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Branding and the Open Plan Workplace 

Hachette Book Group. Image © Garrett Rowland

Hachette Book Group recently moved its New York office into an open-plan workspace, breaking with the publishing industry’s longstanding tradition of keeping a publisher’s individual imprints sequestered by physical boundaries like private offices and designated meeting spaces. Not surprisingly, the transition was met with trepidation. Employees expressed concern that Hachette’s divisions—from Little, Brown and Company to Grand Central Publishing—would not be able to maintain their autonomy within an open-plan workspace. Closed-office plans provide departments with spaces to call their own; open-office plans do not. With all employees stuck in a single unified space, would it be possible for Hachette’s unique imprints and brands to retain their individuality?

The answer? Yes! The solution? A thoughtful branding and interior graphics program.

Hachette Book Group. Image © Garrett Rowland

Branding is not a design term that often springs to mind when considering open-plan workspaces. Yet as Hachette’s new headquarters in Midtown Manhattan demonstrates, branding can balance an organization’s desire for a collaborative environment with the need to maintain the autonomy of individual departments.

How can branding accomplish this? By demarcating work areas through the use of attentive graphics and signage. Hachette’s new office is completely open. But the design provides each of the company’s imprints with a sense of individuality. It outlines departments’ workspaces through graphics that draw inspiration from the imprints’ logos as well as cover art of Hachette’s iconic books (The Catcher in the Rye and The Tipping Point, for example). These graphics live on columns, walls, and glass partitions adjacent to imprint libraries, conference and phone rooms that employees can use for private meetings and individual focused work. The office also includes a number of interchangeable hanging graphics that company employees can use to display other wall art they feel enliven the space and communicate their imprints values and mission to anyone who steps into the workspace.

Wall graphic at Hachette Book Group. Image © Garrett Rowland

The graphics at Hachette’s new office not only create a pleasing aesthetic but draw distinctive boundaries between the company’s various imprints. They use visuals rather than walls to separate imprints from one another; give employees a sense of ownership and pride while still allowing departments to cross-collaborate on projects of interest. It softens the blow of moving from a workspace where individual offices were the norm to a culture of shared space.

Branding in an open office plan may not be the norm, but we are fast learning that it is critical to giving workers a sense of identity. Like wearing your college sweatshirt or putting a bumper sticker on your car, it provides a little gleam of individuality within a shared workspace. In publishing, that need for distinctiveness is critical. Yet other industries could also take a page from Hachette’s playbook for a successful workspace by realizing that an open-office plan does not have to augur the death of uniqueness within a large company. Rather it provides the opportunity for departments and sub-brands to express their idiosyncrasies through colorful graphics rather than walls, a design solution that celebrates contrasts rather than cloistering them away from one another through mazes of walls and closed office doors.

Hachette Book Group. Image © Garrett Rowland

Brian Brindisi is a design director for the Lifestyle-Brand Design studio and Regional Brand Design Leader at Gensler's New York office. His portfolio includes education, mixed-use, cultural, and corporate projects. Outside of Gensler, Brian continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor at the School of Visual Arts where he teaches visual identity and branding.contact him at brian_brindisi@gensler.com.

Reader Comments (2)

Man I love this site. It is just so awesome.Good for my presentation.
03.21.2015 | Unregistered CommenterJames Bond
Nice article!!
Brand Identity, Logo or any graphical representation has a single purpose of PRODSIGN, to allow people to understand the Brand and its offerings.
04.20.2015 | Unregistered Commenterprodsign

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