As we’ve mentioned previously in our blog posts, the past few years of the pandemic have drastically changed the way we work. There’s been a huge shift in focus to the employee and customer experience, specifically their health and happiness, and right now, a workplace must satisfy many different needs. You may have heard the term “Experiential Design” used lately as organizations consider the employee and customer experience in their space, but what exactly does it mean? Today we are tackling this issue and how it can be used to maximize and maintain employee and customer happiness.
What is Experiential Design?
At the most basic level, experiential design is about creating a great experience for all who occupy and frequent a specific space. It’s important to define the specific user group for your project type. For example, in terms of the modern office and workplace, those individuals are clients and employees. The goal behind experiential design is for each user to form an impression as they interact with a space. This is accomplished by stellar and collaborative design. A couple of questions architects and interior designers ask when incorporating experiential design into their projects are: how will an individual feel in the space? What will they see? How will the space leave an impression on them?
In a corporate office environment, your office space is the first impression that an employee or client makes on your brand as a whole. Experiential design is all about constructing these moments in a user’s journey throughout the design process so that they walk away feeling confident about their decision to work or do business with your organization. It connects people to places. According to a leader in global design and architecture, Gensler, “the human experience must be the driving force behind every element of a space––from the design of physical space to the qualities of interaction, expectation, and intention.”
The immediate environment of a space creates a unique experience and every element within the built environment can influence the outcome on the user. There’s a major difference between the experiential design and the more standard design practices. While some designers might create a space-based solely on personal expertise, preference, or aesthetics, experiential design looks at how humans interact within a space and how the built environment provides the best journey for your specific project needs.
How to Accomplish Experiential Design
While experiential design at its core requires a deep look at how people will interact in a space, it goes above and beyond to emotionally connect people. Everything from graphics, signage, and 3D design elements, to lighting and brand messaging, are a few ways experiential design accomplishes this emotional connection.
Understand Your Needs
The first step of experiential design is to develop a thorough understanding of the needs of each user. For an office, those users are the client and the employee. Inclusivity is essential; the designed space needs to cater to the experience best suiting everyone that will come into contact with your space. So, how can you go about discovering and addressing everyone’s needs? One way is to host a strategic planning workshop with the user (your employees, clients, or community members) to identify their specific needs, goals, and desires for the space. Provide them with a road map of what it will take to achieve their ideal space. Lead them through the desired experience of the space to help inform design decisions.
Create Shared, Flexible Spaces
In general, the workplace is becoming more flexible for the individual. If you want to work in a more group-oriented space, your organization provides that with open, collaborative spaces and seating. If you prefer a quieter, more focused day, your workplace accommodates by providing individual offices or single-person conference rooms. Each user of the space has the opportunity to make the office environment their own. By offering a diverse range of seating options or zones for different types of work, you can create a space that allows individuals who have been able to work from home to replicate the comfort and flexibility within a more formal office setting.
Reinforce The Brand & Tell Your Story
A big part of experiential design is delivering a consistent brand experience. From signage, branding, messaging, and 3D design elements, reinforcing who you are as a company is important for building and maintaining a positive user experience. Even something as seemingly inconsequential as paint color can be a great way to connect the space to your identity. Remember that your brand also has a story to tell. Historical graphic timelines, photography, and other displays that help tell the company story offer an opportunity for users to educate themselves on the origin of your organization. These historical displays provide a sense of place and longevity, and they can equip your users with meaningful information to help spark conversation.
Don’t forget about the WELL standards! While most employers know that employee happiness is important, not all employers know how to actually accomplish positive and productive culture in their workplace. The WELL Building Standard seeks to bridge that gap in knowledge enhancing the quality of life and promoting the physical, mental, and emotional health of the human body. WELL focuses on 10 concepts – air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal control, sound, materials, mind, community, and innovation. The WELL Building Standard has become a resource for the design industry to use when creating human-centered designs. It is more important than ever for employers to focus on the health and well-being of their workforce.
Example of the Experiential Design Process – Nocterra Workshop
The design team led Nocterra Brewing Co. through a discovery workshop to help them get a feel for what a potential new taproom could look like. Nocterra was presented with different precedent images, design concepts, and initial rough layouts to allow them to gravitate towards the look and feel they desired for their new space. From there, they were able to discover their needs, goals, and desires for the new location and how they will fit their brand. The team examined the user’s journey through the space, as well as the employee experience, to ensure the brewery is not only a fun place to eat and drink but also a fun and efficient place to work. The designers helped Nocterra identify all the ways patrons could interact with the surrounding park of the new location, and how their rooftop patio could be used for other city-wide events like Columbus Pride, the Food Truck Festival, and more!