Can Office Design Shape A Corporate Culture?
By Anthony Giordano
January 10, 2017
It was the great business strategist Peter Drucker who stated, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” This is probably most obvious in service businesses, but the impact of corporate culture, office design and corporate identity on the brand experience and the general health of a business is significant across a wide array of commercial, government and non-profit organizations.
Very often, the leader will set the culture. Think of Steve Jobs and his compulsive obsession with how people interacted with his products, how it became a cultural touchstone at Apple and how that led to the emergence of Apple as the world’s most valuable company. Virgin is another example of an effervescent, intelligent leader living and sharing a personal philosophy that becomes the innate identity and culture of a large global organization. In other cases, it’s not one person but a shared mission that attracts, qualifies, motivates and retains a type of individual. Greenpeace is a case in point where the culture—rooted in a passionate defense of the environment—is the basis of the global brand, the global organization and the global support base.
For other brands, design is at the heart of its culture. Design is obviously central to the fashion, furnishing and architectural communities, where brands like Eames, Chanel and Conran have achieved icon status. But design can also be at the core of corporate cultures outside of these industries. If we think about design as shaping how customers, team members and other constituents interact with the brand, then every interaction is a brand experience. Every interaction is a corporate design opportunity.
From brand design and corporate identity, to office design and décor, strong brand design drives creativity and innovation. That’s good for the company and good for those who work there.
Within our organization we strive to match the design and innovation we bring to our products with the design we bring to emulate and build our brand. Every detail is studied. We also consider how the spaces we work in contribute to delivering on-brand results. We believe that if our work spaces are better designed, use our products, and achieve the aesthetic of our brand, then we’ll have a better understanding of the brand and make decisions with good brand intuition.
Design = Innovation
Design is a rejection of the status quo. Design means not using the default. It can be disruptive or incremental, but it’s fundamentally a refusal to accept anything as finished or good enough. By instituting a comprehensive organizational understanding of design, a business becomes innately and universally innovative.
Design = Empathy
A commitment to design requires empathy with those who interact with the brand. Empathy starts with understanding who your constituents are, how they use your product or service, and what external or environmental forces impact their use of the product or service. A commitment to design therefore requires humility, research, thoughtfulness and determination to address needs your customers may not have yet recognized.
Design = Differentiation
Design is essential to effective segmentation, positioning and differentiation. But it goes beyond just offering something unique. That difference must be clearly communicated and its value emphasized. Consistent and memorable corporate identity and brand design carry that value. Innovation is central to product marketing, and differentiation is central to brand marketing. Design is central to both.
Design = Profitability
By being differentiated through corporate identity and design, brands can control their business models much better than commodity providers. Well-branded companies provide unique value, can command better pricing, and support a healthier business. Dyson has done an excellent job of making design the core of its culture and today commands its own destiny in a market where price pressure has driven mass commoditization.
Design = Longevity
Brands are not loved for features and benefits. Yes, products are sold, used and appreciated on these attributes, but brands endure based on what they evoke. When you’re in the architectural and construction markets as Legrand is, your products are incorporated into larger designs by architects and designers seeking to achieve a look that evokes a place, a time, a feeling or brand experience on impact and over a sustained period of time. Beyond the core technology, we carefully consider colors, materials and style to give architects and designers the ingredients they need to create a sustained brand experience through design, décor and even office decorating ideas.
Design = Unity
The simple act of committing to a universal cause such as design unifies an organization under one flag, under a single culture. By carefully considering design in the workplace—such as comfortable and efficient office design and planning open spaces with easy access to phone charging—shows employees that the company is in tune with their needs. The Morgan Hotel Group, for example, was conceived with a ruthless commitment to design at its cultural core. Under Ian Schrager, the group introduced the world to boutique designer hotels, and by extending the commitment universally, they attracted and motivated design-minded staffers who helped propel the business forward.
Different by Design
At Legrand, our global organization is united by a commitment to design. We have a purposeful cultural predilection to disrupt our own best ideas and to revisit our best designs. Design is what unifies our employees and separates us from our competition. Design is the very core of our culture. It’s what we do.