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Branding your space

3 questions to answer before even hiring a designer

July 18, 2019

Know what’s valuable to your business and your people so you can design a space to support them.

Your brand is felt the moment someone steps in your office. Do you like what yours is saying? Worse, do you even know?

Some of the same reasons a brand is so valuable in the marketplace—recognition, loyalty, engagement—are also felt in the workplace with measurable impact.

Much like a retail store, the office is a space that allows you to step into the brand. You can see it, feel it, get a sense of its character. That’s why workplace branding is so closely linked to employee culture, engagement and ultimately productivity. Employees reflect and respond to the environment they’re in. Still, many spaces struggle to translate culture into the physical form. 

Rather than slapping colours and graphics inside the space, workplace branding should start with the user experience and be designed from the inside out.

A series of discovery questions below will help you identify and understand what is valuable to your brand, your people and your work so you can create the best experience inside your own walls.

What is your brand identity?

Get to know your brand deeply before translating it into the physical space. Conduct a brand audit to identify the characteristics and guidelines of your brand, including its image, tone of voice, messaging, strategy and how they align with your company’s mission.

Identify the overarching direction of your brand to know how the physical space can support its trajectory. What are your goals and how will the brand evolve in the next five years? Do you want to be an undisputed leader? Forge meaningful connections with your clients and audience? Simplify your offering? Each translates to a slightly different space. For example, an energetic open layout vs. a focused, minimal one. Is event space helpful to your success or do you need more rooms to meet?

Every company is at a different stage of evolution with their brand. Understanding the current state will help you meet and manage expectations for the physical space as you grow.

How do you define your culture?

What are the values, beliefs, attitudes, behaviours and interactions that characterise your organisation and the people you work with? Are you bold? Traditional? Social? Collaborative? Transparent? Understand what is valuable and unique about your culture so you can communicate its importance through use of space.

Your company may value camaraderie and celebrating success, so you might create a space for events. Or maybe leadership sits among associates because knowledge-transfer has been important to your product’s success. Identify whatever elements are core to your culture and create space that reinforces them.

How will each space be used?

With more people taking advantage of a mobile work environment, the physical space plays an important role in bringing teams together. Your space needs to accommodate people with a range of modes and mindsets. From potential new hires to vendors, visitors, clients or even associates who need to be re-engaged—understand the users of the space and their expectations, wants and needs. Design the workplace to support them and allow those needs to unfold.

Spectrum of space

Think of your space as a spectrum of work areas. On one end are living and lounge areas or social magnet space. They have comfortable soft seating, and depending on the culture can be relaxing or energetic.

And toward the other end of the spectrum is space to concentrate, to make decisions and have conversations that progress business in a meaningful way. Having mixed options lets people choose space designed for their behaviour rather than having to adapt to the environment that’s available.

Details matter

Subtle choices like furniture material and lighting may seem arbitrary, but they actually dictate how people will collaborate and communicate. The small elements of a space accumulate to determine the overall mood and impact of a space, and thus how it’s used.

A well-designed workplace not only meets the needs of the business, but reflects its character.  While your brand is just one layer of creating an engaging workplace, it’s a tangible way to showcase and build culture. Knowing which energy and environment will align with your brand—and fulfill your needs—helps you create a workplace where both people and business can thrive.

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