Aligning Branding, Storytelling and Design

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Here’s a question: Why is branding such an important part of the interior design process?

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Answer: When brought in early in the design process, branding—that is, expressions of a company’s essential identity—makes people think and leads to a more dynamic and layered design.

Many firms look for ways to tell their story and highlight their history, which, when done through graphic design and branding, can become a vibrant expression of a firm’s essence, while driving the architecture and design of a space in a more dynamic way.

While a literal way to relay a client’s story to customers could be with a visually compelling timeline, a less obvious approach could use graphics to propel concepts that align with the firm’s values. That could be a statement on a wall or images that illustrate the company’s ideals. One of our clients, for instance, had us incorporate its years-old collection of artwork and photography in the design of the space, as a compelling way to connect with the firm’s journey.

Tech companies, in general, look for creative ways to showcase their brand, including by using simple materials in surprising ways, such as subway tiles on one of the showcased walls to celebrate a firm’s New York City location. Also, local artists are sometimes recruited by tech and other firms to create large-scale murals that communicate the brand, trying to get across the company’s ethos just by looking at an enhanced wall. Even if a viewer doesn’t grasp the significance of a mural at first glance, a large-scale painting has more impact on a space than does a wall treated with a vinyl wallcovering.

Tech-oriented career company Indeed equipped the minimalist, two-story reception area of its new headquarters office in Austin, Texas, with digital screens that can be programmed to feature a wide variety of changing images and real-time data. The animated yet cohesive design element both ties with and underscores the firm’s cutting-edge brand, giving anyone that enters the space a clear understanding of the firm’s forward-thinking ethic.

Of course, tech companies aren’t the only businesses that want their office to embody their brand in a memorable way. One client of ours that followed “a work hard, play hard” philosophy wanted us to push the envelope to bring a wow factor into their space, where visitors would stop in their tracks in the office lobby, walk out and tell a friend about it. (Think a you-have-got-to-see-this kind of display that burns up social media with likes and shares.) We designed the space with a scaled-up, human-sized version of a 3D pin-art installation to draw visitors into the lobby where they’d make an impression of themselves on the structure, photograph it and post it. The piece alluded to the client’s inventive brand in a playful way, while all but ensuring that the structure—and the company—would be remembered, seen and talked about for a long time.

Clearly, businesses whose office designs have impressed visitors taking and posting photos of themselves in the spaces not only boost customer engagement but also further their firms’ brand through society’s talk-to-text culture, especially when such postings include a company logo.

Sometimes clients think of branding within their space as an afterthought—putting up door signage, for instance, after the fact in a move that could conflict with the interior’s design plan and erode the company’s visual brand. Effectively expressing a company’s brand through its office design and graphics requires a visioning or workplace strategy process with the client to come to a full understanding of the company’s culture. Including employees in the process can heighten their passion for the project and show them that not only are they a part of the company’s story but that it’s a part of theirs, too.

It’s a challenge to uniquely display and communicate a firm’s culture and values without being too obvious, but for companies that want their brand to stand apart from the everyday, the effort is worth it.