Office Branding

Creating a corporate identity now extends to the leased office space.

In this market, commercial real estate pros face a tough sell trying to convince corporate office tenants to stay put and retrofit or entice new ones to lease space. With vacancies soaring into double digits in both urban and suburban locations, it’s a tenant’s market.

But it pays to know that not all clients are looking for rent concessions and some are realizing that nice office space just may be the differentiator they are looking for. In fact many are taking advantage of this time of falling rents to relocate from class B to class A buildings. And a move to a newer building or a better address may be part of a corporate movement to seek space that elevates and communicates a company’s brand identity.

Increasingly, architectural and interior design have become a prominent branding tool and a tool to attract the talent necessary to compete in today’s market. This growing trend links the image of the built environment and interior design to the symbol for a particular business: a “branded environment.” Office leasing specialists aware of this trend can help clients indentify space that has the ambiance, floor plan, natural lighting, ceiling heights and other built amenities to support the process of creating architectural branding.

Communicating a Message
Incorporating office design into a company’s overall marketing plan sets it apart and presents a cohesive message without words. The international law firm Paul Hastings has embraced this idea and has been successful in many markets where they have leased exceptionally well located and designed buildings and created branded environments within.

Paul Hastings wanted to create the image of comfortable but forward thinking space with no boundaries to evoke the feeling of limitless possibilities to their clients. The architecture of their offices captures this feeling in materials, furnishings, and other design gestures. This is achieved through the use of glass as walls and banisters, lustrous and reflective surfaces, uplighting and natural lighting to enhance the overall feeling of spaciousness, and light and neutral colors throughout the space. This look is carried out in all of Paul Hastings’ offices and their reputation as one of the best law firms internationally is represented by their office spaces which have been published as exemplary of best in class office space worldwide.

In another example, Houston-based Lime Rock Management, an energy investment firm, also wanted to brand themselves and their space. As a young energy related investment firm, they wanted their space to reflect the substance of their business and also reflect the energy brilliance of thier youth. Kelie Mayfield, the Rottet Studio designer working with Limerock, transformed the space into a branded environment utilizing symbolism and forms from the stratas of the earth form where the oil and gases are found. Using two floating glass boxes within the interior floor plan to house each of the firm’s operating teams, the design concept created movement within the space and played an integral part in the conceptualization of the company’s overall visual aesthetics. To provide visual privacy, the two glass boxes are accented by artworks, wood sections, folding planes of color, all strategically placed. The glass partitions allowed natural light to penetrate into the interior, while providing privacy for the work locations in each office.

Reflecting the core nature of the business, ceiling planes and carpet designs were created with the stratification of the earth’s crust as a reference and a sculpture resembling crude oil formations was commissioned by a local artist and sits prominently in the front entry lobby. By creatively integrating the firm’s two logos, signage, and sculpture into the art and architecture of the design, Lime Rock Management has a clearly branded environment.

Creative design can be used to convey any message that will sets a company apart from the competition. Office leasing specialists familiar with the concept of brand identity, as well as the goals of architectural branding, can provide an additional skill set to help corporate tenants assess raw space for their needs. As companies strive to stay ahead in the coming years, achieving a branded environment may become an increasingly important competitive strategy.

Lauren Rottet, FAIA

Lauren Rottet, FAIA, is founding principal of Rottet Studio in Houston. Contact her at (713) 221-1830 or