A visitor’s first impression of a company begins when he or she enters its doors. Guests – clients, prospective clients or employee candidates – immediately learn about the company and its culture based on what they see and how they feel in the space.
In many offices, though, it seems the environment screams, or rather mumbles, generic (with the reception-area magazines offering the only clue to what kind of business it is).
Paying attention to what’s on the office walls is one of the most effective ways to control what the environment is communicating.
For those companies that need a little help sprucing up their place, here are a few tips to get you started:
Use art strategically
Start by determining how visitors and employees should ideally feel in the space – something that resonates with its culture. Should the space convey a sense of calm confidence or energetic curiosity? Playfulness, seriousness or serious play?
For example, in the lobby of Bloomberg world headquarters in New York City, a large sculptural installation by Ursula Von Rydinsgvard greets visitors and employees. It simultaneously conveys a sense of impressive gravitas as well as signals Bloomberg’s interest in how culture and media intersect. Large art pieces and screens are also integrated throughout the floors.
Control the message
Art can be an effective way to send a message about a company’s vision and core values and having a strong underlying curatorial statement helps keep the selection of work focused.
When PR giant Edelman moved its New York City offices from Times Square to Lower Manhattan, I curated its new art collection to reflect Edelman’s business interests as a communications leader. Each floor was devoted to exploring different communication systems including those within the body, in the city or that create society, identity and so on. The collection included work by well-known artists, emerging local artists and data scientists. I also started an art gallery of rotating exhibitions in their reception area to show work at the intersection of new technologies and contemporary art.
Reflect the company’s culture, no matter the budget
Of course, art doesn’t have to be blue-chip masterpieces to communicate effectively, nor is art only for in large corporate offices. Collecting emerging art by local MFA graduate students or under-the-radar mid-career artists is a smart option, especially for smaller or mid-size offices. The work is affordable and can also demonstrate how discovery is part of the business’s DNA.
Consider Dr. Avo Samuelian, a dentist who fills his Flatiron office with work by exemplary contemporary artists, mainly emerging but some more established. Samuelian’s focus on emerging contemporary art – and rotating the collection every six months – also serves to subtly but effectively underscore his use of leading technologies and procedures in his practice. “[Patients] enjoy their visits,” says Samuelian about the art, "it makes them less anxious and we have things to talk about other than dentistry.”
If applicable, highlight community involvement
For companies with active corporate social responsibility programs, another effective strategy is to display art that reflects the company’s philanthropic outreach. If the program has a global scope, scenes from those locations by well-known photographers would be an exciting and effective option. Displaying art created by children from a signature local community program could be relevant and meaningful. In either case, the art demonstrates a company’s commitment to supporting its greater community.
Keep it fresh
Rotating the art regularly as Samuelian does or having a separate art gallery like Edelman’s are ways to keep the office environment engaging and visually interesting. For some companies, it makes sense to hire an art consultant to curate temporary exhibitions instead of investing in a permanent collection.
Business owners work hard to deliver on client expectations and choose the perfect employees, but when it comes to their physical surroundings, some forget that the space is another tool to convey important information about their company and culture.