientific backing to a design brief. Our strength is in understanding the business ecosystem, discovering the human problem, researching and translating relevant science, and applying it through built environment language, heuristics and guidelines.
What level of psychology is involved?
Neuroscience is part of the field of psychology. Typically psychology is the output as the universal design problem is behaviour related. Our focus on Cognitive Neuroscience looks at the cognitive mechanisms and the neurochemical substrates that influence these processes. Our view is that we add a mechanistic approach to uncovering human problems that can be then dissected through the theory of the mind.
How universal/bespoke is the work you provide?
It depends on the ‘problem’ we are tasked with solving.
Typically, our approach is to remain as objective as possible. There is decades and decades of existing relevant research that we mine and categorise according to our framework. This means we can perform objective reviews of clients problems by pulling on a variety of resources.
Adding to this, any study we would perform directly with a client would be looking to look at human problems that have a universality to them.
Therefore, we wouldn’t set a study/research that would have influencing elements of personality, we would look at task based processes that are universal, such as memory recollection rather than preference of image.
We aim for work to be universal but not focusing on specific demographics but on tasks performed such as empathy and theory of mind.
Can it tell me exactly what to do to change people’s behaviour?
We are firm believers that neuroscience is not about brain hacking and being predictive in behaviour. We take the view of our Scientific Director Dr. Hugo Spiers who says “being a neuroscientist gives me huge invaluable insights that allow me to ask better questions of and about people”.
We would say that the more acute the human problem and the fewer parameters of influence, the more science can give "predictive" answers. However, the reality is that in issues such as workplace design, leisure experience urban design the parameters are so broad that we focus more on how the science can inform us in probabilistic models.
Are you certified in any way?
Our partnership with University College London ensures that any novel approaches we (have) take(n) meet academic rigour and criteria and ethics board requirements.
What sectors do you cover?
All sectors in the built environment. Our focus is on people, how they perceive environments, and how they would gauge their experience.
Our work has recently been valued by Urban Planners, Real Estate Developers, Architects and Product Engineering firms.
Do you work outside the United Kingdom?
2/3 of our founding team are from outside of the U.K. At present we are mostly U.K. focused however are gearing towards international work.
Do we work in Tech & SmartCities?
Whilst not directly answering the "#smartcities" questions, our view is that we look for future human problems and their need and interactions with built environments to identify the most effective allocation of financial resources and technology. Human first, technology second. Any application of our work to technology development is related to how it is used in the built environment. There are plenty of digital UX design companies. We are a built environment UX company.
What does the process of working with you look like?
A first interaction with us involves asking you a series of questions about why you want to improve the User Experience of your environments. From there we can co-work and co-identify an effective strategy to support your endeavours in doing what you do more effectively. All work is bespoke in arrangement however rough guidelines can include, a few weeks for a workshop, up to 6 months for a full Insight Report, and over 12 months for R&D testing. We will only recommend something useful to you. We wouldn't leave you high and dry, prefering to build a long term relationship rather than do a short term deal.
What do I get from you (that I can’t get elsewhere/already have)?
We have spent the past 5 years researching, distilling and translating useful insights so you don’t have to.
We have established contractual agreements to bring academic facilities and resources to industry so you don’t have to.
We have developed a framework of research and application that is multi-disciplinary ensuring we can approach a wide array of issues, so you don’t have to.
The combined knowledge of real estate, architecture, psychology and neuroscience means that we get to the root of the business and human problem and ensure correct application of a wide field of research.
We give you the speed needed to keep up with the ever changing pace of business and customer needs.
What proportion of your work is academic/business related?
All our work is client led consultancy.
Only to further our own knowledge of a subject do we work with existing academic leaders to support studies. Our partnership with University College London, in particular with Dr. Hugo Spiers the director of the Spatial Cognition research group ensures we are on the bleeding edge of neuroscientific research, analysis and trends.
Why should I choose Centric Lab and not a big design agency's strategy unit
There are many benefits to being small (but mighty).
We tell it how it is.
We don’t have a big mantra to follow.
Whilst a big agency may have everyone in house, we don’t. We instead have built arrangements and relationships with leading professionals across many disciplines, pulling in appropriate partners to ensure our clients can gain as diverse intellectual capital as possible.
We are confident that you won’t find the same through-line of resources and approach other than with Centric.
How did The Centric Lab come about?
In 2015 a fortunate convergence of 3 like minded individuals not satisfied with their respective industries toolkits came together at the Conscious Cities conference. Independently studying the macro theme of evidence led, metric based, and scientifically informed data based guidelines meant that it made sense to join forces.
The industry processes of real estate, architecture, and science innovation are being challenged by modern times and they did not have the relevant databases of knowledge on how humans experience and interact with environments to forecast effectively. Buildings and cities are built to last, the social, environmental and economic disruption caused by inadequate built environments are too great to ignore in fast moving complex urban realities. We aim to provide the data that informs a resilient approach.
Are you the only people that do this?
There are great thinkers and individuals in this sector, based within agencies and academic institutions, and we support their work. We partner with some too.
We are a business focused consultancy established to bridge the gap between academia and industry and build a scalable platform for universal adoption.
If we haven't answered your question here, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org