How Design Can Transform Culture

Friday September 17th, 2021

Author: Staples Professional Inc.

From the simplicity of Dieter Rams’ designs for Braun, to Research in Motion’s team that launched the first BlackBerry in 1999, contemporary design has, and will continue to, impact culture, just as culture impacts design at home, and at work.

“A space can communicate brand, culture and suggest a new way of behaving,” says Jan Johnson, VP of Workplace Strategy at Allsteel, a company that designs furnishings and architectural products for a wide range of environments.

At the office, we’ve already seen a design transition — personal desks and private cubicles to plexiglass and hot desks. And just as it happened during previous periods of cultural upheaval, quality design is leading the way, again.

Mobility is at the forefront

Nearly two decades ago, work life as we then knew it was dramatically upended as private offices and cozy cubicles were replaced by open-plan office floors. Initially developed in the 1960s as a way to free up workers (and their creativity), open-plan offices reached their zenith just before the pandemic hit when Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry designed a massive, open-plan layout for Facebook that sprawled over 430,000 square feet.

Gehry’s design — and those like it — offered the perfect solution to not just mobility within offices, but between offices as well. Indeed, without the rise of the open-plan design, the entire co-working movement would never have taken shape. Organizations like Staples Studio thrive not simply because they provide an alternative workspace, but because they cultivate a community-based approach to work-life rooted in openness and mobility.

The future of office design and what comes next

Unsurprisingly, many large tech companies are already leading the way. According to Fast Company, Salesforce, Spotify and Okta are all redesigning their offices to include more collaboration space, flexible seating, technology, and quiet zones.

Also expect to see designated “neighbourhoods” for specific groups to ideate and execute projects as permanent desks become things of the past. “Many employees might attach a sense of identity to their seat, so it’s important to replace it in some way when you remove it,” says Johnson. “Assigning neighbourhoods is a great way to give employees a space to physically attach to, even if it’s not just theirs.”

Furniture will also have to be more functional, including pieces with built-in power supplies so folks can keep tech charged at all times. Workers can also expect more buzzers and scanners as keeping track of employee numbers and whereabouts (and their health) becomes crucial.

There will also be an increased focus on biophilic design, which brings nature and the natural world directly into the office. This can mean everything from new outdoor spaces in office buildings to additional plant-life and greenery inside. “We’re drawn to nature and it’s proven that incorporating plants into our surroundings can help reduce our blood pressure,” says Johnson. Not only is biophilic design healthier, it also nods towards the types of environments workers created for themselves at home during the height of COVID — environments many people will want to replicate in some form back in office life. Because for many of us, the goal isn’t to simply forget that COVID ever happened, but to learn what we can from this era to create a new standard for office-life best practices.

Is your workspace future-proof? Staples Professional’s Workplace Design Services offers furniture and design solutions for small (over 20 employees), medium and large businesses. We work collaboratively with clients to provide them with functional, stylish pieces from trusted partners that are tailored to their needs. Learn more about our process and how you can get started by booking a free design consultation.

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