Workplace design has seen a lot of change in the last decade. Companies are realizing that the work environment they provide dramatically affects their success. One of the ways they’re transforming workspaces is through environmental branding.

If you’ve heard the term before and it mainly conjures up feelings of confusion, don’t worry you’re not alone. Theoretically speaking it’s a multidisciplinary approach combining graphic design, architecture, wayfinding and more. Practically speaking – it’s still complex, including physical elements ranging from floor finishes to writable walls to paint choice.

Environmental Branding 101

All these different elements combining under the heading “environmental branding” can be a little intimidating. In this blog we break down what exactly this technique is and why you should care.

What Is a Brand?

A quick internet search will turn up a dozen different definitions for “brand” – and some heated Twitter debates. And no wonder – a brand is a complex thing that includes many different elements. It is not merely the product a company offers. A brand is the perception of a company or product. It’s all the associations and gut feelings people attach to that business. For example, one of the strongest brands today is Apple. When we think of Apple, we don’t just think of a cell phone or laptop. The name conjures up a dozen more associations – minimalism, luxury, and innovation to name a few.

A strong brand is founded in several elements that make up a core of a company:

  • What is your purpose?
  • Your values?
  • Your mission?

These big picture ideas are reflected in every part of the experience your company creates: the product, the website, advertising campaigns, the colors in your logo – and yes, the environment. Together, these elements help create and reinforce the perception of your brand.

What Is Environmental Branding?

Environmental branding is designing the physical space of your business to reflect your brand. This practice turns your building from an anonymous space to a place that reflects you and your story. It’s an interdisciplinary practice that includes interior design, architecture, graphic design, signage and more. All of these aspects work together to communicate who you are to customers, employees and investors.

Why Is Environmental Branding Important?

When used consistently, your brand is one of your company’s most powerful tools. A strong brand is memorable, so your customers are more likely to return again and again. A brand is important in building trust in customers. While shopping, many of us will spend more on a branded product than its nearly identical non-branded counterpart. Why? Brand recognition creates trust in the quality and effectiveness of that product.

The power of environmental branding is obvious in a retail environment. Here, branding can directly increase sales. But it’s also valuable in any other workplace. Environmental branding instantly shares your company’s values with everyone who walks through the front door. A branded environment inspires employees and gives them a sense of belonging and purpose. It communicates a lasting positive impression on clients and other visitors. And finally, it inspires trust in investors.

Environmental branding helps you attract and retain the top talent in your industry. Your workplace is a more powerful recruitment tool than you might think. One workplace survey found that 81% of office workers would turn down a job offer if they did not have a positive sense of the workplace environment. Employees spend 40+ hours a week in your offices, if that time isn’t spent in a positive environment, they’ll leave. Workplace design is increasingly a major factor in your ability to recruit the best of the best.

Furthermore, employee engagement is powerfully influenced by environmental branding. It’s hard to feel part of something larger in an anonymous, white-walled office. Environmental branding elements provide visual reminders that employees are part of a larger community. This increases loyalty to the company as well as a more collaborative work culture.

Some of these elements have a functional purpose that further reinforces employee engagement. Custom printed writable walls can display brand imagery while promoting teamwork. Thoughtful design can also create a more motivating atmosphere, leading to a more productive workforce.

Design for Environmental Branding

We’ve already discussed how complex even just the concept of brand is. Applying a brand to a physical space is just as complicated. You can’t slap a logo on the lobby wall and call it a day. Successful environmental branding considers a variety of factors.

It does apply the visual design elements of a brand to a space, which is what most people think of when it comes to environmental branding. This can mean choosing furniture in your brand colors, and installing signage with your logo. Decorative features such as wall coverings may show images of the company’s history or accomplishments.

group collaborating using magnetic dry-erase wall

But a brand is much more than a guideline of approved Pantone colors. It includes a lot more nebulous features such as personality and values. Skillful environmental branding incorporates these as well. A brand that is team-oriented and energic should design to reinforce this. For example, they could use dry-erase wall coverings to encourage teamwork. An environmental organization might use locally sourced sustainable materials in their interior architecture.

Start Using Environmental Branding Today

To sum up, environmental branding uses a variety of design elements so that your space communicates your brand. It considers not just the graphic elements of your brand – such as colors, typography, and logo – but also abstract elements such as your brand personality, values, and mission. It incorporates these aspects in a wide range of ways such as paint choice, space planning, and much more. It includes the thoughtful use of elements such as custom wall coverings and signage. The end result is a space that empowers employees, creates a memorable impression on clients, and fuels company success.