How to Bring Offices to Life Through Graphic Design
People experience a company many ways—websites, products, packaging, advertisements, social media, brochures, word-of-mouth, etc. One tangible, seemingly obvious and frequently overlooked way people experience your company is your corporate offices/headquarters. Every day this physical space hosts employees, clients and visitors…and it is a living space for your brand.
The experience begins the moment you step foot into an office space. Is the room dim or bright, is the lighting fluorescent or natural? Is there a waiting area, is the furniture inviting, is there something for you to read while you wait (and are those reading materials from 1997)? Is the room large or small, inviting or uncomfortable? Is the temperature cool or warm? Is music playing, and what kind of music? Are there plants or decorations? Is the aroma of freshly brewed coffee in the air? Is that gum under my chair?
Whether you’re conscious of it or not, you start to form an impression of the company in those first moments. That impression is part of your understanding of the company’s “brand.” A brand is what people think of a company, not what you want them to think. Our role as graphic designers is to help bring those two views into positive alignment.
We work to complement the architecture and interior design as we integrate a company’s visual identity and personality. We control the experience through signage, color, typography, imagery and messaging, to create a comprehensive presentation of the company’s story and set the intended tone.
Are you setting the right tone in your office? Here are a few common tools to consider that could help create a branded environment:
Vinyl isn’t just for records
Materials such as acrylic, wood (reclaimed or freshly hewn), metal, plastic and fabric can all be implemented to great effect in signage. But perhaps the most versatile material we use is vinyl. It comes in a variety of opacities, textures and finishes, such as opaque, frosted and glossy. It can be bought pre-perforated, so you can see out but not in, like a screen. It comes in existing colors to be cut into art, or 4-foot rolls to print your own art. So it’s pretty easy to cover entire walls with custom graphics, designed specifically for your space. A single wall in your office can be covered at a minimal expense (compared to other materials), and unlike paint, it can be customized with your brand art, graphics, messaging, making it very impactful!
Well yes, size does matter
We’ve found that looking at signage as a system, with signs that vary in size—from small to large (or extra large)—creates a dynamic experience throughout the office space. Small signs might include dimensional lettering, name plates or a wall border graphic. Medium signs may feature the company logo placed on or behind the reception desk, and framed art hung on the walls. Large signs might include an exterior building or monument sign, or a conference room, lunchroom or hallway wall completely covered in printed vinyl. And an extra large sign might include graphic panels that cover a wall, or lettering that spans a bank of windows. Variety in the size of the signs and how they are experienced creates an engaging space.
Think color thoughtfully
Your office probably shouldn’t be overwhelmingly, wall-to-wall brand color (just like you wouldn’t wear head-to-toe fuchsia every day…or would you?). But plain ‘ol white on every surface probably won’t set the right tone either (unless the rest of your office is stark and sterile). Pick and choose when and where to add an appropriate splash and pop! A single, well-placed wall of brand color can direct the eye. A change of color within the brand palette between rooms can evoke an emotion. Color has the power to move people, especially when it fills their entire field of vision. And color can be used as a wonderful wayfinding tool. One smart use is color-coded parking ramps to help people remember where they left their vehicle.
Expand the experience
Understand how people use the various spaces in your office and design accordingly. The reception area isn’t the only room your visitors will see, so extend the experience all the way through your space. What does the hallway look like on the way to the conference room? Do you pass any common areas or offices along the way? Are there windows or glass walls you do not want people to be able to see into or out of? Carrying some branded elements through the entire space will create a thoughtful, intentional experience and give the office greater depth. See your space from the eyes of a first-time visitor.
Branding for all
Just because your client might not see the kitchen, doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Your employees spend a lot of time in the office common spaces, so make sure they are part of the experience too. Signs can help distinguish multiple conference rooms or commemorate the successes and history of the company. Signage can be used to inspire, motivate and delight. If your employees feel welcomed and relaxed, it carries through to all other interactions in your office, so they will project that attitude to visitors too.