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Interior design

By The Drum, Administrator

October 8, 2004 | 7 min read

These days it’s important to make a strong impression with your target market. Falling budgets and increased competition mean that, in recent years more than ever before, it’s vital to put your company ahead of its competitors.

And while good service, expertise in your given sector and a strong product are key to retaining business once it’s in the door, attracting that business in the first place has become the real trick.

Marketing, clearly, can provide a strong advantage over your competitors, helping establish a brand personality for your company that can differentiate it from everybody else.

However, advertising, direct mail, new media and graphic design are not the only forms of marketing important for establishing and enforcing that brand.

Interior design can also have a strong role to play in a company’s marketing, whether it’s in the attracting of customers on the high street or putting clients at their ease while they consider that contract.

Ewan McCarthy, creative director of Navy Blue 3D Design, says: “From our point of view it’s very important. The clients we deal with either have a strong brand to promote or they need to promote themselves, particularly in areas of the company that are visible to the public, like reception areas and so forth.

“We work for Intelligent Finance and in the past we have used clear-cut branding not just for the public-facing interiors but for the places like the call centres, to help motivate the staff through implementing the company’s branding.”

“Client interiors present a valuable opportunity to reinforce the brand values of a company,” comments Andrew Glidden, director of Glidden Design. “Every element plays a part in the overall impression: the physical location of the environments, the external appearance of the buildings, the branding and signing, the drama created on entry, the arrangement of the key elements of the interiors, the materials chosen, the colours, the lighting, the furniture, the art, the people managing the space (receptionist and support staff), the air quality, the ambient sound, the communication messages and their delivery medium, the overall initial impression, the design details.”

Vaughan Yates, design director of environmental design consultancy Contagious, remarks: “I think it’s very important. If you’re bringing clients back to your offices, which at some point you will be, it’s important that it reflects your company’s brand through the environment.”

“It’s become increasingly important,” states Rory McNeill, director of Cubit 3D. “Major brands have recognised this for some time and have been developing holistic branded environments that can more effectively showcase their products in an ‘ideal’ format. Look how effective NikeTown has been for Nike, and the recent Apple stores have been outstanding.”

“A company’s brand is usually backed up by its advertising,” says Glidden. “People spend so much money advertising themselves and if you turn up at the company and the building itself is disappointing it completely undermines what the advertising has done.”

This is also the reason, says Skakel and Skakel director Andrew Skakel, why it’s so important that all of a company’s marketing communications, including interior design, matches up. He comments: “I think it’s vital. You have to have joined-up thinking. If you have a two-tier strategy of communication, different aspects of messages being sent out, it can be disastrous. You have to have a seamless join of the brand values. It doesn’t have to be done by the same company, but you have to have someone there who can co-ordinate the different aspects of the brand.”

“I can’t put it any more vehemently,” states Stephen Halpin, managing director of CuriousGroup. “It’s no different to brochures, advertising etc. It’s one and the same and should be treated the same. It should be part of a company’s brand strategy.

“Integrating interiors with external marketing communications has never been something that we’ve struggled with, but other people have struggled with it. People have said ‘why do you have an interiors arm?’ It’s because it’s just as important as any other aspect of marketing.”

David Dunn, managing director of 442 Design, also believes in external and internal integration. He says: “442 Design is an interior and graphic design company. We believe in the importance of integrating both the interior and graphic design to ensure visual harmony within the overall space. This enables us to effectively present the personality of a brand or evoke an exciting environment.”

The design of a company’s premises isn’t just for external marketing purposes, however. Increasingly, companies are seeing the benefit of a professionally designed interior as a tool for motivating and retaining staff.

Tony Coffield, creative director at CuriousGroup, comments: “Companies can be very proud of their interior design. It can be a good recruitment tool or, alternatively, can help prevent people from leaving the company.

“Take the likes of Glasgow Caledonian University: we’ve just developed a staff area for them but it looks more like a nightclub. It shows that they value the staff, that they want to give something back to them.”

Most of the designers agree that more and more business sectors are now seeing the benefits of having a professional design company brand their buildings. Yates says: “Clients are becoming increasingly keen to embrace interior design. It’s becoming more up-front now. Even smaller companies want to have a corridor to a boardroom considered rather than just having an architect say ‘It has to be this colour because that’s the colour of the building.’ Often an architect won’t think about, or might not know, what company is going to be occupying a building once it’s built.”

However, with increased interest has come, in recent years, increased scrutiny of budgets. Although companies are increasingly considering the benefits of interior design it seems they are, as with every other marketing discipline, making sure their money works for them. “The strongest trend is people being very careful about how they invest their money,” says Skakel. “The budgets have been on a downward swing over the last couple of years and clients are a lot more focused on exactly where the money is going and whether it delivers value. It’s a commercial trend – value is high on the agenda.”

“We expect the work we do to improve a place,” remarks David Dunn, managing director of 442 Design. “It should be pleasing on the eye, the hand, or even the foot. At the very least, it should provoke a reaction. The one true test of the effectiveness of a design, however, is how it makes people spend more time and money while they are in the designed area. If they don’t then something hasn’t worked. We listen closely to the operators of a place to understand what makes their business easy and practical, and then we try to improve it.

“As people generally become more ‘design aware’, they expect higher standards when they work, shop, eat or drink, which is encouraging for the industry as a whole.”

With increased business competition making marketing more crucial than ever before, integration has become a key word. And with brand personality establishing a point of difference, what a company has on the inside is becoming more and more important.

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