Incorporating Brand into Office Design to Enhance Awareness, Culture
When it comes to your company’s brand, there’s no bigger billboard for your culture than your office space. Done well, your office can enhance brand awareness, reinforce company values and support a healthier, happier workforce. Done with too heavy of a hand and you risk off-putting both employees and visitors alike. They key is finding a cohesive balance.
Aside from the obvious incorporation of your company’s colors or logo, there’s an art to infusing your brand into a space while avoiding common pitfalls. Through our work with corporate clients ranging from technology to healthcare, financial services to hospitality, we have found several key factors that make a big difference in the success of a branding effort within an office design.
Let’s start with what to avoid. While it is tempting to “go big or go home,” it is essential to make sure your brand is incorporated in the most thoughtful and effective manner for a particular space.
• Don’t do anything permanent. Avoid incorporating the company logo into the architecture or a permanent fixture, even if there are no immediate plans to update or change it. Companies re-brand fairly frequently – even if it’s a slight update to the brand standards – so instead, bring the brand to life in other ways that can more easily be changed out if necessary.
• Don’t be too obvious or repetitive. A sign with the company logo is appropriate, but not a necessary element to repeat throughout the office. If displaying your logo is a priority, select one highly visible focal point, and then incorporate other brand elements more subtly throughout the space.
• Don’t force it. Sometimes a brand color is simply not appropriate for a particular interior. It is alright not to use every single element and color of your brand in the space. A great design is ultimately much more important than using that one shade of red from the logo.
With those in mind, let’s explore the do’s of incorporating brand into an office environment.
• Do decide how far you want to go. Pull together your leadership, project leads and interior design team to walk through your brand standards, colors, values, vision and mission statement. Then, determine what the priorities are for reinforcing those through the design.
For example, Healthgrades, a growing health-tech company based in Denver, was going through a significant re-branding effort at the same time that it was moving its headquarters. Through close collaboration between the design and creative teams, the architectural elements became inspiration for the branding and vice versa. Our design team subtly incorporated the geometric 45-degree angle of the new logo into the office doors, custom privacy screens and planter boxes. The refreshed brand comes across in an understated way so that you know where you are, without being bombarded by logos.
In the case of Hyder Construction’s new headquarters, it was important to them to incorporate their core values into the design. By printing the values on the structural columns, they are not only highly visible for employees and visitors to the space, but also serve as a metaphor for the “pillars” of the business. Hyder’s brand is further reinforced throughout its office space via elements such as the mixed construction materials the contractor works with, while the color scheme, finishes and lighting bring added polish and consistency to the design.
For accounting firm Anton Collins Mitchell, the color scheme was based strictly on the brand standards. Given that the brand colors are primary red and blue, we designed a warm neutral environment with more subtle inflections of the brand colors interspersed with rich woods. The feature wall in the reception area – an oversized, custom-made abacus – was inspired by the firm’s work and demonstrates the sense of humor that differentiates their culture.
• Do reinforce the company’s culture. We often find that when companies think about their brand in the context of their office space, what they really want is to support a specific culture – a personality or set of values that they want to convey to employees, clients and visitors.
For NetApp, a leading tech company that had recently acquired Solidfire in Boulder, the goal was to unite the cultures of the two distinct companies through the design of a new unified space. A photograph of the Flatirons (a nod to Solidfire’s deep Boulder roots) was fragmented to create a compelling visual wall. We then used actual computer code from NetApp to create a film that was applied to the stair and glazing throughout the space. Celebrating elements of both company cultures helped to bring them together and generate excitement for the future.
Healthgrades wanted a comfortable and inviting space that would appeal to its millennial workforce. To achieve the warm industrial feel it sought within its high-rise downtown Denver space (no easy feat), the design team focused on reinforcing the theme in key spaces. For example, we created a circular walking path around the core of the building that was clearly identified by concrete floors, metal mesh ceiling tiles and custom wood privacy screens. The resulting space feels comfortable, active and inviting.
•Do consider who will use the space. At the end of the day, design should always come back to the people who use the space. As part of the programming phase, it is important to deeply understand the day-to-day functions of the business, especially how the employees work and use the space. If a company has frequent visitors or customers, the design may benefit from playing up the brand more than if the company is trying to appeal to employees. For example, a tech company that does not have many visitors might opt for a more subtle lighting and color scheme, allowing the focus to shift to the screens and other technology components used by the employees.
On the other end of the spectrum, for a company like Camp Bow Wow, North America’s largest and fastest-growing pet care franchise, visitors to the space are frequently of the four-legged variety. In this instance, our inspiration came from the great outdoors. The furniture and finishes are durable and creative, with rustic woods and a grass-like carpet contrasting with bright colors and wall graphics that speak to the brand. The effect is both functional for the people who work there, but also decidedly whimsical.
While considering these “do’s and don’ts” should lead to a more effective incorporation of your brand in an office space, the most important thing to do is work with a designer who will take the time to understand your business, your culture and your vision for the space.
Published in the June 2019 issue of Building Dialogue.