Best Office Designers
If you’re planning an office fit out, refurbishment, or relocation, one of the most important parts of your project will be working with an office designer to help you plan and design your new office. Choosing which design company is a big decision, as it will have a profound impact on your entire overall project. If you do not choose the right partner, your end design will not meet the needs of you and your people. This would limit your company’s performance for years to come.
There are many different office design companies. They all have different specialisms, timescales, and pricing structures. There are also several different types of companies that could help you with your office design, including specialist designers, design & build companies, and architects. With so many different companies out there, it can be really difficult to find and choose the right partner for your needs.
At Zentura, we provide a full suite of office design & build services, including workspace consultancy, design, fit out, refurbishment, relocation, and furniture. While our services are among the best in the industry, we appreciate we might not be the right fit for every company. That’s why we have compiled this list of who we think are the best 9 best office design companies in the UK. We’ll also explain how to decide whether you should choose a specialist designer, a design & build firm, or an architect. Finally, we’ll cover several criteria to help you make the right decision for your company. Let’s get started!
Specialist designers are design studios that provide services such as workspace consultancy and interior design. In some cases, these companies will also create a tender pack for you to send to building contractors. However, they will not offer any help with the build phase. This means you will need to manage the contractors yourself or appoint or employ a project manager.
Head Office: London, N1
About: Spacelab is a workspace and architectural design studio based in Hackney, London. They have worked on projects for some well-known brands including Warner Bros and ASOS.
Head Office: London, SE1
About: MoreySmith is a RIBA chartered architecture and office design practice based in London. They offer a range of services, including interior design, architecture, workplace strategy, and change management.
Design & Build Firms
Design & build companies manage the entire project from start to finish. This includes planning, design, and delivery. Depending on their company structure, they may use in-house staff, a network of subcontractors, or (normally) a combination of both. This means you only have to deal with one company throughout the project. Because of this, they are much more accountable for the success of the overall project.
Head Office: London, EC1N
About: Oktra is a London-based design and build firm operating across the UK. They are one of the largest UK design & build companies, with 200 staff across 4 offices.
Head Office: London SE1
About: Maris is one of the largest design & build companies in the UK. In the last 25 years, they’ve delivered over 10,000 projects ranging in size from 1,500 to 120,000 sq ft.
Head Office: London, EC1V
About: Peldon Rose has been delivering office fit out projects in London for over 30 years. With in-house specialists covering a wide range of disciplines, Peldon Rose offers the full suite of design and build services.
Head Office: London, W1F
About: Originally an office design company, Morgan Lovell has expanded its service offering to include office fit-out and refurbishment. Morgan Lovell is part of the larger Morgan Sindall Group.
Workplace Interior Architects
Workplace architects offer a wide range of services, including workspace consultancy, exterior architecture, interior design, and project management. They will not provide all the services necessary for your project, but they may manage other aspects such as construction. Typically, architects get only involved in full building construction or projects for multinational corporates.
Head Office: Hong Kong
About: M Moser Associates has specialised in the design and delivery of workplace environments since 1981. With more than 750 staff across 15 global offices, M Moser offers a wide range of workplace architecture services.
Head Office: San Francisco
About: Gensler is a global design firm offering a wide range of design services, from urban planning to brand design. Workplace design is one of the original services they have been offering since 1965.
Perkins & Will
Head Office: Chicago
About: Interdisciplinary research-based architecture and design firm Perkins & Will was founded in 1935 in Chicago. They have since expanded across North America and globally, including England and Ireland.
Designer v Design & Build v Architect: Which Should I Choose?
When deciding who to partner with on your office design, you should first plan your project carefully. You should define the goals of your project, what success looks like, and an initial budget. This may well evolve during the detailed planning stage, but setting these parameters will help you reach out to the right type of design partner. Which type of design partner is best for you will depend on the size of your project, as well as your project brief and project management expertise.
If your project is very large, then an architect may well be the best option. This is especially true if your project involves multiple offices across the globe. Architects also tend to have very detailed planning processes, designed for complex and large projects.
However, their detailed processes take a lot of time and they also tend to be very expensive. If your project only involves 1-5 offices in one country, or you are working to a tight timeline and/or budget, then an architecture practice may well not be the best for you.
If your project is smaller, and the design is the most important part of your project, then you should probably use a specialist interior designer. As you are only working with one designer, you can spend more time with them to make sure the design is right. They will be less concerned about the deliverability of your project, so they can focus on creating a design that meets your needs.
However, a specialist designer may not have the delivery expertise to make sure your project can be delivered within your timeframe and budget constraints. Using a specialist designer will take longer than a design & build firm. This is because you can only get contractors to quote and prepare for delivery once the design is complete. Meanwhile a design and build firm can carry out multiple project stages simultaneously.
If your timeframe or budget is the most important or challenging aspect of your project, then you will likely find a design & build firm most appropriate. This is because they have the knowledge to create a design most appropriate for your brief and budget. As both the principal designer and the principal contractor of your project, they will be more accountable to you for the overall success of your project.
