The Brain's Heart

UX & Space design

With “The Brain’s Heart” we aim to provide guidance for library users as well as the library staff.

Our new concept gives everyone a clear understanding about where they can work in silence and where they can work collaboratively, take breaks, or talk. We designed The Brain’s Heart by assigning new meaning to a library space that had lost its original purpose. And within this space, we created areas for tasks which had no space before. Moreover, we addressed a noise problem, which many users brought to our attention during our research.

Basic Track winter semester in HPI School of Design Thinking


Understanding Users, research, ideation, conception, creation of prototypes


Space Thinkers team (Coleen Dannroth, Bennet Etsiwah, Kathrin Ingenrieth, Jan Siebert) and 3 coaches (Bettina Michl, Andrea Muñoz, Laura Ceglia)


Max Planck Institute for Human Development




Due to digitalization, users can access media directly from their office. As a result, the library's function as a service provider in its original sense is not needed anymore. In the Library, Max Planck Institute for Human Development considered the creation of a "third space." This third space should be between home and the work environment: a place, which provides scientists with a flexible and varied environment for individual and collaborative work.

Interview & Insight

There is no strong desire to use the library. On the contrary, each user has a different individual need about their working preferences and their office constellations. Only very few interviewees would appreciate a third place as an intermediate between their original office and their home. They liked the separation of work and leisure time and would not like to mix them both up.

Hidden Problem

Researcher were unsure about whether the library space, which often time would be just empty, was the right place to go for video calls or just quiet work. Not every office situation was suitable for the needs of modern day research which is why some of them were sitting on the hallways for video calls.

At the same time, the people who work in the library missed appropriate spaces for informal communication or small meetings.


I’ve never been to the library


Just for a small meeting I have to go through a lot of effort.


Researchers don’t need the library to use the library


People feel old-fashioned when they go to the library


The most important user we had in mind when designing the Brain’s Heart was Avery, a fictive persona, which we created out of a lot of insights from our interviews.

Avery, a 28 years old PhD candidate, who works in a shared office only with Avery's online library.
needs to feel comfortable at Max Planck Institute when it comes to attending phone and Skype calls, as well as to work collaboratively, because wherever Avery goes Avery feels like disturbing others.


We needed to envision a place that is flexible for our users and provides places to talk, to work in silence, to focus and to relax. We summarized these needs as guidance and flexibility as division of spaces and color coding.


Next to Avery, there are other stakeholders, which use the library in a direct or indirect way as well. Those are the library staff, student assistants or users who don’t belong to the Max Planck Institute. We believe that with our solution the needs of many stakeholders can be solved.



The workbox provides isolation and privacy for phone and Skype calls. We received feedback that the workbox should have a small window. Others who want to enter the workbox can see if it is occupied in advance.

On the other hand, the user should not feel that others can watch him/her and are not easily distracted. This could be solved by implementing a milk glass wall.

Recreation space

As a more informal setting, we imagined a recreation space equipped with a coffee machine and comfortable sofas close to the entrance.

Expert stage

In addition to these working spaces there will be an expert stage for academic staff to practice presentations (“mocks”) that can also be used for official events (e.g. “Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften”) or as a media friendly environment for interviews with experts from the Max Planck Institute.

Session spaces

With the session spaces, small groups can quickly meet and discuss without having to use big conference rooms. Through our interviews, our users do not like to use conference rooms as a small group. They feel that they are using space that others may need. This problem can be solved by small session spaces.

Quiet working area

In the quiet zone, the library user will have the chance to work focused in a silent area. The furniture could be flexible, so that the library user can rearrange the desk and chairs, depending on how they can concentrate the best. The quiet working area will be located in the current reading room.

Meditation space

Next to this working area and up the stairs there is a meditation space. During the interviews we found out that this meditation space does not need to be a closed space. It should be comfortable and big enough to even practice a bit of yoga.




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