This isn’t your typical office. All at once, it’s comfortable and familiar, putting you at ease while simultaneously inspiring creativity and problem-solving. Yes, the new Barber Martin Agency (known as BMA) feels less like an office and more like a hip industrial loft with a hint of trendy restaurant—a place you’d like to stay a while, somewhere you truly want to be.
But a few years ago, the award-winning ad shop (creator of campaigns for Virginia Lottery, Reservoir Distillery, and Bassett) worked in a suburban office park. It was your typical ’80s office footprint, with cubicles in the core and private offices lining the perimeter. (Just see for yourself below.)
“What it really lacked was the creative spirit the BMA team obviously had,” says Gillian Bowman, CID, the project’s lead interior designer. The quickly expanding team was generating brilliant marketing campaigns for their clients, but “none of that amazing personality was shining through their space. They had outgrown it, literally and figuratively.”
BMA realized they weren’t telling their own brand story. It was time to make a change.
Baskervill’s workplace strategy team joined the agency’s hunt for the perfect location: a decidedly
un-corporate 10,000-SF converted warehouse in the quickly growing neighborhood of Scott’s Addition.
“We played on this idea of designing neighborhoods within the office, with each zone earmarked for specific tasks employees had throughout the day,” says Gillian, “but all still connected to one another in a very open, fluid layout.”
Enclosed glass offices are intentionally oriented around a bustling core and strategically arranged by height. A show-stopping raised platform (designed for large gatherings and creative blitzes) welcomes visitors upon arrival, immediately immersing them in the agency’s process and culture.
An expansive, light-filled area features flexible workstations and is bolstered by nearby casual booth seating, which does double duty as a space for solo mobile work and connecting with coworkers throughout the day. A hospitality corner—featuring lounge seating and a bar-top with beer on tap—offers employees and clients an additional place of respite and inspiration. Design details like polished concrete floors, charred wood planks, reclaimed windows, and strategic flashes of BMA’s signature orange hue capture the agency’s animated culture.
“You could feel their excitement throughout the whole process,” adds Gillian. “They were ready to embrace something new and bold, and it was inspiring to be part of that journey, to help them realize their vision and design a space that matched their fearless personality.”
BMA isn’t the only company we’ve worked with that’s recognized the need for a workspace shake-up. We live in a time characterized by volatile market disruption, rapid iteration, and near-constant prototyping of products and services. The rate of change is so dramatic that an estimated 40% of today’s Fortune 500 companies won’t exist in 10 years.
“Some people are ready for it,” says Susan Orange, CID, our Director of Workplace Strategies, “but most aren’t, and that’s because they’re afraid of it. They don’t see it as a calculated business opportunity; they see it as a risky gamble.”
She believes that’s because we all have our own definition of change. “If you say the word change without defining it, it’s going to cause chaos. So our first goal when guiding a client through this journey is to start by defining what change means for them.”
So what is changing? And how are those changes affecting workspaces everywhere?
Even if you aren’t a creative agency ready to go big like BMA, says Susan, the strategies our team incorporated in the agency’s space can be translated into other corporate cultures in ways that make sense for their unique brand identity and internal operations—all while tackling the variables above.
“So many clients we’ve talked to think that to compete for talent, they’ve got to start installing slides and swings into their office,” says Susan. “Engaging work environments aren’t about a ping-pong table, they’re about offering choice, control, and freedom to your employees.”
Instead, consider workspace design as a spectrum of solutions: a traditional, buttoned-up law firm might exist on one end; on the other side is a company like Google. You don’t have to jump from one end of the spectrum to the other; it’s about designing intentional and strategic shifts tailored to your goals.
“Our job is to find out where your company exists on that spectrum, then work with you to determine where you want to be—and where you should be based on your vision,” says Susan.
If attracting and retaining top talent is your primary driver, we’ll design a space that addresses that goal in a responsible way and gives your employees buy-in. Because you aren’t just going to look different after a redesign—you’re going to operate differently—making sure employees feel heard throughout the process is the trick to making change stick.
“That may mean some challenging conversations, which we help facilitate,” she says, “because that dialogue is foundational to managing, and ultimately embracing, the change.”
We get it—change is hard. It’s also a critical opportunity, so don’t think you have to go big or go home. You can employ real design solutions that make sense for you brand, that help your employees embrace innovative thinking, connect with one another, and help build a solid team culture—just like BMA.
It starts with conversations, say Susan: “We will take the time to get to know you and listen to you, to hear your fears, your hopes, and your goals. And we’ll get the job done.”