The right office design looks good to clients, staff

An agency's office suggests more than meets the eye. Its layout is oftentimes planned to reflect the firm's brand and culture and, in turn, contribute to the attraction and retention of both clients and employees.

An agency's office suggests more than meets the eye. Its layout is oftentimes planned to reflect the firm's brand and culture and, in turn, contribute to the attraction and retention of both clients and employees.

"Making an investment in our design pays back," says Mike Clifford, founder and president of Clifford PR. "We have to show [clients] that we have a high design IQ to speak [their] language and engender [their] trust."

The agency, largely focused on fashion and design, maintains offices in LA and New York, each physically representing the city in which it resides while incorporating clients' work and products.

Clifford tasked an LA architecture client to help design a modern space touting sustainable fiber material to reflect its work with green clients. A New York architecture client was hired to design a new floor in a more industrial-looking Big Apple office for its recent merger with Bratskeir.

"Many clients... reference the fact that our space puts them at ease or the fact that our space stands out in sharp contrast to other agencies," he says.

The LA office, located in Hollywood, also provides clients with an event venue. They like the design, location, and cost savings, Clifford adds. The outdoor conference area recently hosted an event for the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA.

Recruitment tactics prompted Fred Bateman, founder of tech-focused PR firm the Bateman Group, to invest in the design of his office. He was delightfully surprised, however, when, like Clifford, he found it provided an edge in competitive new business pitches.

Mojix, a current client that wanted to check out the space and infrastructure during its agency selection process, "felt tech people should be creative," he says.

Customized by paint that matches the agency's colors and materials like plastic, metal, and leather, the office exudes an industrial look to appeal to its tech clientele.

Bateman also used an open-space layout to establish a more "democratic" setup where the entire staff could enjoy a good view, and junior staffers can watch senior staffers conduct business.

"PR is the type of thing that's team-oriented," Bateman explains.

On the flip side, Bateman notes that clients, especially startups, and employees have expressed concerns about how much money the agency pours into design.

This has forced him to divulge information about his budget-friendly furniture and explain why it's important for both clients and employees.

Bateman is not alone in his belief that a smart setup fosters collaboration and creative thinking.

Dushka Zapata, an EVP in Ogilvy PR's San Francisco office (which includes an open workspace and prominent red wall), suggests that "dŽcor is another way to translate brand experience.

"Red is the color of our logo," adds Zapata. "It's a vibrant color... [promoting] energy and life force. [Clients] have mentioned that it's distinctive. It's so Ogilvy."

Key points:
  • An investment in design can provide an agency with an edge for new business
  • Open space enables junior staffers to watch and learn from senior staffers
  • An agency with relevant design and location can double as an event venue for clients

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