Welcome to Design, a Thought Leadership site hosted by Perkins+Will, an international design firm with 220 professionals working in our Midtown office at 1315 Peachtree Street. Each month, a different design discipline thought leader will explore how design has the power to transform lives – in commerce, our culture and our communities.
This first month, Interior Design Leader Joyce Fownes brings you inside the business. You’ll see how our team of 30 interior professionals develop a workplace strategy, infusing branded environments into an ever evolving world of work stations, collaborative space and technology.
Culture Fit Crucial in Design
Posted on February 13, 2012
If you’ve ever done business in Japan you most likely took a huge stack of business cards with you and presented it to people with both hands. The exchanging of business cards follows a ritual in Japan and for American business people to succeed there, they need to understand the culture. If you’ve ever done business internationally, you would have studied the business culture of the country you were visiting to ensure you and your company would assimilate into their way of conducting business.
When we begin working with a new client on their space, it is critical that we understand what their business does, as well as the culture of their organization. Is it formal or informal structure? Do people primarily work autonomously or do they work together in teams?
At Perkins+Will we primarily work in teams. When we renovated our building we were able to design our space to reflect that style and methodology. I wrote last week about our workstations. This week we will delve into how our office space reflects our philosophy and culture of collaboration.
When we reduced workspace size per person by using benching, we were able to give that space over to team rooms. We keep all the information about a particular project in the team room and bring the team working on a longer project into the room with their laptops for large portions of the project.
Another aspect of our design that aligns with our philosophy is that we believe people should be able to work anytime and anywhere. We created venues throughout our space where people can sit and work in our indoor communal space.
One of the most popular places for people to work when the weather is nice is on our wonderful outdoor porch. This was an amenity that was created when we renovated the building. The space was not part of the previous structure and design of the building.
We love to be able to work outside. It’s very inspirational to be directly across the street from the High Museum of Art.
In our previous space we had high panels and individual cubicles. Although we have reduced the personal work area for each employee, they all love our new space and are completely inspired by it. The openness, flexibility and emphasis on collaborative space speak to our culture.
Drop by sometime to visit. Be sure to bring lots of business cards.
Focus attention on design of the work environment, not on reduced real estate
Posted on February 7, 2012
When we take people on a tour of Perkins+Will’s new office space at 1315 Peachtree Street, we love showing them features like our solar shades that manage the penetration of the sun to reduce interior heat and our rainwater harvesting system that re-circulates graywater into low-flow toilets. In addition to working in the space, we wanted our offices to be a living lab and serve as an educational tool for our clients.
One of the features of our space is that we have more than 220 workstations, with only eight offices, two on each of the four floors we occupy. These are largely for Senior Leadership who hold frequent conference calls, meetings, and personnel concerns. When unoccupied, they serve as additional conference/meeting spaces.
When we suggest a shift from offices to workstations to our clients, there is often a concern of reduced space and privacy. But when we are able to shift their focus to the enhancements they can enjoy with a redesigned space primarily based on an open environment, they ultimately love the new space and its enhancements.
We create larger more communal areas for the employee break room or cafe which provides a more enjoyable environment. People are more likely to stay and eat with their co-workers, fostering good social and working relationships. We create larger/more meeting areas and collaborative workspaces throughout so people can work together more easily as appropriate to their workstyles.
Our space has been very successful for the sustainable design and for the collaborative environment we have been able to create. Not only is good design good business it’s these solutions that every employee can get excited about.
Branded Environments: Adding Value to a Client’s Space
Posted on January 30, 2012
Sometimes when I travel, I wake up in a hotel room and it takes a few moments for me to remember what city I’m in. You might have experienced something similar, getting off an elevator in an office building wondering for a moment if you entered the wrong business unintentionally?
If Perkins+Will Branded Environments was involved in the design of that business, I am confident that would never happen to you. You would know right away you are in the correct business – no matter if you are in the lobby, a conference room or even the break room.
You may not be familiar with the term “branded environment” but in simple terms, it means creating an environment with two- and three-dimensional experiences that communicate a company’s brand and help it to achieve its goals.
Our approach helps our clients improve positioning and customer recognition, increase sales and develop higher perceived value from investors. Employees report a higher level of satisfaction and a better understanding of the firm’s mission, vision and values. They tend to stick around longer too.
In this week’s video Meredith Kinney, Branded Environments Designer, shares the first steps of the process Perkins+Will went through to create the branded environment for IMG College, a global sports and media business.
