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8 Things to Look for in an Office Designer

Office Designer Capabilities

Is your workspace outdated and no longer suitable for your people? Perhaps it no longer reflects the profile of your business and the way it operates. You may even be approaching your lease end, and planning an office relocation. Whatever you're situation, you’re about to begin an office design.


If so, choosing the right office designer to support you with this project is crucial. The quality of your office design will have a major impact on the success of your project and the performance of your people in the years to come.


But how can you choose the right office designer? There are many different designers, all with different processes, skillsets, weaknesses, and price points. Furthermore, you won't know the quality of the final design when you commit.


It's a very difficult decision. That's why this article will go through 8 essential skills your office designer must have. All are crucial - if they lack any one of these, your overall project runs a high risk of failure. They all apply whether you are planning on using a specialist designer or a design & build company.


By the end of this article, you'll know how to assess and qualify potential office designers for your project. This will help you make the right choice and maximise your chances of a successful project.


While it's crucial, choosing your office designer is only one step in preparing for an office design. You also need to set a strategy, create a brief, and much more. Before you choose your office designer, make sure you know everything you need to know about office design by downloading your Definitive Office Design Guide.


1) Bespoke Approach

The most important thing your office designer needs to have is a bespoke approach to your project. Your people, company, and culture are unique, so your office design needs to be unique, too. A good office design doesn’t only look amazing. It helps your people and your company maximise performance.


To ensure your designer has a bespoke approach, look through their portfolio. They should have a track record of different design styles, layouts, and aesthetic concepts. If their work all looks very similar, then they likely don’t have a bespoke approach. You should also ask the designer(s) about their process, and how they ensure your design is based on your needs.


2) Responsiveness and Creativity

The best office designers don’t just listen to your requirements and feedback and create a concept to meet those goals. They balance being attentive to your requirements with creatively introducing ideas and solutions you may not have thought of.


To apply this to your project, you need to understand your designer's process. Talking to the designer's previous clients can also be very helpful to understand how they do this. Ultimately, you're looking for a designer who will take the time to understand your key challenges and objectives. They can then create a design focussed on those.


3) Understanding of Your Culture

Your workspace is an extension of you're company's brand and culture. Your designer should create a space that conveys your values and identity to both employees and visitors. A good office designer will apply this approach to the layout and technical package as well as the features and finishes. They should create a design that brings your company's identity to life.


To ensure you choose an office designer who understands and designs for your culture, look through their portfolio. Consider how their previous designs match the culture of each client, both aesthetically and spatially. If possible, tour 1 or 2 offices they designed to give you a better understanding of their capabilities in terms of culture.


4) Project Management Skills

Whether you’re appointing a specialist designer or a design & build company, strong project management skills are essential. Creating your new office design is a project in itself. In addition to all their design skills, your designer should also have strong organisational skills, effective time & task management, and excellent communication.


To assess the project management skills of your designer, ask about their process and how they work. If your designer has good project management skills, they will be able to commit to a clear design scope, timeframe, and cost. If they prefer to work at an hourly rate without a clearly defined scope and budget, this is a major concern. You will have little control over quality and budget. Again, speaking to previous clients can be very helpful to assess the project management skills of your designer.


5) Cost Awareness

Many office designers will be able to create a design package that looks stunning. However, not all will be able to create a concept that not only looks stunning but is also deliverable within your project budget. This is especially the case for specialist designers. However, being able to balance aesthetic style with cost awareness is crucial to deliver your overall project within budget.


To assess the cost awareness of potential designers, speak to them about their previous projects, and the delivered costs compared to the initial budget. For specialist designers, they are not entirely in control of the cost but they do have a big impact. Again, speaking to previous clients of the designer can be very helpful.


6) Attention to User Experience

For all the competing technical, aesthetic, and budgetary considerations of your office design, it's also essential to consider the user experience. This involves what the space is like to be in and work in. A good designer will always keep this in mind, and create a design that delivers a great user experience for all your staff and visitors.


For your design project, ask your designer about how they cater for user experience. This is especially important when considering how to balance design requirements and objectives with day-to-day user experience. Touring 1 or 2 of the offices the designer has worked on will also give you a first-hand understanding of their approach to user experience.


7) Sustainability Focus

With an increasing awareness of and emphasis on environmental issues, sustainable office design is crucial. Sustainable office design involves much more than specifying environmentally friendly materials. It involves minimising the environmental impact of the project delivery as well as the ongoing operation of the office.


You should look at your designer’s portfolio to assess their experience in delivering sustainable office design & build projects. Common accreditations include BREEAM and LEED. Talking to the designer about how they minimise the environmental impact of their designs will also help you assess their capability.


8) Future Proofing

The needs of your business will evolve, requiring modifications to your office space. A great designer will anticipate and design for these changes. They'll create designs that can adapt to future growth and/or changing ways of working.


To assess your designer's expertise in this area, ask them about how they future-proof their office designs and enable future modifications. You should also consider what your workspace requirements will be 3-5 years from now. You can include those in your brief so that they are worked into the design.


Choosing Your Office Designer

Deciding which office designer to use is a crucial step of your project. Of course, the quality of their design work is crucial, as is the relationship. However, It's also crucial that you consider how they will create a design that meets the unique needs of your company, and do it in a way that gives you complete confidence and peace of mind.


Choosing your office designer is exciting and daunting in equal measure. The best designer for you will be perfectly aligned with your company culture. They'll take the time to understand your brief in detail and work closely with you. The final result will be an effective design that creates a high-performance workspace, satisfied staff, and a significant return on investment.


Selecting an inappropriate designer for your project will lead to a lot of wasted time and investment. While the resulting design may look amazing, it won't resolve your current real estate and HR challenges, or will not be deliverable within your timeframe and budget. This is a mistake you can't afford to make.


Now that you know about the 8 key things to look to when choosing your office designer, you're much better prepared to ensure your project is a success. You can now assess your different options according to the criteria we've gone through. This will help make sure you choose the right office designer for your company and project.


To take the next step, get your own copy of the Definitive Office Design Guide. It will walk you through everything you need to know about office design before you appoint your office designer, from the process and costs to common office design mistakes to avoid. Download your Definitive Office Design Guide here.


Once you've chosen and appointed your office designer, you need to manage them effectively and work with them closely to ensure your office design is as good as possible. For more help doing that, read Working With an Office Designer: 10 Things You Should Know.



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