OFFICE DESIGNING IDEAS FROM THE PROS: CREATING THE PERFECT WORKSPACE

Jeff Pelletier: The Space Should Reflect Who The Company Is (Image: Capital Pacific Office By Board And Vellum)

There’s a good reason why office designing ideas always change with the times. Your office tells a story about you and your brand to the people who visit it. You want it to be good, don’t you? No one wants their potential hire or top client to enter a workspace and think, “Did I just travel back in time to my dad’s old cubicle farm?”

Implementing well-though-out office designing ideas can not only impress your partners and give your business credibility, it is also the key to improve employee morale and productivity. After all, good office design will always bring together form and functionality to make that aesthetically inviting environment where people feel comfortable working in.

But what if you feel like you are running out of those kick-ass office designing ideas? Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place as we were lucky enough to catch up with 4 of the most talented voices in the A&D industry to discuss how to decorate that ideal workplace:

Panos Voulgaris, the Creative Director and Partner at Malvi

Jeff Pelletier, the Principal and Architect at Board & Vellum

Kenny Kinugasa-Tsui, the co-founder and Design Director for Bean Buro

Filippo Gabbiani, the co-founder of KOKAISTUDIOS

How would you describe a well-designed office space in 3 words?

Inviting. Uncluttered. Adaptable.

Adaptable. Customized. Dynamic.

Homey. Sociable. Playful.

Comfortable. Efficient. Welcome.

In terms of office designing ideas, what are the modern office must-haves and must-do’s?

The modern office must guarantee a certain degree of flexibility. Meetings on the fly, one-on-one discussions, brainstorming sessions are all part of a typical day. The design and decoration must accommodate a variety of uses and be adaptable to everyday needs.

Εmployee areas aren’t an afterthought any more, they are a must-have. It’s been proven time and time again that spaces which reinforce team building relationships help create a healthy work environment and increase productivity overall. Comfortable and open break and lunch areas can have a big impact.

And, I can’t stress this enough, larger offices must have clear and comprehensive signage, they just mustn’t do without.

The Must-Do is to understand the brand and culture of the company you are designing the office for. The space should reflect who they are, what they do and how they want to work.

The Must-Have…this really depends on the client. There is no one size fits all solution.

The design must utilize a limited space for a variety of qualities; not only for work, but integrated with the employee’s lifestyles activities, social interactions, hospitality for visitors, showcasing of the company’s works, all in a comfortable and inspiring setting with unique flexible conditions that could be offered by a limited space — it is about quality, not quantity of space.

Must have is definitely more space for collaboration and socialization. Must do should be a healthy working environment.

The Design Must Utilize A Limited Space For A Variety Of Qualities; Not Only For Work, Says Bean Buro’s Kenny Kinugasi Tsui (Image: Warner Music Hong Kong Offices)

What are your top 3 tips when decorating an office?

– Don’t overdo it; people working in a space for the better part of a day need to be surrounded by a calm environment, not an overly decorated one.

– Think functional; if it works it’s good, if it works and it looks good at the same time, it’s perfect.

– Users first; cater to the needs of those who will be actually using the space (e.g. office areas need to be designed around the needs of those working there, waiting areas are client oriented and should probably be more extrovert).

– Make the space inviting to both the workers and any clients that may be coming in.

– Don’t underestimate the importance of lighting design. A well designed lighting plan for an office will increase productivity and overall morale.

– Don’t be afraid to be playful.

– Inject playfulness with materials, colours and objects.

– Create ‘wow’ factors with spatial elements.

– Nurture a homey feeling with non-corporate furniture, personal items and living greens.

– Using daylight in an efficient and sustainable way.

– Creating a flexible system (i.e. layout).

– Good branding. Have a deep understanding of the client and people who will use this office ( sometimes their needs are different).

Can color impact workplace productivity and our mood in the office? How to choose the right color scheme for a specific business?

Colour is an important mood setter. It can trigger efficiency in the workplace or create a — usually much needed — meaningful connection to a company’s brand identity. Different color schemes can work in different scenarios, depending on location, lighting (both natural and artificial), brand guidelines and a variety of other factors, but for us there are a couple of important rules:

– Use it in moderation; only the most important aspects of a space deserve a lot of colour.

– Avoid excessive colours in the areas where people are doing the actual work; it can become irritating and tiring, especially when combined with the constant light source of a computer screen (maybe try using it as a backdrop instead).

– Combine it with small, colourful elements that will accentuate your main colours. Fabrics, furniture details, signage, all play an important role to bringing out your colour scheme, especially when used against more neutral backgrounds.

Yes, definitely. Colors should reflect the brand of the company and create the type of atmosphere their employees best work in.

In a limited space, materials, colours and objects play an important role in providing comfort and excitement both visually and physically. When such elements are composed well, the result can be practical as well as beautiful. In our own practice Bean Buro, we have carefully developed a materials and colour palette that is threefold; the neutral materials of wood floor and furniture, together with the fresh colour tones of a gradient blue-turquoise wall, creates a tranquil calm working environment while relating to the company’s brand colours.

Definitely, color is very important in design. Different colors drive different moods. As a designer, I need to consider various aspects, colors, materials etc. It can’t be explained simply, so I guess it’s my secret.

Filippo Gabbiani: Color Plays A Crucial Part In Workplace Design (Image: WTC Nanjing Offices By KOKAISTUDIO)

What’s the importance of plants in interior decorating and why should businesses want to incorporate some greenery into their offices?

I’m not going to lie, we’re not huge fans of indoor plants, mostly because they usually require an overwhelming amount of attention, that most businesses don’t really care for (low maintenance in an office space is key). Apart from that, they can become a very creative element which can play an important part in the design of a space. A green wall, for example, can easily become a central theme around which an exciting space can be built. It can help produce a calming effect and its ever-changing appearance is an interesting alternative to traditional materials.

