Research is the link between our curiosity and the impact we make

Although the scope of our research is broad, our goal is focused: to apply what we learn and positively impact the human experience through design.

HGA’s approach to research and discovery was pioneered in the early 1990s within our healthcare practice, formed to tackle complex or ill-defined problems in the industry. We then introduced process engineering, practice-based research, ethnographic research, and data science into our practice, allowing us to not deliver the state-of-the-art in healthcare design, but to transform it, creating measurable and valuable outcomes for our clients.

As user experience and evidence-based outcomes became increasingly important to our clients, and to the way we practice, in 2015 we began to translate this mindset beyond healthcare.


Areas of focus:

  • Practice-based Research
  • Process Improvement
  • Design Thinking Methodology
  • Design Anthropology
  • Data Analytics


Design Insight Group:
Brent Peterson

Kara Freihoefer

Design Insight Group: DIG

Clients and project teams tap into our Design Insight Group—a growing collective of process engineers, practice-based researchers, design thinkers, anthropologists, and data scientists—who individually and collectively help clients rethink and shape their future through the design process. DIG teams—specifically formed for each project—work collaboratively to help facilitate discovery, research assumptions, and advocate (or demonstrate the need for) change through insight.

Project-Focused Discovery

Our goal is to use every project as a platform for developing and applying new knowledge through exploration; it is embedded into our process. From materials research to pre- and post-occupancy evaluations, we uncover unexpected insights, systematically capture what we learn, and translate it into an informed design solution.

Our practice-based research has been published, presented, and recognized.

Micro-Grants for Macro Ideas

Our micro-grant program encourages exploration of new ideas from cross-office, cross-discipline teams made up of impassioned individuals with a common curiosity. Proposals around everything from social movements to sustainable materials are presented and voted on firm-wide; winning concepts are funded for investigation, and discoveries are shared across the firm and applied to our projects. See examples in our micro-grants catalog.

Research Partnerships

Our partnerships connect HGA with academia and industry-specific research institutions, allowing us to lead the advancement of research pursuits related to societal needs, building technology, and reducing waste. Some of our partners:

  • Center for Health Design: HGA has been a Center for Health Design Evidence-based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC) Advocacy Firm since 2015
  • Center for the Built Environment at University of California Berkeley
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
  • American Society for Health Care Engineering