A Sign and Graphics Company Brands its Maryland Offices with Creativity

Alliance Franchise Brands uses its own materials in the design of its new Maryland offices

In moving to a new space in Middle River, Maryland, Alliance Franchise Brands gave its Director of Experiential Graphics Scott Kozaruk a creative challenge: Design the space solely with materials produced in-house. The resulting open-plan office has large, meaningful statement art–and aims at inspiring creativity and collaboration among its employees.

This wall displays the annual convention franchise member poster contest winners from the last 16 years. Image courtesy of Cheryl Clowes.
This wall displays the Annual Convention Franchise Member Poster Contest winners from the last 16 years.

When was the project completed?  

April 2018

How much space (SF)?  

25,000 Net SF

Was this new or renovated space?

New building

SF per person?    

625 PSF per person

This is the member wall hallway that leads from the lobby. Image courtesy of Cheryl Clowes.
This is the member wall hallway that leads from the lobby.

How many employees?


What is the average daily population? 


Is there a mobile work or work from home policy? 

Yes, employees can work from home one day a week; 10% are remote workers.

Describe workspace types.

Open plan

What kind of meeting spaces are provided? 

There are four conference rooms and a creative open area in the center. The creative center includes a 22-by-8-foot glass whiteboard wall for brainstorming, comfortable leisure seating and colorful sculptures.

This metal grid installation features direct print on metal. Image courtesy of Cheryl Clowes.
This metal grid installation features direct print on metal.

What other kind of support space or amenity spaces are provided? 

There is a full research and development room for print and sign making technologies. There is also the Alliance Franchise Brands University located within the space, which is a training certification school for franchisees. It is set up like a classroom environment.

What is the project’s location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities? 

The Middle River HQ is ideally located in a developing suburb close to the highway and close to many major cities, including one hour from Washington, D.C., 45 minutes from Philadelphia, two hours 50 minutes from New York City.

The accordion-style lenticular print. Image courtesy of Cheryl Clowes.
The accordion-style lenticular print.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?

With this project, the Signs and Graphics Division was forced to employ creativity to design the space. The work included custom pieces, signage, artwork, frosted vinyl, whiteboard walls and hanging sculptures. Each artistic piece was created with the same tools that each Center uses on a daily basis. The vision was to show the expanded capabilities that franchisees and employees can do with what is right in front of them. The project blew up internally – it was interesting to see franchisees and employees come to the realization that they have all the things they need for creative pieces like that. The message being sent was that Alliance Franchise Brands is expanding the concept of “signs” and that they can offer customers much more than they thought.

Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?

Yes. The ideation presentation was given to the leadership team, and all employees were informed prior to the project.

Were there any other kind of employee engagement activities?

All of the production was done in-house. The corporate production center was involved in design engineering, production and installation.

The bespoke "metal quilt." Image courtesy of Cheryl Clowes.
The bespoke “metal quilt.”

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.

Each piece was unique and well thought out. A couple key pieces in the project were the member wall mosaic and the metal quilt.

The member wall mosaic consists of acrylic tiles with a franchise member’s name on each tile. It creates a mosaic of the Alliance Franchise Brands logo. The purpose behind the member wall is to show unity and teamwork within the organization. The wall gives credit to each of those who are involved in the company. With each tile representing a team member, each one is needed in order to complete the mosaic. This is a great symbolic representation of the company’s values.

The metal quilt has never been done before. The concept went through three designers before deciding it could not be done in-house. However, the team expanded their creative capabilities and created the piece, which was a huge accomplishment for the team. It is made using 4” by 4” metal diamonds covered in double-sided print, hung on cable, mounted to a metal bar and connected with fishing fasteners. The complexity of the piece dazzles and amazes employees and guests every day.

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?

All of the construction techniques were unusual. The materials used can be found in any of the 300-plus Alliance Franchise Brands sign shops. The only requirement was that all the materials had to be made from existing materials and production tools. Each artistic piece was made from easy-to-get materials and turned into these elaborate displays.

This accordion-style lenticular print sits above staff desks. Image courtesy of Cheryl Clowes.
This accordion-style lenticular print sits above staff desks.

What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?

Each art piece makes a statement to show the unique capabilities of the brand.

What was the hard cost PSF/construction?

It was a $90,000 project that had a hard cost of about $30,000.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

The membership wall mosaic includes all 650 members with room to expand and contract. The lobby features a brand logo wall made on printed glass and all the art pieces employ the colors of the Alliance Franchise Brands logo.

What is the most unique feature of the new space? 

The metal quilt is the most unique feature of the project. It was a challenge that had never been done before, with no reference to work off of except an idea. Many designers and production engineers struggled with this because they didn’t really know what it was going to be until it was actually done. It all boiled down to trusting each other and those in charge of the project. This specific piece really shows how creative this company can get.

This whiteboard ideation area is a gathering space for staff--and features a hanging sculpture. Image courtesy of Cheryl Clowes.
This whiteboard ideation area is a gathering space for staff–and features a hanging sculpture.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?

The wellbeing of the employees was a result of the project, but not the sole criteria. The goal was to create an “experience” with this project, and with that came job satisfaction across the company. However, the break room is larger than before and is much more relaxed and open, creating a welcoming and positive environment. Both the break room and the creativity center are the least branded areas in the space and serve as an escape, giving employees the opportunity to sit down and reflect in an open area.

If the company relocated to new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees? 

It was a difficult change for employees because they were unaware of the message behind the project at first. After completion, they understood and now really admire it. The space is now an open floor plan to promote creativity. Employees are now encouraging the design team to add more creative pieces to the space. The project really sparked enthusiasm and progressive conversation. That is the goal of experiential design. Key components are the environment, the involvement and the conversations in between.

Were there post-occupancy surveys?

There were no written surveys, but employees and franchisees were encouraged throughout all stages of the project to share their feelings and input. The feedback was all part of the meaning behind the project.

What were the most surprising or illuminating or hoped-for results?

Looking back, the designing, production and installation process was a gratifying accomplishment. It was done as a team, which made the project very special when completed. Since many components of the project have never been done before, nobody was certain about exactly how it would turn out. Many people were afraid it would fail, but that was the point. It was a learning experience for the entire company, that was regularly updated on the progress of the project. The message conveyed was that it is OK to push the envelope and to not fear failure. With the combination of limit-pushing and creativity, an inspirational project was completed. It meant a lot to the company.


Images courtesy of Cheryl Clowes

Tags from the story
, , , ,
Written By
More from Emily Bratcher

A Cigar Lounge-Like Office in Toronto

A tour of the new VICE Media bureau in downtown Toronto.
Read More

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *