Design Isn't All Fun and Games. Or Is It?

When we initially engage our clients about a project, we like to start with a visioning session rich with imagery of different spaces, contextual photos to inspire them, and samples of physical materials and textures. It helps to start a dialogue about the type of space they envision and the overall vernacular we should strive for when designing the space.

On a recent project for a young start-up company, our client lamented that they did not wish to have whimsical “google” type spaces. Their target employee typically holds a PhD, is in their mid-30s or older, and could have their playtime at home or away from the office. They saw their space as a sophisticated workplace that not only catered to their employees and their science, but also to the investors who would visit this space.

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After occupying that newly designed space for only a year, the start-up was blossoming with an additional 60+ hires, and was almost bursting at their newly-built walls. This new growth prompted the design team and the start-up leadership to engage a larger group of employees in the design of the additional space.

This time around, we worked within some of the constraints set forth in that initial visioning session, but found through conversations with the new employee groups that they did desire a little whimsy and fun in their workspace.  Employees leaned towards more graphic wall coverings and fabrics. There were requests for things like ping pong tables, more dynamic meeting spaces, and unexpected furniture.

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Not unlike our own office re/fresh, it’s critical that we ask the right questions of a diverse group of users in order to uncover what people really want – not just what we think they might want. We’re most likely to deliver a project that meets the needs of employees at every level when we follow an open, inclusive design process.

We assured the leadership of this young start-up that we could create an environment that lends itself to different working styles without going over the top. We could design a flexible workplace so that employees could experiment and find new ways of working and having fun in their space. And perhaps, in that exploration, they just might find a rather sophisticated walnut conference table that is a perfect dimension for a game of ping pong.