Office Design in 2021: 5 Reasons Art is in Big Demand

Martha Weidmann of NINE dot ARTS explores how investing in good art can redefine corporate and creative office spaces.

Dairy Block offices – Image credit NINE dot ARTS

As we move full speed ahead into 2021, many organizations are planning for what the future holds for office structure and culture. Among discussion of future growth plans and new business models lies these critical issues:

What will happen when our staff returns to the office?

How will we engage with them in a new way as they adjust from a work-at-home experience?

As organizations return to in-person office arrangements, many will look to new engagement programs and incentives. Make sure you’re not leaving out a crucial component: office design. Organizations often forget the physical space where employees function plays a vital role in their productivity and satisfaction at work. Creating a welcoming, and safe, atmosphere for employees is not only important, it’s necessary.

Art can help shape office design in 2021. Utilizing specially curated art experiences draws your employees into your space and helps them reconnect with your brand when returning to in-office work. Here are five key points to remember about incorporating art into your office spaces.

Dairy Block offices – Image credit NINE dot ARTS

Create experiences you must see to believe

For the past several months, employees have accomplished their day-to-day work from the comfort of their homes. Once employers have provided a valid reason for returning to full-time in-office work, and addressed the necessary health and well-being factors that must be provided for employees, they must also consider how to make that transition emotionally successful for returning employees.

An  intentional office design can aid in providing a soothing, comforting experience for those returning to in-person work. Showcasing artwork that evokes calming sensations or gives employees a sense of place can help ease the transition. In fact, 92 percent of people say art installations elicit positive feedback.

An emerging trend in the art world is the use of big art. And, this couldn’t be more perfect for the state our world is in right now — social distance friendly. Too often, people think of art as a thing to hang on the wall. But art can be anything and go anywhere. From interior walls, to parking garages to entire sides of a building, large scale artwork creates an experience you have to see to believe.

Dairy Block offices – Image credit NINE dot ARTS

Look for ways to incorporate large scale artwork into your existing facility. Art from afar offers employees an impactful experience, while still maintaining a safe social distance from the art and other people in the office.

Further, incorporating big artwork draws employees into your space, encouraging exploration and discovery. It’s a “wow factor” they can’t avoid. Invite them in and entice them to stay.

The Dairy Block in downtown Denver is already home to several shareable moments through the Maven Hotel and the impressive Spilt Milk sculpture in Dairy Block alley. The corporate office housed within the Dairy Block is essential to this integration, with artwork of great scale and surprises around every corner. The corporate office itself features eight pieces of art, three elevator installations and an eight-foot high, 15-foot wide, mixed media commission. The goal? Create a progressive corporate space in the heart of downtown Denver that pulls from artistic historical references and local culture. Their use of big art and an immersive experience creates connecting moments, even in a sea of uncertainty.

Dairy Block offices – Image credit NINE dot ARTS

Foster engagement and knowledge sharing

It’s not just about creating jaw dropping art displays. Employees should also understand the story of the art in your space. Help employees understand where the art came from and why it’s there.

A simple place to start is to require art identification labels on all pieces. These labels display basic information, including the name of the artist, title of the piece and other identifying elements like medium or material used. It provides context for each piece.

To help with safe distancing practices, and to promote a touchless environment, develop QR codes for each piece that employees can scan from their phones. Create a self-guided tour feature with applicable supporting marketing materials that allows your employees (and visitors to your office) to dive deep into an immersive art experience.

Finally, incorporate social media prompts to help engage others in the story of your facility. This can be used as an employer branding project, or even as a way to get new traffic through your doors once they reopen. After all, sharing is good business and memorable art makes for easy Instagrammable moments.

Jackson National Life offices – Image credit NINE dot ARTS

Build connection and spark conversation

Truly innovative organizations tie their office design into their brand story. They create a visual representation that aligns with who they are and what they stand for. An art experience that connects to your brand, mission and values is “absolutely critical” to business organizations, according to the State of the Art Consulting & Curating Business survey. It brings your brand to life.

When we talk about art experiences, it’s important to understand the use of multiple pieces and mediums. An emerging art trend involves multidisciplinary art that combines a variety of methods to tell a story. This could involve murals, sculptures, painting, installations and more.

This will be especially relevant as offices become more team-focused. Think through how to utilize multiple types of art in conference room spaces, common rooms and collaborative spaces.

The Jackson National Life office building does exactly this. A collection of 1,384 artwork spans two buildings. The organization uses both exterior and interior space for their art, with a focus on Jackson National Life’s world-class status and reputation as a life insurance and financial company. While the art helps express the brand, the company’s main focus is quality and impact on employee engagement and satisfaction.

Designing a holistic, story-based experience for those who use your office space will spark conversation and build a connection to your brand. It’s art with intention.

Make cleaning protocol simple and easy

Transparency around office cleaning protocols will be paramount as employees transition back. Healthy building design and maintenance must also include your artwork.

Incorporate touchless experiences for your art to allow limited opportunity for viral transmission. Big art is an easy solution here as it can be viewed from afar and doesn’t require being up close to get the true experience. You can also feature digital storytelling opportunities to help shape the art experience for viewers.

Dairy Block offices – Image credit NINE dot ARTS

For cleaning staff, ensure they understand what materials the art is made from and how to properly clean it. Work with an art curator who specializes in corporate art consulting and advising to help you plan the best way to care for each piece.

Ensure a regular cadence to the cleaning of each piece and allow for open air flow to help lower viral contaminants circling that could land on a piece.

Don’t forget about those remote workers

While many will shift back to in-office work, businesses can not overlook the growing trend of remote working expedited by the pandemic. Finding ways to still incorporate artwork into your work-from-home employees’ day-to-day is essential.

One method is to create digital versions of the art in your facility and allow staff to use it as their Zoom backgrounds. Another option is to create online tours for remote workers (and potential clients) to view your collection even when they’re not on-site.

And don’t forget about employee engagement. Your dedication to creating art experiences can extend beyond the four walls of your building.

These types of initiatives allow employees to be engaged, whether in or out of the office. After all, art and design are the visible representation of your brand. And in a year full of uncertainty, creating a connective, comforting narrative through unique art experiences will help set you apart for years to come.

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