As a Senior Graphic Designer at HqO, I know that design is integral to the workplace experience. I also know that many people don’t understand the important role that design plays in the workplace.
And why would they? Good design is meant to be seamless. When it succeeds, it becomes invisible to employees by integrating itself into the fabric of daily life. It is something that we all constantly experience, without even realizing it.
For example: consider some of the most successful office products, like the rolling chair or the standing desk. Both of these items have been painstakingly engineered by designers, but they usually function so well that we, the users, barely notice that they’ve been designed at all. And that’s intentional. In fact, it’s because they work the way that they’re supposed to.
I mean, when do you consciously think about your office chair?
You might think about its design when you first use it — is it ergonomic? adjustable? comfortable? — but, if you’re like me, you probably don’t think about it much after that.
Unless, of course, it’s hurting your back.
At HqO, we understand the importance of good design, and we use that understanding to engineer a seamless workplace experience for all of our customers. But we also know that the importance of design in the workplace isn’t always obvious to everyone. With that in mind, I’ll walk you through a few of the ways that innovative companies can use design and graphic design to improve their workplace environments.
Branding the Office
One of the ways that HqO uses graphic design to improve the workplace experience is by strongly linking our brand to our physical offices.
The 14th floor entrance to our Boston headquarters, for example, features a large mural of the skyline that surrounds our offices. The placement of this mural (original work by a local artist) might not seem intentional, but it’s actually part of a broader strategy to connect our culture to our place of work. In addition to the entryway mural, our office also features a substantial amount of branded material (coffee cups, glasses, etc.) and artwork (pictures, wall-mounted brand images, etc.) that reflects the spirit of our brand and celebrates our customers. One of our conference rooms, for example, contains a second mural, which features depictions of buildings where our app is currently active. By filling the office with imagery that reinforces and reflects the HqO brand, we create a space that’s both welcoming and HqO-specific.
In general, incorporating your company’s branding into the visual layout of the office can help you communicate your company’s culture and values to everyone who walks through the door. For clients and visitors, these visual cues function as positive advertisements for your company, and further reinforce the value that your brand represents. For employees, a branded space contributes to a stronger sense of place, which can make them happier and more productive.
A well-branded office space improves the workplace experience by positively influencing how employees and visitors feel about the workplace. That’s why the design team at HqO has really gone out of its way to make sure that our offices are warm, welcoming, and distinctive.
This is also something that we help our customers achieve: because our app is white-labeled, it allows employers and landlords to promote their own distinct brand identity, rather than HqO’s.
Branding the Company
In the past, when most workers were coming into the office every day, corporate cultures were closely tied to in-person, in-office events and experiences. But now, in the age of hybrid work, most employees aren’t coming into their company’s offices on a daily basis. This means that many employers now have to find new ways of communicating their corporate cultures that aren’t necessarily tied to a physical building.
Here’s how we accomplish this at HqO: we extend our culture beyond our physical offices by integrating our branding into local events, digital workspaces, and other workplace tools. One of the ways we’re able to accomplish this effectively is by maintaining (and adhering to) a detailed style guide. A style guide is important for any company because it provides basic stipulations that detail how your company’s brand is supposed to look, sound, and feel. We make a deliberate effort to stick to these guidelines in case studies, eBooks, event branding, and many other written and visual materials. All of this helps us maintain a consistent brand voice that reinforces our company’s identity, and, by extension, the value that the name and brand “HqO” represents.
Think about it: the world’s most popular and widely-known companies use brand images to evoke specific, instantaneous responses in the viewer. Obviously, these companies use the strength of their brand images to appeal to consumers, but they also use the strength of their brand images to create office spaces that match their company’s culture.
A healthy brand, in other words, helps reinforce a particular sense of place in the workplace. In order to effectively brand your places, your company’s brand image should be recognizable in any medium.
Branding the Product
While they’re usually not a part of my day-to-day responsibilities, user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design are also important aspects of the workplace experience (this applies to our product: the HqO Workplace Experience Platform).
Design, at the highest level, is a way to solve problems creatively. Together, UX and UI design apply this principle to human-computer interaction by ensuring that the user’s experience with technology is as painless as possible. Good UX/UI design, in other words, eliminates confusion for the user when they use technology. But that’s not all that UX and UI designers do.
Ultimately, the shared goal of both disciplines is to create digital interfaces that are accessible to all people in society — not just the healthy and able-bodied. This means that UX and UI designers are responsible for addressing a wide range of accessibility issues. Because the products they create have to meet the needs of every potential user, UX and UI designers have to ensure that their designs are accessible to people with visual impairments, people with mobility impairments, and people with other forms of disability.
Accessibility in design is critical. It’s also something that’s important to me on a personal level. A large part of my Master’s thesis was about the 1968 Mexico Olympics — a landmark event in the history of accessible design. The designers at those Olympics were actually some of the first to use a set of symbols, icons, and pictographs without the use of supporting text to explain the meaning of the image. My thesis used these Olympics as a case study to affirm the importance of this kind of word-free signage, while also highlighting the fact that accessible design practices are often overlooked by institutions and companies.
But HqO isn’t one of those companies. We have a terrific, empathetic design team that works constantly to improve the accessibility of our product, which is one of the reasons why I’m proud to work here.
Looking to the Future
The future of work has changed rapidly in the last few years, and the same is true of the technology that supports the workplace. These days, in the face of growing market uncertainty, it can be hard for businesses to see what’s coming next. It feels like we’ve entered a period of history where uncertainty and change are two of the only constants. But even if the current pace of change feels rapid, there are still ways that companies can prepare themselves for long-term success. Smart design choices are one such tactic: they help companies, institutions, and individuals achieve their business goals by simplifying complex problems.
At HqO, we use design thinking to help companies and landlords improve their workplace experience. Our team’s extensive background in both graphic and UX/UI design allows us to offer our customers a well-branded and streamlined user experience, all within an attractive digital interface. The successful design of our product contributes to the success of our company — it’s one of the reasons why we were recently listed near the top of Inc.’s list of the 5000 fastest-growing private companies in America. It’s also one of the reasons why I know the work I do is so important. As a designer, you always want to work with people who value good design. And that’s exactly how we operate at HqO.