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What does your building say about your brand?



So, you want to impress your customers, send the right message and attract and retain top talent. If your organisation has a physical presence and is a real-world workplace, your premises are an important part of your brand messaging and identity. Keep reading to discover the key things to consider when incorporating architecture and interior design into your brand identity.

As an architecture student I wrote my thesis on brand identity in architecture and throughout my career in commercial workplace design I have applied the principles of brand identity into the projects that I have completed for clients. If you are worried about what your premises say about you then read on to find out what they say and how to turn that to your advantage rather than leaving it to chance.

 

We are a visual species and we unknowingly make thousands of judgements a day based on what we see around us. We are constantly surveying the world around us for visual information that tells us what to expect from any environment we walk into. The way this affects brand identity is complex. As people navigate around your presence both online, in the media and in the physical world they make judgements based on what they see. Is your company high profile? Exclusive? Medium or low budget?

 

Here are a few principles related to the way that your choice of architecture and interior design impacts your brand:

Location, Location, Location


The old adage rings true and the location of your workplace is a huge part of your organisation’s brand messaging. Are you located in a historic building in a well-healed neighbourhood or in an industrial estate on the edge of a post-industrial town? Neither is right or wrong, but they both have very specific connotations and therefore brand messaging. One could speak to people of wealth, stability and have an up-market air, perfect for a company that markets itself at high-end clients. The other says, we keep our overheads low to ensure that we deliver a cost-effective product to our cost-conscious clients.


The choice of building itself speaks volumes. Age, period, style and context of buildings all have inbuilt visual clues about the occupants. A building that looks tired from the outside probably presents its occupants as a bit threadbare too.


Materials speak volumes


Materiality is also an important factor. We all have inbuilt preconceptions about materials that we encounter in our urban environment. Stone denotes longevity and gravitas, glass and steel reads as modern and efficient. Reclaimed and industrial seems edgy and cool. Luxury is portrayed through materials, as is frugality. Think about how you judge a restaurant based on the finishes in the toilets.


A good example is supermarket design. We all have our favoured supermarkets, but we may not instantly recognise the clever in-built messaging that projects the brand qualities and values. Supermarkets that want you to believe they offer the cheapest prices will have the most stripped-back internal finishes. Basic=affordable. Those that want to entice you to pay more will use more upmarket finishes, better lighting and more wood. The colours used in the branding are also important visual clues. Primary colours tend to denote the lowest common denominator and therefore the most accessible brands. Think of Tesco and their red, white and blue branding. Richer colours tend to denote richness, think of Waitrose and their dark green branding.


From a young age we are taught to interpret these visual clues and so we are all hard-wired to understand them and follow the unwritten rules they convey.

White and polished = clean
Rough and industrial = robust
Plain and low cost = affordable

People love stories


Buildings in our urban context also carry stories with them. We have a collective consciousness and memory of buildings whether they are ancient or historic and have always been there or if they are modern and mark a particular turning point in the perception of a street or district such as buildings that spark regeneration.

As designers, we love to weave those stories into our work so that those memories and visual cues add to the richness of the experience of encountering and using those buildings.


What’s in a name?


Words have power and the name of a building or development is important to consider.


Think of these two words: Mammal                 Tiger

They can both describe the same thing but have very different connotations and associations. When naming The Garment Factory, an office development in Glasgow’s Merchant City, I thought carefully about the words making up the name. The building’s history was as a clothing factory and warehouse. Garment is a specific word relating to clothing, but it also makes you think of the Garment District in New York. Factories are places of creativity and productivity. Even ‘The’ denotes that this building is singular, one-of-a-kind. The development was aimed at tech start-ups and creatives therefore it would perhaps not have hit the right note if it was called Shirt Warehouse or Knicker Factory. The name also tied into the building’s stripped-back industrial aesthetic and worked cohesively as one brand identity.


Authenticity is key


While we are busy making a thousand internal judgments a day, we come to trust what we believe we see. This applies to brands. As we encounter brands, we experience them and over time we begin to form opinions about those brands and, the ones we like we begin to trust. Authenticity is key to trust, people are not easily fooled, and lack of authenticity will rarely translate into a positive impact for your brand. If you want to be in a funky brick-built former warehouse in a trendy part of town then look for the real deal, not the pastiche.


To recap, the location of your chosen premises is not just about convenience and access to transport but speaks volumes about your organisation. The style of building you occupy sends a message to your visitors and customers, sleek and modern or industrial and edgy. Materiality is important too, we read materials as we encounter them and associate brand values with them. Stories are powerful as are names and finally, authenticity is key.
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