Our office is our identity.’ This catchphrase is all too familiar to anyone given the task of designing an office space apt for employees and impressive for visitors.
Putting together a workplace that communicates an organization’s corporate mission is a challenging task—yet surprisingly often left to non-professionals.
For creatively driven businesses such as advertising agencies or companies selling branded consumer products, inspiration for branding a workspace is abundant. Sandeep Khosla’s office design for Nike (see Page 12) is an excellent example of how brand-positioning can be extended into a physical environment. But, say, you are a BPO, or an insurance company: How does the professional conceive a look that is lively and yet relevant to your industry? Signage and graphic elements are favourite devices. Cost-effective and versatile, they can provide creative flexibility to the most mundane workplace.
Signs of the times
Signage comes in many shapes and sizes, and is one of the most potent tools for corporate communication.
It can be “read” independently of the building’s architecture, or it could be designed to interact with the building and the furniture. In the latter case, it could involve colour-coding, where activity areas are defined by designated colours of furniture and flooring.
GlaxoSmithKline’s office in Mumbai
Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline used its “Healthy Heart” logo in strong red, orange and yellow as inspiration for its Mumbai office. Designers Rajiv Shroff Associates treated each floor differently, planning departments, workspaces and utilities in a manner that broke up the once overly compartmentalized space. By holistically colour-coding vertical and horizontal surfaces, including flooring, workstations and walls, the corporate identity was established while leveraging existing architectural features and furniture, yet avoiding a uncomfortably gaudy environment.
Brighten up the BPO
The sprawling area of a large BPO can become terribly monotonous for employees. Kapadia Associates demonstrate that graphic elements can provide visual relief without resorting to overly bright colours, which may be painful or distracting.
The walls of Eticentre’s technical support centre in Mumbai were painted with random lowercase letters that expanded the space and subtly reinforced the youthful nature of the workforce.
Cognizant Technology Solutions’ office in Chennai
A different identity
Graphic elements need not be just aesthetic; they can also educate or provoke thought and conversation. Varsha & Pradeep’s design for IT company Cognizant Technology Solutions in Chennai included 200 “text panels” of poetry, literature and local folklore. These were intended as “zones for contemplation” where employees could take a break and find inspiration—an innovative alternative to the water cooler—as well as a clever device to distinguish the company from competitors in the industry.
People like to mark their territories, however temporarily. Personalizing one’s workspace allows employees to develop an emotional attachment to their daily habitat. Yet, there is an inherent tension—the space is physically inhabited by the employees, but does not belong to them. Facility mangers know only too well that there can be a fine line between personalizing and vandalizing!
Eticentre: A BPO office in Mumbai
UK-based insurance company Churchill came up with an innovative solution for its Indian back office in Gurgaon, in association with architects SWBI: personalization within allotted boundaries. Employees were encouraged to display photographs, accessories and trophies —within display systems for each cluster of workstations.
Aparna Piramal Raje is director, BP Ergo. Radhika Desai is a Mumbai-based interior architect.
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