15 Jul Unpopular opinion: there is more to design than aesthetic
There is more to design than modern finishes and expensive fabrics, and the client is not always right.
On my podcast, Work Life By Design, I talk about how a beautiful workplace doesn’t equal a functional one.
People do what they’ve always done because it’s familiar and comfortable.
And they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know there is a better way to design their workplace to encourage collaboration and get more productivity from their people.
It’s easy to just take the laundry list of wants from a client and make them fit, regardless of whether they will work. But as designers, it’s our responsibility to challenge the status quo and provide a workplace design that enables potential.
The COMUNiTI designed Davidson workplace incorporates functionality and beautiful design
Image: Mindi Cooke
There are a range of factors to consider when designing a workplace that works.
1. Layout – you need to understand the layout and adjust for elements that inhibit communication and flow. Maybe it’s an unusual or split core, too many rooms/offices, barriers/walls, a curved floor plate; the list goes on. Understanding how elements of the layout contribute to the flow of the communication is crucial to adjusting design.
2. Who are your people? – understanding the roles, tasks, personalities, and behaviours of the people in your organisation underpin crucial design decisions.
3. Cues and connection – whether we realise it or not, our workplace gives us subtle cues as to how we behave. Designing a workplace that incorporates these cues and connects spaces that flow through provides your people with a roadmap for behaviour, as well as a space that works. A communal meeting space like a kitchen, that connects with the collaboration spaces that flows through to workspaces with quiet spaces on the outside gives a clear message of where particular types of work can be conducted and where communication can flow.
4. Function and space – what do your people need to do their job? Do you need a desk for everybody? What percentage of your workforce has adopted a flexible working model? Which teams work well together and should be placed near each other? What mix of collaboration space and quiet space will suit the kind of work that needs to be done. Ensuring the right mix of function and design allows your workplace to support your people to achieve your business goals.
5. Brand – it’s more than a logo slapped on a wall. Why are you in business? What are your underlying values and purpose? What is the experience you want people to have when they do business with you? How do you want them to feel? Design can influence this experience.
6. Wellbeing – nope, not just the fruit box. Providing spaces for your people to regroup, have quiet time for thought, respite and solo work allows them to look after their emotional wellbeing. Employers who value wellbeing have a much easier time attracting and retaining top talent.
7. Technology – flexible working shouldn’t be hard. Making sure your technology is up-to-date and enables your team to be able to do their jobs is a given.
All of these elements combine to deliver an experience to your employees. And it’s this experience that will see your employees either become engaged or disengaged and leave.
It is the physical representation of what your organisation stands for, the space that communicates how we do business, how we care about each other, and how the organisation is prepared to support and enable their people to do their best work.
Listen to the full episode of the Work Life By Design podcast on workplace design here.
There’s so much more to this story; listen to the full podcast episode here, or search for Work Life By Design on your favourite podcast app.