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Give your HQ some heart: Creating branded workplaces

These days, if your office space isn’t a true reflection of your brand, you’ve missed a big opportunity to connect with your audience.

March 02, 2018 |
Stantec Blog

Today, branding is everywhere. If you ask Google, you can find all kinds of pithy quotes about what branding is or what a good brand does. To me, branding is a series of elements that make people associate an emotion with an entity. Think of Amazon, Volkswagen, Lululemon, or W Hotels. Now, think of what type of office space those companies might have. What does it look like? What does it feel like to be an employee there? Or a client? Spend a moment at a company’s headquarters and you should understand what that company is all about and where it’s going.

Today’s office is a three-dimensional calling card. If your office space isn’t a true reflection of your brand, you’ve missed an opportunity to connect your story to your audience in meaningful and lasting ways.

At Stantec, our multidisciplinary teams have been collectively creating spaces that reflect and evolve our clients’ brands for years. The projects below highlight three different but successful approaches to creating brand impact at the head office.


IBM Mass Lab’s wall graphics utilize employee photography to provide the staff with a sense of ownership in their workplace.


A culture of collaboration (at IBM Mass Lab)

When IBM recognized that collaboration amongst its software brands was key to its evolution, the firm consolidated six Massachusetts divisions. The result was a new workplace for 3,400 employees with more square footage than Boston’s Fenway Park. Recognizing the need to break the large spaces into smaller ones, our interior design team created “neighborhoods” and within those, several areas designated for graphics. That’s where my team came in. Our challenge was to make those graphics reflect not only IBM as an organization but the people who work there. To reinforce IBM’s global influence, we started by identifying all the cities around the world where IBM has a prominent presence. Next, we curated a selection of panoramic photos that captured the spirit of each place. Those panoramic photos were then recreated as mosaics, each one comprised of thousands of smaller snapshots. The best part? Many of the snapshots were contributed by IBM employees. 

The takeaway? The value of most companies is their people. Capture the energy and passion of your employees, and you’ll go a long way towards expressing company identity.


At Clarks North America headquarters, a path through the physical space represents the company’s history and growth.


A forward journey (at Clarks North America Headquarters)

On the opposite end of the brand spectrum lies a work space designed for shoe brand Clarks by my interior design colleagues here in Boston. Steve Basque and team created a headquarters that both honors the shoemaker’s heritage and propels it into the future. To accomplish this, they created a path through the physical space—it starts at a glowing beacon of an atrium to a “main street” entry floor, up a grand staircase, and to a living room. In doing so, the physical journey reflects the brand’s own 200-year history as well as its philosophy, that shoes aren’t fashion until they’re worn by people. In a space where every design element was selected for its ability to contribute to a subtle backdrop that puts the focus on the product, the team made a powerful statement in an understated way.

The takeaway? Brand pillars like history and hand-craftsmanship can be just as effective in a new office building as they are in an old warehouse. 


The singular mission of ONE is represented in its minimalist and monochromatic work space design.


A singular mission (at ONE Campaign)

The international non-profit organization ONE seeks to eliminate extreme poverty and disease, particularly in Africa. Before my colleague Pablo Quintana and his team designed a new office for ONE, they lead the organization through a soul-searching exercise to explore a central question: What do our people do each day? The result is a space that demonstrates to visitors and staff exactly who the organization is and what it values. Anchored by two unique common areas, the new office emphasizes unity and collaboration. Inspired by its black and white logo and the style of its memorable ad campaign, the overall look for ONE is minimalist, monochromatic, high-contrast, and direct. The look aligns with the organization’s aesthetic and the singularity of its mission.

The takeaway? Before we can talk details like private offices, meeting rooms, finishes or fixtures, we need help the client and its employees discover and define who they are and what they value. As branding becomes increasingly more important to all types of organizations, we look forward to finding even more creative opportunities to infuse workplaces with reflections of our clients’ core values.

Stantec Blog | Stantec

Published by global design firm Stantec, this eclectic blog features viewpoints, insights, and explanations from Stantec architects, engineers, and designers, on a range of issues impacting the fabric of our communities. Our contributors share their thoughts about design trends, emerging technologies, vexing challenges, and inspired solutions. For more blog posts, visit:

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