A new framework to enhance collaboration with your design team

Many companies want to remodel their workspace in the aftermath of the pandemic, but find the design process abstract and obtuse. A new report suggests how designing can go further to meet corporate objectives

At a time of growing uncertainty and complexity around the future role of the office space, clients need more guidance and clarity around how the workplace design process could lead to desired organisational outcomes.

That’s the verdict of a new report produced by UK design specialist Area, part of the Fourfront Group of commercial workspace companies, in partnership with WORKTECH Academy.

The report, ‘Design Matters: A Framework for Designing the New Workplace’, presents a new classification system for designing aimed at reducing the mystique and ambiguity around the process.

‘We noticed that the global conversation around the post Covid-19 workplace was heavily weighted towards what needed to happen in the areas of technology and management, whereas design was relatively under-represented in the debate,’ explains Area group design director James Geekie.

Chain of decision-making

To focus attention on the design process itself, and on how the chain of decision-making with clients might need to change in the future, a research programme was set up. The study reviewed the literature in the field, developed new design scenarios through a creative workshop, and validated ideas in an expert roundtable.

A key aim of developing a new design framework was to understand what combination of design factors would support companies in bringing people back to the office and reviving productivity.

The report explains: ‘Amid emerging scenarios for a consumer-led workplace in which employees act more like workplace customers and decide on the best option for them, office design should be a key differentiator. The office’s newly minted role as a container for culture and brand – you go there for connection, community and corporate values – also makes design decisions more important.’

New classification framework

The ‘Design Matters’ report looks at the corporate requirements for better design  – from reducing stress and boosting creativity to projecting culture and rebuilding social interaction – before going on to present a new classification system for designing. This model has four sequential levels of design factors to aid decision-making:

Drivers: Underlying organisational factors that form the building blocks for the project, defining the success criteria and desired outcomes, and should be negotiated with the client at the outset to form a solid foundation for the detailed brief (such as culture, ethics, cost, sustainability and so on).

Essentials: Baseline design factors that that provide the support structure around the project and are fundamental to any project brief (such as location, air quality, temperature, acoustic principles, and so on).

Activators: Intermediate design factors that move beyond functional requirements to bring the overall design concept alive, adding life or activity to a space (such as lighting design, way finding, spatial layout, amenities, furniture and structures).

‘Top-level design factors that help to communicate messages about culture and values…’

Identifiers: Top-level design factors that help to communicate and signify messages about the culture, character, identity and values of the organisation (such as use of colour, materiality, branding, biophilia, artefacts and art).

According to Jeremy Myerson, Director of WORKTECH Academy, who contributed to the report, the value of the new framework is in ‘making the design process less abstract, more visible and easier for clients to collaborate with their design team. As companies remodel their workspace to address the new world of work, this publication is both timely and relevant. ’

Access the full ‘Design Matters’ report here.

Area is part of the Fourfront Group and a Global Partner of WORKTECH Academy.
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