Know Your Brand: How Companies Use Innovative Workplaces as Identity-Building Tools
The design director of Genlser's Lifestyle-Brand Design studio discusses ways in which an office layout can been designed to reflect a brand's image.
The new Hachette headquarters in Midtown Manhattan serve as an example of an office where the layout has been designed to reflect the brand’s image.
Courtesy Garrett Rowland
An office space can be one of the most powerful tools in a company’s arsenal because it communicates brand identity to clients and employees alike. Metropolis recently spoke to Gensler senior associate Brian Brindisi about the importance of branded interiors and how companies can effectively incorporate their message into a space.
Tamy Cozier: How does brand identity and office design relate to one another?
Brian Brindisi: Branding isn’t a design term that often springs to mind when considering open-plan workspaces, but office spaces provide designers like myself a blank canvas to demonstrate how branding can balance an organization’s desire for a collaborative environment with the need to maintain the autonomy of individual departments.
TC: Beyond the logo and letterhead, how do you go about ensuring your brand is clearly communicated within the design of your space?
BB: When most companies consider their brands, they rarely venture beyond the design and implementation of a logo. By failing to delve deeper into this “potential power,” companies fail to capitalize on reinforcing their specific set of values. Simply put, a good brand does more than establish a visual language; it creates an immersive experience for every person who enters their workplace.
TC: Most consumers or clients will never see the inside of a company’s headquarters. So why is it so important for your office design to reflect your brand when it’s employees who are privy to the layout?
BB: Branding in an office space is critical to giving workers a sense of identity and connecting with their company. Similar to wearing your college sweatshirt or putting a bumper sticker on your car, branding provides a gleam of individuality within a shared workspace. At its core, branding workplaces is a process of taking the characteristics that make a company great, and expressing those characteristics through emotive experiences that ultimately enhance learning, productivity, and the overall workplace experience for employees and clients. Today, everyone wants to work in spaces that closely mirror a particular lifestyle and makes them feel engaged, valued and connected to a company.
Branding on display at Hachette’s new office in Midtown Manhattan
Courtesy Garrett Rowland
TC: In an increasingly digital age, you have floor spaces decreasing as more and more employees working remotely. How do you still use design to communicate your brand if say you rent a few desks in a co-working space or a majority of your employees work from home?
BB: While types of work modes have changed dramatically—telepresence, hoteling, and the rise of the freelancer are a few examples—it is more and more important that companies have strong visual and brand identities that span from everything from their intranet, web portals to their physical space.
TC: On an internal level, is it important to create distinct identities between departments and/or job functions? If so, how do you go about ensuring these differences still fit into and communicate the overall identity of the brand?
BB: This varies from company to company, but what I can say is, whatever the company is aiming to do—merge or separate departmental functions—physical space that mirrors those changes is incredibly important and can help support those change efforts dramatically.
Design Director Brian Brindisi
TC: Can you give an example of a project where the layout didn’t quite match the brand’s image and you were able to get those two things in sync?
BB: Hachette’s new headquarters in Midtown Manhattan are completely open but the design provides each of the company’s imprints with a sense of individuality. It outlines departments’ workspaces through graphics that draw inspiration from the imprints’ logos as well as cover art of Hachette’s iconic books.
The graphics at Hachette’s new office not only create a pleasing aesthetic but draw distinctive boundaries between the company’s various imprints. They use visuals rather than walls to separate imprints from one another. They also give employees a sense of ownership and pride while still allowing departments to cross-collaborate on projects of interest. It softens the blow of moving from a workspace where individual offices were the norm to a culture of shared space.
An open-office plan does not have to predict the death of uniqueness within a large company. Rather it provides the opportunity for departments and sub-brands to express their idiosyncrasies through colorful graphics rather than walls, a design solution that celebrates contrasts rather than cloistering them away from one another through mazes of walls and closed office doors.
TC: What are some current trends you’re seeing when it comes to branding and office design?
BB: Comprehensive and immersive branding within the workplace will be a significant trend over the coming years. Today, brands offer choices that allow people to take control. People no longer want to be told what to do, and so, they want brands to reflect their own values. A company’s brand presence within the workplace is thus incorporated into their decision-making process to help determine which company is the right fit for them.
Brian Brindisi is a Senior Associate, Design Director and Regional Design leader for the Lifestyle-Brand Design studio at Gensler. With over 15 years of experience, his work includes a wide range of renowned U.S. and international companies.