Four Things to Avoid When Designing Your Own Office
The task of creating office space for your own design company can be daunting and energizing at the same time. It's an opportunity to discover some harsh truths about what people really think about coming to work each day. This can feel like tough love. At the same time it is a chance to set a new horizon for excellence in your firm and create the next chapter in what hopefully will be your shared vision for the immediate future.
As you would for any client, you filter through various requests and preferences, set goals, and execute an accepted vision. In the case of your own office, however, you are making decisions knowing that you are working toward an environment that you will cohabit on a daily basis with some whose individual requests cannot be realized. Who wants to bump into even one person on a daily basis they may have disappointed? This can be a soul crushing thought, and one that any caring design team should not take lightly.
As leaders and experts in workplace design, it is necessary to put our money where our mouth is. We must design spaces for ourselves that showcase our talents and beliefs: spaces we can show to clients with pride as examples of the very environments we envision for them. We must also look to the future and be willing to be the test labs that we as experts convincingly ask our own clients to be. We must exemplify future thinking. These are goals we believe we accomplished in designing our new Seattle Office, creating a space that nurtures creativity hand in hand with efficiency.
We just passed our one-year mark in this new space, and have had a chance to really settle in. As I reflect on the design process and the outcome, here are four things I suggest avoiding if you find yourself designing a space for your own team:
1. Don’t Stretch the Schedule
Don't stretch the schedule just because there are so many design voices to be heard. On the contrary, set an overly aggressive schedule for input and design. This really focuses people's attention on highest and best value for creativity and efficiency and helps people to prioritize their input. Defining a tight schedule will help you avoid scope creep and schedule creep.
2. Don’t Stray from Your Company’s Core Philosophy
Don't lose sight of your company's core philosophy. DLR Group’s is to "elevate the human experience through design." We are a design firm. Act like one. It is easy to get caught up in the latest shiny object or trend in the design world, everything from the latest color to the latest technology. The design team should ask the question of all the goals that are set, "are we living our own philosophy?" Set, written goals should be posted where everyone can see them and review them at every single project meeting. There should be a clear design narrative to your ideas, and a value reason for all your decisions, and they should be effortless to communicate and obvious in the result.
3. Don’t Try to Please Everyone
Don't say yes to everyone and avoid trying to make everyone happy. It's not possible. Make this statement early on. Let the office know that the design team is listening to all ideas and voices early in the design process. These ideas will help to shape a direction and create specific goals that bring value to the design, but not everyone will get everything they ask for. Prepare people for this while creating an environment of trust where people believe the team will execute the collective vision. Yes is not always the answer. In fact, in the design world a conscious no is a far more powerful word. Iteration toward excellence is a basket full of "no, that could be better" conversations.
4. Design to the Budget
There is no money tree secretly kept from view by your executive team. All projects have budgets but this doesn't mean you cannot create an astounding, energetic and passionate space for the future. In fact, that's the skill and job of any design team. Be mindful that there is no bottomless pit of money although your team will be peppered with questions like "why can't we have this and that." As ideas come pouring in, use the goals set together to filter them.
Winning a design commission means leading from the front, handling discord, collaborating, and most certainly advising with the expert opinion and craft that led to the win. This is the delicate and necessary dance of design leadership, the fine line between confidence and arrogance. Your design leadership is expected by clients and is no less expected when designing a space for design professionals. Defining an “envelope” within which decisions will be made, building trust, exemplifying creativity, and when the time comes advancing a solution that you really believe in will elevate the human experience through design.