How To Select The Workplace Designer For You

I am currently searching for office designers around the world and it’s clear that each market and design process is unique.

So, how do you select the right workplace designer for you?   Every project is unique and there isn’t one way to find the right workplace designer.  You need a system and a process to ensure you select the right office designer. 

This article will provide a process to ensure you find the right office designer for you:

– 7 ways to find designers,

– Best time to select a designer,

– How to communicate your design brief,

– How to conduct a designer interview process

– Identify the key designer attributes to consider before final selection

7 Ways to Find the Right Workplace Designer


1. Who has designed office space in the building your viewing?

Ask the landlord for designers who have worked in the building. An excellent way to identify the pros and cons of a building your viewing is to work with a designer who has already carried out work in that building.  They can communicate some of the issues and benefits they found.  You can also view the office they designed to see a finished product.

2. CRE Broker 

Whether you’re in the market for a new office location or not, your broker will be able to identify designers who are winning contracts and companies they are winning contracts with. They will also be able to put you in contact with designers and provide examples of past work.

3. Furniture vendor 

Ask your local furniture vendor for designers who are winning contracts and who are good to work with. They will have a different perspective from a broker as they work side by side with designers to provide the final fit out.

4. Project Managers 

Similar to furniture vendors, project managers will have a hands-on perspective of good designers and who would be a good fit for you.

5. Office Tours 

It’s easy these days to tour other offices. Take a few tours and ask the tour guide questions on; how they designed the office, the designer they used, why they selected that vendor and would they hire them again.  Ask for the person they worked with at the design company.  Not all designers are the same.

6. Ask your peers 

Speak to peers at networking events. Ask for recommendations and what they have heard about designers and companies you’re considering.

7. Look at companies you aspire to be 

Most companies have a company they aspire to be when it comes to office design. Often, it’s outside your natural business sector (Google for example). Find out who designed their space. Be careful, as companies like Google don’t use the same designer for every project.

When is the Right Time to Select your Workplace Designer?

Each project is different but to gain the most from your office search, try to have a short list of designers in place when searching for office space.  The benefit of this approach is that the short list can have readily accessible floor plans for each building you’re viewing.

– Each building will have pros and cons that you may not see when viewing a property.  A designer will get into the details and identify items you may have not considered or missed.

– See different office designs for spaces you’re considering.  It’s a great way to get office insights.

– Get to know each designer and see how a working relationship with them will feel.

– It also provides each designer an opportunity to show how they’re different.  Namely, their differences in approach, space planning and communication.

Communicate the Workplace Design Brief

To allow a designer to do their best work you have to provide a clear brief.  A clear office design brief should include:

– information about the office

– the culture of the organization

– local culture

– the businesses operating in the office

– the functions and tasks of employees within the office

– productivity factors that need to be considered when designing

Any additional occupancy information or other office designs that you have should also be included to influence office design.

You can rely on the information you prepared from How to Design an Office for EmployeesOpens in a new tab..

How to Run a Selection Interview

The key to running a successful interview is to ask questions and let the designer talk.  There are many things to consider while the designer is communicating their vision but it’s important to let the designer ask questions and walk you through their vision.  It’s their vision we are assessing not your ability to discuss your vision.

(Please note that I am intentionally ignoring any sourcing policy your company may have, as these policies differ dramatically by company.)

The interview process should be carried out in phases –

Background on the company – What work has the company completed? Get references.

Background on the lead designer – What offices has the lead designer created? Get references

Communicate the brief – You can do this directly or your broker or project manager can do that for you. Having it be managed through a broker or project manager keeps your distance at this point

Test fits – Assess how the designer has interpreted the brief

Interview – Ideally face to face – This allows the designer to communicate their vision and clarify any questions they may have. It also allows you to reinforce the important concepts

Update test fits – Allow each designer an opportunity to update their plans after the first interview

The second interview – Provides an opportunity for the designer to show their revised office design

Select designer to move forward with

Draft contract and agree to terms

Challenge of getting it right

The biggest concern I always have when selecting a designer is getting it right – office capital investment is huge and how do you get it right after a few interviews?  Trust your process because; you’ve had each designer recommended from a trusted source, you’ve seen their office plan through the interview process. interacted several times and know they understand your brief and you’ve received references from work they’ve previously completed.

11 Attributes to Look for in an Workplace Designer

1. Do they know your brand?

– How well do they know your company?

– How well do they know the office and functions being carried out in the office?

2. Who will be the lead designer on the project?

– Are the people in the interview the team that will be designing the office?

– How much time will the person that you like in the interview spend on the project?

– Who will be the main contact person?

– Where are they located? Local or do they need to travel?

– How many projects is the team assigned to you working on?

– What other projects have the assigned team completed? Go visit them if you can.

3. Past Office Designs

– Hopefully, they’ve provided work for similar companies in the past

– While images look great, try to get to the “why”. Why is the office layout the way it is?  Why is the breakout space where it is?  Why are teams sitting where they are? How did productivity play into design?

4. What questions do they ask?

– Do the questions they ask show an understanding of the big picture and are they moving into the tactical phase?

5. Are they pitching additional services?

– A pet peeve of mine is when you’ve asked a designer to prepare space plans and they come to a meeting trying to sell other services. If I open the door to other services, I have no issue, but when it’s a blatant sales pitch it takes away from the purpose of the meeting.

6. What unique office ideas do office designers have?

– When three designers are planning an identical floor plan it provides great insights into an office space and the designers

– Did they listen to the brief and provide a unique way to activate breakout space?

– Did they use the floor plans in different buildings to create unique floor plans?

– Is the designer pushing boundaries?

– Did they play it safe with their floor layout?

7. What is their best office design or the design they are most proud of?

– What design are they most proud of?

– Why that specific design?

8. What research do they do to stay ahead?

9. Has their local office grown over the last couple of years?

10. How do they design an office space?

– What is their process of designing space?

– Most designers will have a template process they follow – they should be able to provide that template.

11. How do they see the office space industry?

– What trends are they seeing in office selection?

– What trends are they seeing in design?

– Can they communicate what other companies are asking them to design?

Always select a designer who understands the organization, the employee functions, and tasks, productivity attributes of an office, and has shown a history of delivering this for other clients. But, don’t forget to select a designer you enjoy spending time with.

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