Audra Canfield is Partner and Lead Designer at EdgeQuarters and LivingQuarters.
The first thing I do when we begin working with a new client is ask questions:
Who will work in this space? What kinds of people would you like to recruit to work here? What is the nature of the work they’ll be doing? Is it collaborative or individual in nature? How will productivity be measured? Who needs to meet with whom, and how often? Is it possible that this space will be used for other purposes in the not too distant future?
The easier we make it for people to do their work efficiently, the happier and more productive they will be, and the more attractive your company will become as a place for future recruits to land.
These questions might seem rather broad, coming from an interior designer.
But you don’t have to be an anthropologist (or even a management consultant!) to know that the culture of an organization and its physical environment are deeply interrelated, each informing the other. Where people work can make doing their jobs easier or harder, more or less pleasant. The easier we make it for people to do their work efficiently, the happier and more productive they will be, and the more attractive your company will become as a place for future recruits to land.
Consider, too, that any organization’s culture fits within a broader cultural context—geography.
Take, for example, our work with the world’s largest job search website, indeed.com. To date, our firm has designed workspaces in Toronto, Seattle, Austin, New York, and Stamford. Now, each of these offices shares elements of a common corporate culture, indeed’s. But what attracts a person to Seattle or Toronto is quite different from what draws one to New York or Connecticut. And, as you will see in our project portfolios, each of these workspaces reflects the city it occupies. They’re all recognizable as indeed offices, but you wouldn’t have any trouble guessing which one you were standing in!
Many of the challenges we face as designers reflect those that our clients deal with every day:
Which parts of the organization’s culture are fundamental? Which can bend to the unique wishes or requirements of each office? How can we design office space in Austin that will be attractive to staff we’d like to move in from New York, without losing what makes Austin such a special place to be? Or how might we make New York more appealing to someone who has grown accustomed to the Pacific Northwest without acknowledging the very different energy of Manhattan?
For us, it comes down to doing what we do best: listening.
We aren’t only designers, we are also businesspeople. We understand that design is about much more than a color palette, fabrics, and furniture. (Though those are certainly important in their own right!) As designers, we are, by definition, artists. And we tap into our creative sides with great enthusiasm! But part of our culture at EdgeQuarters is this: We are commissioned artists, creating the environment you want for your organization, one that suits your staff and your bottom line.