Gretchen Boulos on Designing Corporate Spaces that Reflect Company Values
Gretchen Boulos was simultaneously attracted to the corporate and art worlds. She found both in commercial design, a career that is structured and focused, but also involves left-brained thinking. “Every project allows me to be creative in my solutions,” she says. As the owner of Boulos Commercial Design, she develops workspaces that reflect the values of companies and their employees. Read on for her interview with MH+D Inside Out.
Q. How do you think the design of a workspace affects the people who work there?
A. Design affects employees’ productivity, morale, and relationships with their coworkers. By investing in the interior design of the space, companies invest in their employees, rewarding them and facilitating their best work. Do they need quiet work? Do they need collaboration space? Do they need more privacy or less privacy? What kind of tasks are they doing? I try to understand those different needs and then design a space specifically so that employees can have all the environment options that they might need to do their job as efficiently, quickly, and pleasantly as possible.
Q. What’s your process for identifying what needs to happen in the company?
A. I like to meet with the head of each company to find out their mission and purpose and where they see themselves in a perfect world. A lot of times what I hear in those meetings is very different than what I see in the workplace. My job is to understand their end goal, and then make the space reflect that. The key to success is company research and focus groups, as well as understanding what employees want, where they’re coming from, and what they need to succeed, and then translating that into design.
Q. What’s an aspect of an environment that could negatively affect the success of a company that people might not realize?
A. Acoustics. A lot of times, especially with the brick buildings in the Portland area, the exterior walls aren’t insulated. Bad acoustics can quickly deteriorate your ability to get your job done. If employees need quiet to do their work, the office needs to reflect that. If they need a space where they can be loud and collaborative, it needs to reflect that, too.