How to communicate brand personality through workplace

5th July 2019

In a recently published article in Property Week, Sheppard Robson’s head of ID:SR Helen Berresford looks at how physical workplaces can help create an immersive brand experience and successfully communicate the personality of a company.

The article, which can be found here and below, looks at how brand perception is changing and what designers can do to ensure brand values are communicated effectively.

Express the personality of your brand through workspace

During the early stages of a workplace project, occupiers and consultant teams often focus on the physical specification of an office. The amount of space required, the building’s location and the layout of floorplates all dominate these early property strategy conversations.

However, alongside these ‘hard’ aspects of the brief, occupiers are now increasingly aware of the ‘softer’ values of their workplace and how the office can become a powerful and immersive brand experience. This momentum has expanded the definition of ‘brand’ to look past the inclusion of corporate colours and logos, with designers having to be much more thoughtful and creative about using physical workspace to communicate the personality of a company.

First impressions are key when communicating brand and shaping the experience for clients, visitors and staff. The tone for the company is set in reception. For example, a tech company might want to communicate an informal culture focused on openness and interaction, while a private investment bank could value discretion and privacy.

It is important to know what atmosphere to create and for this to be built upon a solid use case for your business requirements, both now and in the future. In a world where lines are blurring between the informal and formal, and between work and play, businesses can often get confused by mimicking other brands or blindly adopting fashions in workplace design. This mostly results in inauthentic spaces that work against your business objectives.

We are finding that staff and clients are looking for businesses that are purposeful, with a clear social as well as commercial mission. Many businesses we work with do not just view their office as a container for people and furniture but as an opportunity to demonstrate the values and ambitions of their business.

As well as illustrating the abstract values of a brand, the workplace can bring your team and visitors closer to what you produce. In the office for the Monmouth Coffee Company, coffee roasters are in the same building as the office spaces, putting the process of making centre stage, with the sustainably sourced coffee beans (and their wonderful aromas) inextricably linked to the workplace culture.

If you swap coffee for broadcasting, a similar tactic is used in designs for the BBC Cymru Wales HQ in Cardiff, which is currently under way. The building is in the heart of Cardiff, allowing the audience to walk into the broadcast centre and see people at work making media content, creating a new visual connection between the producer and consumer of content.

Whether your output is broadcasting or coffee, your office can bring your product – and its making – closer to the people that matter most.

The amenities and spaces you offer to your staff, clients and visitors say a lot about your business. Traditionally, clients would be ushered straight into the boardroom for formal meetings and would see little of the culture of the company.

However, clients are spending much more time in consultants’ offices, with a range of co-working and amenity spaces that encourage client and consultant teams to work collaboratively alongside each other outside the boardroom. The office is now an opportunity to forge closer bonds, re-envisioning clients as collaborative partners and reshaping the services and experience a company can offer.

These are some of the questions that need to be answered to establish the core values and objectives of a project. This clear and cogent direction can act as a project compass, allowing a company to navigate difficult decisions and arrive at a workplace that is more than just fashion or whimsy, but is bound to the personality, brand and values of a business.

Helen Berresford RIBA

Partner, Head of ID:SR