A building lobby plays a key role in your first impression to the world. Users traveling from near and far will set foot through your front doors and immediately start to form opinions about what your company or brand is, what you stand for, where you rate on a scale of quality and trust and whether or not they want to be associated with it.
First impressions are quick. In fact, studies done by both Dutch and American physiologists reveal that a consumer’s first impression of a product’s design occurs within milliseconds . What’s more the initial evaluation is often a subconscious one . We’re essentially hard wired for quick analysis, a trait left over from early man’s survival toolbox. And if we’re judging products in a flash, one can assume we’re judging the environments around us just the same.
With all that in mind, it’s easy to assume you’ll want to put your best foot… or rather best space forward, especially as a selling or repositioning strategy for commercial buildings you’re involved with. So today we’re talking about design as a tool that works to your advantage as well as sharing a few of our essential tactics for lobby spaces too alluring to say “no” to.
DESIGN AS A COMMUNICATION + COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE TOOL :: TAKING HINTS FROM HOSPITALITY
If there’s anything the hotel industry has perfected over the years, it’s how to communicate through lobby design. Since many consumers book hotels site unseen, the guest needs immediate reassurance that they made the right decision. Can a smiling concierge greet you at the door, whisk away your bags and offer a seamless check-in process? Sure. But that’s not the reality for every single guest that arrives at every single hotel. What happens when the concierge is nowhere to be found or perhaps you have to stand in line and wait for check in? How is that instantaneous good impression formed without immediate human interaction? The space needs to deliver that positive message when the people or the services aren’t there to communicate it in the traditional sense.
More and more the science points to well-thought-out design solutions being a primary and effective communication tool. A study by Baek and Ok, for the International Journal of Hospitality Management notes, “Design affects the emotions, creating arousal at different levels.” This interest or arousal has certain effects on us humans, including, “shaping quality expectations” and “behavioral outcomes like the amount of time and money spent, the number of items purchased and loyalty.” [3,4] So liking what you see in an interior environment is much more than just fun for the eyes, it actually instills a sense of quality and loyalty.
This same theory can be applied to other commercial building typologies. The reality is you cannot man your front door with a person at all times. And for a variety of reasons it might not make sense for your company or space or be an economical solution. Your space needs to stand on its own as your first impression. It needs to be an extension of your company and brand when you can’t be there to be that yourself.
CASE STUDY: The Embassy Tower building lobby in Omaha, NE showcases how drastically an interior environment can be improved using Studio | BRiNK’s key design strategies. [photo credit: Dan Schwalm]
But that’s not all good design can do for you. “The design of the physical facility has become an essential part of sustaining a competitive advantage…” [4,5] notes that same Baek and Ok study. If you’re a building owner you need to attract tenants and if you’re a business selling goods or services, you need to attract customers. If someone is excited about your space they are going to remember it over, say, your competitor down the block with the drab or outdated facility. You want to be memorable because that generates business.
So how does one communicate quality and confidence through space? How do you execute a space that is memorable and offers you a competitive advantage? That happens to be where we at Studio | BRiNK come in! We can’t give you all the juicy details, but we are sharing a few of our time-tested tips with you here today…
ONE : PERCEPTIONS OF GRANDEUR
You want your brand to be associated with high quality. To communicate high quality through physical environments you need spaces that read as upscale. A great way to make a space look expensive without breaking the bank is to implement the concept of variety. Using a range of mass, colors and textures in a space creates visual layers and points of interest. That visual interest communicates an upscale environment.
A great example of this is our Embassy Tower lobby repositioning pictured above. In the “before” shot you see the space all one color, all one note. Visual interest is very low. In the “after” photo a variety of colors, tones, textures and material types are used throughout. If asked which one communicated higher quality to you, which would you pick?
The lobby for the new Hudl Headquarters in Lincoln, NE features custom metal, wood and lighting designs unique to the client and location. [photo credit: Tom Kessler]
TWO : INDIVIDUALIZE
Gone are the days of cookie cutter design. Consumers are now paying more attention to new and different experiences according to the Baek and Ok study [4,6]. That’s why implementing unique solutions is high up on our design strategy list. You and your brand are one-of-a-kind and your physical environments should communicate that. You can showcase what sets you apart with design solutions that are uniquely you, new and memorable.
One of our favorite ways to customize design is by working with local artists and artisans (it’s also a great way to support the local community!). This allows us the flexibility to design products specific to our clients so they aren’t just getting something out of a box that’s been used a hundred times before.
Some materials we love to manipulate? Wood and metal! We’re also really big into custom decorative lighting. The Hudl Headquarters building lobby pictured above showcases custom installations of all three of these in fact. The building owners desired a space that was sleek yet fit the industrial nature of the neighborhood. We answered back with a tailored solution of raw wood and metal paired with various glossy surfaces.
THREE : COMFORT IS KEY
If a person likes how a space makes them feel they will associate positive emotions with it, thus associating positive emotions with you and your brand. A surefire way to create user satisfaction in your space is to make people feel comfortable in their surroundings. Realizing that user comfort is really determined individually on a person by person basis, there are a few strategies you can implement that will effect everyone on a basic human level.
Our top strategy to ensure user comfort is to utilize nature. This could be introducing natural materials or simply a visual element that is reminiscent of the outdoors. As humans we react to nature because we’ve taken cues from it since the beginning of our species. Studies by professor Virgina Lohr and Washington State University reveal that people associate vegetation with habitats good for human survival. We’ve been conditioned to recognize vegetation as a potential food source and protection from predators and the elements . So the visual presence of natural elements gives us the subconscious feeling of safety and comfort. And it was all programmed into our brains from the days before we had built environments at all!
A quick sketch overlay of an outdated lobby in Omaha, NE shows how layering our design strategies can make an instant improvement.
We are also huge proponents of good quality light and well-lit spaces. Nothing can make or break the design of a space quite like the way it is lit. And the cherry on top of a highly functioning comfortable space is a welcoming seating group. It’s just simply good hospitality to invite your guests to kick their feet up if they need to!
Need some assistance making your lobby more alluring? Drop us a note, we’d be happy to help you out!
[e] firstname.lastname@example.org [p] 402.490.4645
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Baek, J., Ok, C.M., 2017. The power of design: How does design affect consumers’ online hotel booking? International Journal of Hospitality Management. 65 (2017) 1–10.
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Lohr, V.I., 2007. Benefits of Nature: What We Are Learning about Why People Respond to Nature. Journal of Physiological Anthropology 26: 83–85, 2007.