Creating Your Image
The first post in this series covered how to create a sense of well-being in your office. Well-being is in some ways invisible, but image is all about what is visible. You want your image to portray your company’s success as well as the value you bring to your industry. Your physical office space can speak volumes to your clients in terms of who you are as a company. So, a smart design approach is essential.
The approach to your image can involve your internal team as well as external design consultants. You may not make major changes, or you may undergo an extensive renovation or even move office locations. All of these decisions have real impacts on the public’s perception of your team, your company culture, and ultimately, your bottom line.
Establishing Design Goals
Your look involves your overall theme and the influence of your company logo, colors and other aesthetic things unique to your company and your team. A look usually fits in a certain category like modern, homey, industrial, minimalist, and so on. No one look is correct, necessarily, but there are certain ones that will fit your goals more accurately. For example, a tech startup company will often choose a modern, sleek design approach as opposed to a rustic, farmhouse chic look. This not only fits their client’s expectations but also fits their own company culture as being innovative, cutting edge, and ahead of their time.
Consider the industry you work in or businesses you visit often. Do their offices or retail spaces match their company culture and public perception? If the answer is no, there is also a chance that you don’t look forward to going there and find a way to make your visit as short as possible. Offices that are cluttered, dated, or that lack appropriate lighting often give clients and visitors an uneasy feeling that may go unnoticed at first. Chances are that those clients and visitors would be less likely to give a glowing review of the company over time. Additionally, their initial perceptions start off lower than they would have been if the office had established and achieved smart design goals.
A company can enhance their mission and company goals by meeting smart design goals. As another example, an employment or hiring center can design welcoming, accessible office spaces that allow job seekers of all shapes, sizes, abilities, and ages to feel comfortable and included. This can be achieved with a warm entrance experience that includes soothing colors, easy wayfinding, and good visibility into the center’s public areas. Dark, closed off, or otherwise inaccessible office spaces will turn off job seekers who may already be nervous or stressed.
High end retail stores often have a design approach that makes their spaces feel exclusive and their customers feel important. This is achieved with ample space to browse, lighting that highlights the products’ best features and high quality finishes throughout the store. GIving the customers ample space to walk around, try on, and browse, the store sends the message that the cost of space is no issue if it gives the customer a better shopping experience. The quality of finishes also shows the customer that their positive perception was worth the cost of the expensive tile, wall covering, etc. The quality finishes also match the perceived quality of the products being sold.
I mention these concepts to remind those working in corporate office environments that making your client feel valued and important goes beyond great customer service and providing useful products. The design of your office space should be intentional and adhere to your company’s values which most likely include attracting and retaining clients.
Wayfinding is key to an enjoyable experience in your office. The wayfinding experience can be supported by cues like signage, accent colors, and physical and visual barriers. It is an important portion of the design goals and should be a part of the decisions regarding your circulation paths. For clients, visitors, and employees alike, navigating through the office space should be as stress-free as possible. Lines of sight should be appropriate and allow viewing of public spaces and navigating through them. Areas of interest like the reception area, waiting room, restrooms, etc. should be apparent without being glaringly obvious. You don’t need a big neon sign to point you to the restroom, but your visitors also should not have to risk getting lost trying to find it. Smooth transitions between the entrance and these spaces gives your visitors an easier experience in your office and add to your overall image in their minds.
Public vs. Private
It may be tempting to focus all of your design efforts on the public areas, like the lobby and meeting rooms. Keep in mind who is using the more private spaces of your office. Your employees are just as vital to your business as your clients are, so these design approaches could benefit from their input. If an employee is considering joining your team, your office design could lean their decision in your favor. I don’t mean free snacks or casual Friday types of benefits, although those are fun. Employees and prospective employees will notice and appreciate natural light, cleanliness, and an intentional design approach just as much as they will notice the lack of those things. Especially over time, poor office design can have significant negative effects on employees and employee retention. Also consider how your public spaces transition into more private office and working areas. If there is a stark transition, consider how to make it more cohesive and harmonious.
Company colors can be expertly incorporated into your office design in numerous ways. These can be subtle or more apparent based on your design goals. These colors could be directly from your logo and marketing scheme. They could also complement your logo colors and support your design goals. A non-profit company that creates community garden programs may have a logo that includes shades of green, so in that case, green could be the primary color in their office design. In addition to neutral colors, the company could choose a few more colors to add to their scheme. They can pull colors from plants in gardens they have established, which supports their company’s mission as well as tells a story.
Color can be incorporated into passive advertising by adding pictures or infographics from your projects or even of clients themselves tastefully placed on your walls. If you work with children, freelance creatives, or other artistic groups, consider commissioning some artwork for your walls that showcases how much you care about your clients.
The types of materials your design incorporates can support your color scheme as well as support other design goals. In the tech startup example from earlier in this post, the modern, sleek design will include more man made materials as opposed to natural materials and organic textures. The startup may choose a color scheme that is made up of neutral whites, blacks and grays. This scheme does present a good opportunity for accents of color from the company’s logo.
The community garden non-profit example office may choose more natural materials and organic shapes and textured in their office design. They may gravitate towards neutrals including tans, creams, and browns vs. stark whites and blacks. Their colors scheme can draw from tones found in their gardens, which reminds clients what the company is founded on, and all the potential of future gardens.
If you are a home builder, your office may show off the quality of finishes you install in your client’s homes. There may be a certain aesthetic that appeals to your client base, which may be the very popular rustic farmhouse look. You could incorporate some of the colors and materials that are characteristic to this look into your own office. This approach shows your clients that you understand current trends and allows them to see the physical result of these design choices. This saves your clients from having to visualize something in their minds and helps them make decisions on what colors and materials they want to see in their future home.
Creating an Image that Moves Your Company Forward
Your image is what your employees and customers see when they walk in your office, browse the web, or talk about you to a friend. The design choices you make form a large part of how your company is perceived, remembered, and maybe most importantly, how it’s reviewed. Making informed choices regarding your company’s office design can increase your marketability. Your design choices can be strategically catered to the clients and employees you wish to attract.
What’s Next in this Series?
The next post will cover how design goals can “include” the concept of inclusion. Today’s corporations should seek out ways to attract and retain diverse talent. This is beneficial for many reasons, not least of which is that companies with diverse teams perform better. This diversity comes in many forms including racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, skill sets, locations, age, gender, and so on. Office spaces that cater to a wide range of people create inclusive physical environments, which transfers over to the inclusivity goals of the overall company culture and success.