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Power of Design: Discussion with Anna Hart


Last week, our director Anna Hart joined Rise Art in their collaboration with Edge Architecture to discuss ‘The Power of Design’

The panel was chaired by Scott Phillips of Rise Art with panellists including Jonathan Clarke – Director of Human Resources, Kilburn and Strode, Isabelle Dauchez – Associate, EDGE Architecture and Anna Hart – Director, Hart Miller Design.

Conversation across the panel looked at why organisations engage designers, discussing the impact of investment in this process and what of the outputs are of value in both the workplace and hospitality sectors.

The discussion was well attended and we’ve shared some of the thoughts that were discussed during the morning.

‘What is design’ kicked off the discussion looking at the wider impact of design as a catalyst for change in both an organisational sense and as an opportunity for growth in wellbeing and productivity. Anna championed our approach to projects that sees the design process as a tool that can enable and encourage discussion to look at what are the wider opportunities for a business when looking to commission a designer.

“Our office move has made us bolder and braver in everything we do”

Jonathan Clarke, Kilburn & Strode

Focusing on workplace design commissions the design process for a refurbishment or office move starts with the process of engaging with the team across an organisation. Often termed ‘change management’ this stage of the design process is where the drivers and aspirations for a project are often unearthed.

The outward measure of needing to design a new workplace may be that an organisation doesn’t have enough space to accommodate a growing team, or that the employees aren’t motivated but through engaging with the employees it can come to light what other factors may be at play.

It could be that the types of space available aren’t supporting the work that needs to get done or that staff have nowhere to step away from their everyday tasks to eat lunch and connect with colleagues.  Through understanding an organisation a brief can be developed that define a blend of work settings to support your organisation. Space has the power to cultivate change.

“Good design is a conversation with the client”

Isabelle Dauchez – Edge Architecture

Director of Human Resources Jonathan Clarke said “that engaging in the design process had allowed their very traditional organisation to look at changing their cultural in a much broader sense, addressing the need to attract graduates in what is historically a very traditional working environment”.

The discussion touched on the continuing blend of hospitality offerings within the workplace which continues grow.

Fifteen plus years ago the hospitality offer within the workplace was limited to larger corporations providing staff with a restaurant facility that was operational during traditional ‘lunch times’ but within her own career Anna discussed how this has changed so dramatically that now a hospitality offering within a workplace is considered as so much more crucial to the wellbeing of staff and is a space that can be utilised for work throughout the day; be that meeting over coffee or getting a piece of writing done in the hubbub of it all.

“Good design is helping people do the best they can in their day-to-day”

Anna Hart, Hart Miller Design

These settings by no means suit all personality types and this took us back to the importance of understanding the culture and needs of employees within an organisation for varied settings. For some the social spaces aren’t their comfort zone and they may well perform better within a quiet study booth.

The hospitality blended workplace is without doubt continuing to suit many individuals with the rise in hospitality brands such as Soho House and The Hoxton expanding in to co-working sectors creating ‘Soho Works’ and ‘Working From’ respectively. Their offer is to members who have been blurring the boundaries of the traditional office by filling up the lobbies of their hotels and members clubs to such effect that those members wanting to eat have been struggling to find a table that’s not being occupied by a long-standing laptop user.

In summary, the talk was an interesting debate and we’re looking forward to exploring the topic further in our forthcoming blog posts. Rise Art are hosting further panel discussions, view their events schedule here. Make sure you don’t miss out on our latest articles – sign up to our newsletter.

Words: Anna Hart