How to Weave Branding into your Office Design

From entryways to collision zones: what messaging matters in the workplace?

Traditional workplaces included some basic office branding in the lobby and reception areas, but that about did it back in the day in places like Sterling Cooper & Partners and Zenith Bank. Nowadays with open offices creating an emphasis on hip common areas, where and how do we layer in messaging for the overall branding, visitor feel, internal company philosophies, and specific teams? 

1. Map the natural pathway through the open office

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This pathway should match the natural journey that veteran employees take to give an office tour, starting at the entryway and usually stopping along the way at the major collision zones. You’ll want to note what spaces are most inspiring and impactful (key for branding!) and which are less so (or maybe more calming and quiet). When the tour starts to peter off because higher volume desk areas begin, then you can mark that as well as a good place for specific team messaging to go.

Haven’t designed your office yet?

As you work with your team to draw the open office, make sure there is a clear pathway through the main sections of the office from entryway through various collision points, envisioning an office tour happening and hitting key spaces along the way. The office layout should help frame a story as you walk through that the branding and design elements will add to.

 2. List out the messages you want people to take away from the office space

You’ll want to identify your messaging priorities from brand to company to the breakout teams.

What are the messages from your external brand that you want showcased throughout the workplace? Whatever your branding stands for, your open office design should echo that same representation. Your employees, customers, visitors, and partners can process the same messages when they walk through your office. For Angelist, a home base for startups and their interested investors and recruits, that meant bringing to life two of the tech startup masterminds Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in a wall mural at the collision zone in the cafeteria. The mural’s creator Debuti explains in more detail:

The main idea behind this mural was making a tribute to some of the most influential characters of the tech industry, who also contributed to making Silicon Valley the world’s tech capital. We picked one of the most famous photos of Jobs and Wozniak — in their garage with the first Mac. And since the piece was going to be located in the cafeteria area of the office, we decided it would be a fun touch to add some coffee mugs in their hands and paint them with a very relaxed attitude. The texture of the mural is also pixelated resembling the early stages of the tech industry and was painted it on the wall with 3 layers of colors (light gray, dark gray and black).


– Debuti

3. Prioritize the messages and map them back to the open hotspots in the office

Determine where messages should go and how they should be designed. Depending on the vibe of each space, the message should try and match in the way it’s designed and produced. Start with the higher priority pieces first and then layer in the mid-tier and lower priority ones, so you know you’ll find a home for the most important elements first.

Loud, brand-centric communication should go in those high traffic areas like the entryway and collision zones, as those are where branding matters most. Quieter internal company mantras can live in more calming rooms and spaces. Team specific messaging can be more utilitarian, like on a TV screen near a pillar or central wall right next to or amidst a team, especially as it may need to communicate important day to day information.

Much like traditional marketing, it can also be helpful to incorporate experiential office design for certain spaces or collision zones to really drive home a special feeling with which visitors can actually interact. Some bigger brands will have museum or gallery elements in their lobby and reception areas, as an example.

As you map things out with your team and agency, do a physical walk-through of the open office space, passing by each collision zone, to really envision the look and feel. Focus on each individual thing and then how the branding all ties together and what the final takeaway is. Bring colleagues on a walk through who have a good handle on the brand and aren’t afraid to share their opinions. Try design ideas out on friends to see how new visitors would react to the space.

If you do it right, your open office design will inspire employees to stay with the company longer, work more creatively, and increase happiness. The layout will also encourage potential customers to sign on and partners to get more involved in cross-promoting your own products and services. Visits from friends, press, and recruits will boost the brand ethos and reassure onlookers that the internal workings match the facade. The branding of the office can prop up your business for years to come.

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