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What is Company Culture? Brand Personified

May 29, 2015

Design can reinforce an organization's vision while supporting wellness and engagement

As we become ever more connected digitally, conveying a clear, authentic voice and identity is crucial now more than ever. With the abundance of social media outlets and tech gadgets at everyone’s fingertips, finding a brand connection that internally resonates with an employee, customer, or visitor can get lost in the array of options. The ultimate goal is to strategically design the chosen workplace, site, or targeted touch-point in order to achieve engagement.

One of the predicted words of the year for 2015, engagement is beginning to be utilized and exhausted much in the way collaboration has been over the last couple years. Engagement is what turns a user from merely interested to wholly invested. Thus, the new challenge for us as designers working in commercial spaces has surpassed simply creating a thoughtfully designed space. We are now creating the experience that reinforces the brand and engages the culture.

Highly branded graphics and integrated technology blend with residential and hospitality design elements to create a lifestyle rich with urban cafes, energized recreation rooms, and purposeful “coming-together” spaces.

Earlier this January, I convened with other IIDA members at the 18th annual IIDA Industry Roundtable where workplace well-being took center stage. Research on the topics has underscored what most of us already know: Happy employees are more productive, creative, and engaged. We also understand that wellness is essential to the overall human “happiness quotient.” But how do we measure well-being? And what factors should we consider when designing a workplace that enhances and fosters an elevated level of it?

One key factor is brand. Today, a company’s culture is its brand personified. Whereas 10 to 15 years ago a company’s brand was just an emblem on a shirt or a sign with the company logo on the wall, it is now the base energy source of the overall workplace experience. Walk through the offices of an increasing amount of tech, social media, or advertising companies and prepare to be immersed in a “way of life.” Highly branded graphics and integrated technology blend with residential and hospitality design elements to create a lifestyle rich with urban cafes, energized recreation rooms, and purposeful “coming-together” spaces.

Richly detailed and thoroughly planned amenities are intrinsic to workplace design, increasing overall employee well-being and engagement. These strategic design solutions also directly correlate to attraction and retention efforts and strategies. In order to recruit and retain employees, companies see the need to invest in spaces that cultivate a vibrant work culture—one that allows for collaboration, flexibility, comfort, and choice.

A company’s culture and its brand voice should be singular. But as we are seeing, many ideas and identity statements are being transcribed and tweaked in an ever increasing way. This commonality begs the question, “Do this firm’s space and surroundings truly reflect its culture or do they express a pervasive trend in design? Does this design truly represent the firm’s culture and brand, or does it just reflect what they hope others see?”

Ultimately, as engaged designers, we strive to deliver a creative, pointed, and singular design statement for each client based on their brand and culture. In order to provide this tailored solution that directly impacts a firm’s well-being index, we must also always attempt to truly engage the client in this process.
So remember—keep calm and stay engaged!

Scott Hierlinger, IIDA, LEED AP, is the president-elect of IIDA and design director at NELSON. He will be inducted to the International Board of Directors as president for the 2015-2016 year at the IIDA Annual Meeting on June 14. You can reach IIDA Headquarters at (312) 467-1950 or [email protected].

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