On the other hand, the design & build model may not be appropriate for you if you do not have sufficient resources to manage multiple planning and design processes. With a design specialist or an architect, you work with one company to create a design that you are happy with and then have a competitive build process. With design & build, the entire process is competitive. This means that you have to brief and manage multiple design & build companies as they create designs and costings for your project. This will take more time for you to manage initially. However, the construction phase will require much less time to manage.
How to Choose the Best Office Designer
Once you have chosen which type of company to partner with to design your new office, you will have to select a specific company. This process will vary depending on the type of company that you are choosing, but many of the key criteria will remain the same.
When considering which contractor to use for your office fit out or office refurbishment, it's important to consider your requirements first. It’s easy to get amazed at their design ideas and portfolio, but are they right for your company? By defining what you need to achieve, you can then select a design partner most suitable for your entire project. While every design company has different strengths and weaknesses, there are 5 key aspects to consider when selecting your design partner.
The first consideration is the expertise of the firm, and what they are able to do. This does not necessarily mean they have done it in the past, but do they have the ability to deliver on your project? Do they have the right resources, competencies, and qualifications to design an office that meets your design objectives, but is deliverable within your timeline and budget constraints?
It’s especially important to think about what is unusual or unique about your project compared to others. If you are relocating to facilitate a move to hybrid working, it’s important your designer is an expert in hybrid working. If you can’t move out of your office during your refurbishment, you will need a design that can be delivered in phases to reduce disruption.
It’s easy to get carried away by looking at some amazing case studies, but you also need to consider how those projects are similar to yours. Track record is often confused with expertise, but there is an essential difference. Just because they used to be able to do it, it doesn’t always mean they are able to do it now. Expert staff may have moved on, or the supply chain situation might have changed.
If your designer has a good portfolio, they’ll be happy to take you around previous projects they’ve designed that are similar to yours. References are also more useful than testimonials. They can give unvarnished feedback about what went well and what could have been better. With this knowledge, you can reduce the likelihood of their weaknesses derailing your project.
Aesthetic design is almost always the first thing companies think about when planning an office project, but this is a mistake. It’s the most fun part, but without the foundations of a clear goal and rough budget, you are setting yourself up for failure. You first need to consider the thinking behind the design. It’s not all about the moss walls and pool tables. Yes, these can make your office look great, but if they aren’t helping your people to perform better, what’s the point?
A great office designer will ask lots of questions to fully understand the needs of your people and your business. They will then develop a design that meets those needs, not one that follows the latest trends or the criteria for an upcoming award. Remember, the best design is the best design for your needs, not the most eye-catching.
Cost is the hurdle at which many amazing design ideas fall. There are hundreds of things that can drive the cost of your dream project up or help work it down. There are 5 key factors that will control the cost of your fit out project: size, specification, services, state, and setting. Check out our article on office fit out costs for a full breakdown.
It’s recommended that you set an initial budget before you speak to office design companies. This, along with the goals of your project will help to give them a good understanding of your requirements. Your budget will probably change as the design is finalised, but starting with a reasonable figure will save a lot of work later value engineering your design.
However, the initial cost is not the entire story. The construction industry is notorious for hidden and delayed costs. It's important that you examine the way they have quoted. Is it transparent and reasonable? At Zentura, we have a fixed cost policy that means you pay what you expect to, with no hidden extras.
Before you commit to an office design, you need to understand what the customer care package is like. Some firms will quickly lose interest, and de-prioritise you once the initial design is complete, or once the delivery has started.
You need to consider what your wholistic experience will be like during the project. This is a big investment for your company, and it may come with a lot of disruption and change. You need someone caring and professional to guide you through this process – especially if you are inexperienced.
At Zentura, our one-contact policy gives you a management-level “go-to” contact that is responsible for your project and is always there for you. Our 3-year post-contract Zencare® care programme guarantees you total peace of mind long after we have finished your project.
Choosing Your Office Designer
Choosing an office designer is absolutely crucial to the overall success of your project. It’s important to carefully plan your project and define your requirements before reaching out to designers. This will ensure you can identify what is most important to you and then remain focussed on that throughout the project.
The right decision will be the best designer for your own project and your specific needs. This is not necessarily the cheapest, or the one with the most impressive portfolio. To ensure you make the best decision, consider what type of office designer is most suitable for your project. You should then decide what track record and qualifications they should have. This will help ensure you make the best decision for your company.
Now you know how to choose the best office designer for your project, you need to know how to manage them to make sure your overall project is successful as possible. To help you with this, read the 10 things you need to know about working with an office designer. This will help you make sure your eniture office design process is the success you need it to be.
If you’re ready to reach out for help with your office design, we’d love to hear from you. We design agile workspaces around the people that use them, to enable them to become more efficient, productive, and to increase wellbeing. Whether you are looking to implement agile workspace design as you move toward hybrid working, or you are moving to a hub-and-spoke model, we can design and deliver high-performance workspaces for your future. Contact us today.