Plants can have an extremely positive effect on mood and having a feeling of vitality in an office. However, it is important that if they are incorporated into a space that they are well maintained. A dead plant is worse than no plants.

Studies over the years have shown that introducing planting into an interior of the workplace increases wellbeing and makes employees happier. Plants increase air quality by reducing carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds, and the visual stimulation of gazing around the office releases stress and increase productivity. These theories have become common practice, however, it is easier said than done.

Simply placing lots of potted plants around the office do not work, because they can lead to visual cluttering, and increase maintenance issues. Plants must be carefully curated, integrated into the designs intrinsic to the composition of partitions, surfaces and volumes — Not too dissimilar from designing a well thought out garden.

Plants create empathy. Greenery can make people feel relaxed and it also has a sense of sustainability. They’re important both inside the office space and in the environment where the office is located. There are two ways to incorporate some greenery into their offices. One is by intentionally designing, for example build a green wall; the second way is by facilitating possibilities for people who are using the space to insert greenery as they like.

Could you tell our readers about the challenges of designing for clients with tastes different than your own?

We start off the creative process of designing a new space by extensively interviewing both our client and their employees in order to be able to identify their needs and get a firm grasp of where their taste lies. When we’re both confident with the direction (which has been confirmed by questionnaires, reference research, etc), we then proceed to design for the client, creating a communication loop with clear milestones and continuous feedback.

We therefore have tried to eliminate any friction that might occur from miscommunication. Our own taste (which mostly has to do with our internal set of rules) serves as the client’s fail safe mechanism, steering them towards the right direction, while trying to translate their personal taste in the final outcome. Of course their own taste might differ from their brand’s actual needs, which is essentially our job to remind them of.

Well that is the challenge. But a good Designer can easily take any aesthetic and create a beautiful work environment.

It’s not so much about tastes. The first main challenge is to understand the full spectrum of activities that might be needed for a workplace to function well, but also other types of non-prescribed spaces that are less defined and more intuitive. The second main challenge is the budgetary concerns that many companies would have. The third main challenge may be the most important and challenging of all: to ensure a workspace, even though space may be tight, to still feel great and inspiring for staff as well as visitors.

I guess that’s the nature of our job. Designer should try to understand their clients as accurately as possible and offer best options. The ideal situation is designers can design something they like that also fit the needs of clients.

Panos Voulgaris: Think Functional; If It Works It’s Good, If It Works And It Looks Good At The Same Time, It’s Perfect. (Image: Astor Greece HQ By Malvi)

Sometimes those office designing ideas might seem endless. What are the best ways to ensure you are not overstyling an office? How should one know you are done designing?

Set your goals early, and stick to them. If it feels a bit much, then it probably is. Avoid over-cluttering the space; people are going to need to work in an office space and visual clutter is one of the most common mistakes in workplace design. A desk is usually already filled with visual noise on its own (papers, post-it notes, all sorts of stuff), not to mention your virtual desktop, so you want to be able to provide a more ordered and serene environment when you turn your head away from your workstation.

It’s good to get second opinions from co-workers to make sure you are editing correctly and your ideas are being well articulated. While it seems silly to say that you know you are done when you are out of fee, it is a reality that creativity often has to have boundaries and budget can be a great line in the sand.

A workplace design is never ‘done’, it must constantly evolve to nurture culture and inspire creativity continuously. Elements must have the flexibility to be moved or renewed to accommodate change.

My advice is simple, just try to be flexible whenever it’s possible and always leave some freedom to people who work there.

What are your best strategies for avoiding office designing trends that come and go?

Trends are easily identifiable: if everyone’s doing it, then stay clear. It’s a sure way to make your office look dated, really soon.

In order to shut out trends, a good knowledge of the available materials is a good place to start. A good study of past references is also important, because it helps you distinguish trends from good, timeless design. And it is imperative to draw your inspiration from as many different and diverse fields as possible; look to art, graphic design, music and literature for your references. A space should trigger feelings, it should help the user make connections, it doesn’t provide any added value if it is self-referential.

While it is easy to default to classic, timeless design, this is a solution that is not necessarily appropriate depending on the project. It is best to acknowledge current trends strategically, with pieces that can be switched out or altered. The needs of a company evolve over time, and the design should be able to evolve with them.

Always make sure to ensure the design is well thought out, functions well and always feels good. Because this is timeless.

First of all, don’t just close your eyes and copy. Do extensive research of the site, the surrounding and the project. Study the history, the brand essence and the composition. Even for fashion retail store or offices, the structure and the spirit should be timeless.

Jeff Pelletier Says That Modern Office Should Be Adaptable, Customized And Dynamic. (Image: Adas Office Design By Board And Vellum)

TO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN, WE SHOULD FEEL HAPPY AT WORK

A wise man once said, “They can make a person leave his home every morning, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t create a sense of home, away from home.” Okay, to be honest no one ever said that, but it’s true nonetheless. Of course, an office is a place where we are supposed to concentrate and make stuff happen. But it doesn’t mean that we have to do it in a dull environment that makes us grab our laptop and run as far as we can when the clock strikes five, right?

In an ideal office, everything from the lightning, furniture, air conditioning and even smallest things such as how your office equipment you use everyday are positioned, everything adds up in creating a place where we are happy to come back every morning. A place that we sometimes even call (without that sarcastic smile on the face) our second home. So whether you’re setting up a new office space or trying to breathe life into the existing one, try applying some of the office designing ideas that you think should work. There’s a big chance you’ll be surprised by the outcome!

This post originally appeared on TableAir blog. This is the eleventh installment of the series of Q&A sessions about modern workplace. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter in order not to miss great insights from top architecture & design industry professionals.