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Placing your money pile on success

Design is often considered a luxury or fashion statement in India and consequently its evolution has been more in such segments – fashion, hospitality and wedding. The Delhi wedding is an extravagant affair, more than ever a sign of affluence and a point of showcase of status in society. Hosts aim for fancier, star studded and outrageous events – the more eyebrows raised and the greater the envy rise on the scale the more points scored. Ira Trivedi’s 2012 article in the Hindustan Times, The Indian Wedding gets Fatter sums up the ‘Loveconomy’ driving the nation. An excerpt:

Excess is in order in all departments of the Indian wedding industry, estimated to be a staggering US$ 25.5 billion (Rs.1,42,596 crore) – the economy of a small country – and growing at the explosive rate of 20 to 25 per cent a year. The speed of economic growth in India, which is responsible for the creation of overnight fortunes, is also creating a conspicuous, yet almost desperate type of consumption at weddings. The average budget for an Indian wedding ceremony in the middle class is estimated to be US$ 34,000 (around Rs.19.01 lakh). The upper-middle and rich classes are estimated to spend upward of US$ 1 million (Rs.5.59 crore). This doesn’t include cash and valuables given as part of a dowry. Companies like GE Money India have introduced an “auspicious” personal loan, exclusively for weddings. Giant malls like the Wedding Souk in Pitampura, Delhi, spread over one acre and with over 100 shops dedicated to weddings, have emerged.

Design for many of us trained in the field is however about a different kind of marriage between mind and lifestyle, bettering the quality of life at home and work. With most of us spending more time at work than elsewhere, it is all the more important that focus should be given to work environments, which could do with drastic improvements. Most employees continue to go to work in drab and uninspiring surroundings. What does better work environment have to do with successful businesses? Worldwide, big businesses vie to provide their employees a great place to work. Not just comfortable, ergonomic and pleasing, but a dream-space that can energize the very atmosphere of the office.

© by Jeff Dean, via Wikimedia Commons
Interior, “Great Workroom”, of the Johnson Wax Headquarters building
© by Jeff Dean, via Wikimedia Commons

Let us track back to the early twentieth century, when American architect Frank Lloyd Wright created his famous open office design at Johnson Wax Headquarters. Wright broke down the concept of walls opening up one large workspace without separations wanting to make spaces more inclusive. Several things happened. Privacy went out of the window, a collaborative spirit came in and more flexibility and optimal use of space became possible. Six desks could fit in the space one cabin earlier occupied. Without walls, the business owner could maximize usage on his square foot area and this remains today an undeniable gain for rising real estate prices. While Wright’s vision was actually about breaking down walls and making spaces less insular, for the office-goer, the workspace of this kind also became intrusive. The advent of cubicles by companies as Steelcase and Herman Miller, spread to many other parts of the world and offered a modicum of privacy. The radical move of the open office created a factory like situation for many decades. 

In the 21st century, we are breaking away once again from the no-wall concept towards energizing the workspace differently. Workspaces are actually leaning towards a different kind of customization with the introduction of niches and ‘break-out’ areas that measurably increase productivity. I guess what we are saying, is that we’ve got the office systems all figured out, if you want that, but what can we do to make the office geared towards what the company is all about? Can the philosophy of an organization speak through its workspace?And what has this got to do with branding? A lot, it seems for forward-thinking businesses. Google, which is a primary search engine, welcomes all of us users with an innovative illustration or animation around its central icon. Often this has something to do with a current situation or an event in history related to a date. This timely, creative and flexible approach of Google does not stop with the page you see on the Internet. Google lives its beliefs all the way through. In their New York headquarters, Google’s offices in Chelsea are themed around an amusement park. Their conference room is like a New York apartment. The policies match their liberal outlook towards space design. The building is dog friendly. Employees take scooters to make their way about the campus. Further, Google is responsive to local culture and in Amsterdam many of the design elements echo the famous woodworking skills of the region. The vibrant and eclectic designs nurture the creative spirit at Google in all their offices around the world.

By Bwinrules [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons
By Bwinrules [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The January 13th 2016 edition of The Hindu report ‘The modern office can make introverts uncomfortable’, describes how studies in the UK show that personality has to be considered for preferred type of work environments.  Today, we are looking at going beyond the bare minimum plan to push for what your office space is really all about. With environmental graphics, spaces start to speak their own language beyond the life of desks and chairs. Doors open to new vistas and the space becomes an exciting point for collaborations, exchanges and new ideas. Investing in environment branding and space design measurably adds to the happiness quotient of an organization. The ethos of the group, instead of being written down on paper become part of the space. 

Creating visual stimuli and using the wall space to introduce puzzles, games, stories and poetry radically energize the work climate. The design of the space with graphic treatments increases positivity and makes the workspace more creative and productive. This allows better alignment to the values and mission of the firm and more importantly, creates a sense of ownership amongst people leading to a natural responsibility. Of course, we celebrate weddings, but more that that, let’s look to celebrate life and celebrate work. 

Anti-clockwise from bottom left: Reception at UNICEF Nepal, Reception at UNICEF Delhi, Break-out area at Mercer Noida, Reception at PwC Gurgaon, Passage at Mercer Noida, Passage at Mercer Aravallis.

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