“Branded Environments is a small discipline in the Atlanta office. We dovetail nicely with Interiors because we focus on a clients’ brand and what it value it brings to a project,” Kinney said. “For IMG College it was very important to study their brand and leverage it in the space.”
Perkins+Will uses a driver diagram in the development of a branded environment. “This diagram provides us with an outline for the tone and personality of the space and it also starts to inform the aesthetic of the space so we are making informed design decisions based on the company’s drivers. Every decision goes through this filter,” Kinney said.
For example, on the diagram for IMG College you can see that one of their corporate drivers is teamwork, while the tone could be fun and creative.
Another tool Perkins+Will likes to use is the brand opportunities matrix. “This is where we start to map out the opportunities in the space to experience the company’s brand. For IMG College we also developed sports analogies for the different zones. So we have the pep rally, we have the rankings wall, we have training camp.”
The matrix for IMG College lists 17 locations, along with their sports analogy, primary audience, value discussion, related brand driver, related brand driver and visual preliminary concept.
“We develop the design opportunities by studying the audience and various journeys through the space,” Kinney said. “What is the user experience? What are they supposed to gain from these zones? What should the message be? What is it supposed to say and how does it bring value to the experience?”
For example, in the Reception area the sports analogy is Time Out/Bleachers. The goal is to uniquely connect with the fan experience and the value demonstrated is that IMG knows how to connect with fans, therefore creating loyal customers.
“Decisions made are filtered through the IMG brand driver diagram so it’s constantly a check and balance,” Kinney said. The Reception area, for instance, was designed around the feeling of community, a brand driver.
“This process holds us accountable and makes us stay on track and meet the vision for the client,” Kinney said.
With all of the infusion of branding into the IMG College workplace, a visitor will never feel out of place. In fact, if they wondered briefly if they were in a sports arena, then we know we our branded environment plan scored the winning point!
Developing Answers for Workplace Strategies Always Begins with Many Questions – Involving Everyone
Posted on January 23, 2012
Clients are always intrigued when they ask our Interiors Design team what our first step in the design process will be. When we say we begin by interviewing every employee who will use the building, they think we might be exaggerating. We aren’t.
We send a survey to every employee who will be working in the new space and ask them a lot of questions, from “What time do you arrive or leave work?” to “Do you eat lunch in the office, at your desk or drive to restaurants?” Then we consolidate every employee’s concerns and suggestions into bullet points and record every key point onto index cards, noting who said what.
Next we interview top executives, host cross-functional focus groups and return to employees whose comments sparked questions on our index cards. We assimilate these touch points into topics such as Innovation, Sustainability or Collaboration and then organize them into what we call “design drivers” and pin them to huge boards on the wall in our office or our client’s.
Our design team starts our strategic analysis. They survey the boards reading, discussing and debating drivers that will ultimately influence our design decisions. As you will see in the accompanying video detailing a case study with IMG, a college sports management company based in Atlanta, we brainstorm creative ways to infuse the new workplace with design elements and textures that reinforce the client’s brand.
With IMG, for instance, we lined a floor with custom textural material that simulates a basketball. In other spaces, we lined workstations along a “football” field with yard markers to help locate various work groups or departments. In the lobby, you’ll find bleachers at the waiting area and a “scoreboard” next to the elevator banks.
Only after we go through the intense surveying and brainstorming do we begin designing the space, developing multiple solutions in 3-D models to present to the client, along with a strategic master plan.
If we don’t work this way, we sometimes end up spending more time than necessary on a project. For instance, one client did not want us to spend the time doing the employee surveys. They thought they knew the “solutions.” When we returned with plans based on those – guess what? The space did not meet the end user’s needs so we had to start interviewing their employees in the middle of the process. It worked, but it was a lot messier and time-consuming than it needed to be.
We find that involving employees in the minute details – how to design their custom workstations and offices and collaborative spaces and even break rooms – secures their “buy-in” to the process and ultimately fosters a wholesale acceptance of the changed workplace. This is a vast improvement to leaving them out of the process, after which employees often reject and complain about their new offices.
Clients will sometimes say, “Our overall objective is to reduce real estate.” In these days of financial belt-tightening, we understand this. Saving space can be a part of what we do, but it can’t be the overarching goal. If we start out with something as uninspiring as reducing real estate, we will ultimately fail in our objective, which is gaining a holistic view of our clients’ vision, needs and context, and adding our teams’ creativity and innovation.
We usually work with clients that are already successful in their fields. After they move into spaces we’ve designed that are based on their individual and collective needs, they often become leaders in their fields. We believe that great design has the power to do that.