Living and Working Within a Brand: How Design Can Reinforce a Company’s Culture, Mission, and Ethos

| January 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

by Joe Flynn and Barbara Hicks

Barbara Hicks

Barbara Hicks

Joe Flynn

Joe Flynn

Companies know that facility design impacts productivity. But what message does that design send to staff and visitors? Businesses are increasingly driven to provide workspace reflecting the spirit of who they are; a firm’s culture, personality, mission, values, and work style all contribute to their brand, with the goal that staff, clients, visitors, and new talent will immediately understand the essence of the firm. Branding is a necessary design element in architecture.

In this regard, the retail industry far surpasses corporate America. Retail’s success relies on developing an immediate, recognizable connection with consumers. With elevation of brand awareness through print, media, architecture, and merchandising, brand loyalty is developed through repeated reinforcement of the business’ mission.

Similarly, corporate America also uses the work environment to sell. The workspace is an important physical asset within which a high degree of ingenuity and productivity is enabled. There is a clear business objective to creating a work environment that inspires and motivates employees. Likewise, workspace should attract new talent and engage visitors while reinforcing the brand to staff. This is accomplished through effective and dynamic design, as well as a reflection of their ideology.

Architecture in Branding

Regardless of what a company calls it — brand, image, marketing message — it is critical to understand what statement should be made when designing a workspace and to carefully consider all areas in which it should be integrated as early as possible. Potential changes later can be cumbersome and costly, so it is important to deploy a strategy that is relatively timeless or flexible.

When considering brand integration into the design of a workspace, designers need to understand a company’s mission, values, culture, goals, and work style (i.e., how the company works now or will in the future).

These attributes provide a clear road map to how workspace should be designed. If, for example, a business is committed to the environment, then the design should incorporate material choices reflecting that goal. If a company’s mission comes from technological advancements, it would be appropriate to use new building methodologies, such as state-of-the-art audiovisual technologies. Architectural decisions can serve as the foundation and reinforcement of “brand.”

More than Corporate Identity

Every company has developed a corporate identity typically expressed through their logo and tagline. The simplest and most literal branding response is to rely on these elements in designing the space. Although trademark symbols, colors, and fonts are easily incorporated into a three-dimensional environment, they are only the very beginning. What truly makes a brand is the concept behind these elements, which become the focus and from which other branding choices are derived. Take Google, for example. Their offices are not designed around the old style serif typeface or bold colors of their logo, but around their culture and brand: fun, casual, comfortable, laid-back, techie, smart, and diverse. “Branding” comes in many forms: graphic design, space function, furniture, materials, and technology.

Integrating Graphic Design

Graphic design is a popular and sometimes inexpensive way to brand a new space. For it to be a successful branding strategy, graphic design needs to be integrated from the beginning of the architectural process. The talent partnership of architects and graphic designers often produces extraordinary opportunities and results that may not be realized if each entity works separately. A talented graphic designer can transform a space with ideas, images, and technology to further enhance the architectural form while reinforcing the company’s message. One recent example is how Margulies Perruzzi Architects and HOK worked with Philips North America to ensure their high-performance office space promoted their brand messaging: improving the quality of people’s lives by focusing on health and well-being. Together with furniture selection, sustainable materials, and technology, this subliminal yet impactful message comes through in the form of large-scale murals along the circulation path and in the “town square.”

How to Get Started

To have a successful branding strategy, start early. The programming phase of any architectural project yields headcounts, growth projections, adjacencies, and other considerations, but time should be spent to fully understand the brand, mission, culture, values, and goals of the company. Once you are armed with all of this information, figure out which medium is best and work together to create a productive and totally customized workspace.

Barbara Hicks, CPSM, is a senior associate and director of marketing and media. Joe Flynn, CFM, LEED AP, is a senior associate and workplace strategist at Margulies Perruzzi Architects. 

Joe Flynn, CFM, LEED AP, is a senior associate and workplace strategist at Margulies Perruzzi Architects. Barbara Hicks, CPSM, is a senior associate and director of marketing and media. 



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