What Creative Workers Need in Their Office Interior Design.

Posted by: Mitchell H. Kirsch 1 comments

Ad agencies take their office interior design cues from a vast variety of influences. To see the variations in design among a number of top agency offices, it’s apparent that they take their inspiration from the gamut of human creativity.

Leo Burnett keeps it simple, with raw brick and timber; Moove Media incorporates plenty of “found” elements in their office interior design. Hemels van der Hart’s office interior design is modernity personified.

Still, the rules are not totally flexible, as the example of ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day shows. Agency head Jay Chiat decided to remove all personal spaces within the ad agency, putting virtual offices in their stead. People would check out laptops and phones at the front office, then plug into any available space.

But good spaces were hard to come by, and people became hard to locate. Productivity took a hit. TBWA’s open office became a byword of what not to do with ad agency office interior design.

At its core, ad agency work boils down to teamwork; agencies are made up of teams with a certain degree of interdependence. To use Bell and Kozlowski’s model of task dependencies, advertising creatives represent an intensive combination of reciprocal and sequential workflow: an ad agency’s work and activities flow unidirectionally from one member to another. But not entirely in one direction: feedback from clients and suppliers can send a project moving back down the line for revision, and then back in the right direction again.

The “open office” plan may not work completely for the modern ad agency’s workflow – privacy-enhancing spaces, such as conference rooms, private offices, and high-walled cubicles, ought to be in place alongside conference rooms and open collaborative spaces.

More on creative office interior design after the jump. Read more…

So under those super-creative veneers, good ad agencies also focus on an office interior design that permits this workflow to flourish. For Gervais Tompkin, a VP for design firm Gensler, formal studies like Gensler’s “activity portrait” help clarify the optimum design for ad agency offices. The following factors are considered:

Space Layout: Jay Chiat may have been way ahead of his time, but the open office simply prevented employees from getting work done. An optimal layout permits agency creatives to collaborate and brainstorm, but makes a clear delineation between creative departments and account servicing; the former’s work often gets disrupted by the latter.

Space Usage: How are agency employees using existing space? Do agency creatives use the conference rooms too often for brainstorming, crowding out account executives or media people from meeting in them?

Workarounds: How does the office layout help workers get their job done? Ad agencies require both collaborative and thinking spaces, and any agency worth their salt ought to be able to provide such spaces without workers resorting to uncomfortable workarounds. In Chiat/Day’s case, many workers simply left the office to meet… and sometimes never returned for the rest of the day!

So don’t be too dazzled by those incredible ad agency office interior design galleries; there’s a serious bit of business under all that fun, and if the office design isn’t geared around helping the office workflow run smoothly, then all that dazzle will be all for naught.

Is there more to workflow and space planning? You bet there is. Download our white paper, and read more about space planning and workflow in your office interior design – download “Space Planning for Your Office: Designing for Optimum Workflow” (PDF, 75KB).

Sep 11, 2011
9:25 am

That’s so funny that an ad agency where listening to the client and figuring out what they need forgot to listen to employees and find out what they need in an office environment! before making such a big change.


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