About GenslerOnWork

GenslerOnWork examines the modern workplace and how design can help us become more engaged and productive as we earn our livings.

Search GenslerOn
Work Topics
Connect with Us
« Design and the Art of the Game App | Main | What’s Next in Product Design? NeoCon Gives a Sneak Peek »

You Are Considered a Consumer, Even at Work

Image courtesy Josh Rose

We are all consumers. We are increasingly living in an economy driven by the consumption of experiences, even at work. Purpose is the new convenience. Innovation is now driven by the pursuit of a better world. To appeal to emerging generations entering the workforce and yielding increased purchasing power, companies are recognizing that it’s no longer enough to offer an attractive benefits package or compelling offer; they have to be inspiring as well.

Recently, I read an article in The New York Times that crystallizes the increasingly pervasive and important concept of experience. It was about “a credit card that mystifyingly, had suddenly become cool,” much to the chagrin of the card’s competitors. The card has made a big splash in the credit card industry, as half of its million-cardholders are under the age of 35! The creator of the card said:

“The message we send is, this isn’t your father’s credit card. For millennials, travel might mean taking an Uber to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Chinatown, and then riding the subway to karaoke, and then catching a taxi home…This is a card for accumulating experiences.”

The card does give higher rewards for travel and dining, but so do many of the competing cards; it’s only by successfully capitalizing on the allure of experiences and the status gained by having them that the card succeeds.

This signals a much larger shift: millennials aren’t interested in the type of exclusive benefits that traditional cards offer, like travel agents and concierge services that can get you into a Dom Perignon tasting. Instead, the rising elite are interested in experiences.

We live and work in a time of unprecedented change. It’s accelerating, and is driven by demographic shifts, growing urbanization, disruptive technologies, responses to climate change and a volatile global economy. Seventy-nine percent of millennials would buy an experience over a product, according to a national U.S. study (Eventbrite, 2014).

This is reflected in the most game-changing businesses of our time. For example, we used to hail taxis and now we order Ubers from our phones. Concerts are becoming passé, in favor of festivals like SxSW or Coachella, where there is a series of presentations, music, technology and networking are happening all at once.

Image © Gensler/Garrett Rowland

As designers and problem-solvers, we’ve widened our gaze, looking to radically different disciplines to find inspiration that support the people behind the world’s brightest innovations. Some of our most recent client partnerships have yielded transformative experiences.

At Etsy, the Gensler team worked hand-in-hand with internal leaders to develop guiding principles for design that align with the company’s mission and values.

One World Commons, a shared amenity floor at One World Trade, is designed with the future workforce in mind. It’s like a free club membership for your employees. The space allows 25 diverse companies—ranging from Condé Nast, to High 5 Games and others across financial services, media, gaming, advertising and technology—to converge.

JetBlue is bringing humanity back to air travel. Richard Smyth, vice president redevelopment for JetBlue said that "Terminal 5 at JFK is not just an airport terminal—it's a People Port. It's designed to provide operational efficiencies without sacrificing, and in fact showcasing customer-friendly qualities.” A rooftop terrace emphasizes their health-conscious brand.

Design is facilitating the acceleration of an experience-driven world by creating places that bring new people and ideas together. In an era where technology is propelling—and sometimes hurling—us forward, convention is unimpressive. Connecting with people on every level—their values, priorities, emotions and intellect—is necessary as their journeys unfold.

Sonya Dufner is a principal in Gensler's New York office. Sonya’s background in interior design combined with her planning experience leads to an approach that synthesizes strategy and design to create fully integrated environments. Sonya works with global clients to rethink their use of technology, workflow, employees and the influence on company culture, productivity, and the correlation that workspaces have in attracting the best talent. Recently, Sonya has explored what is happening as more and more individuals choose to work in “third places.” Contact her at sonya_dufner@gensler.com.
Alyson Stawicki is a big-picture thinker. Focused on the future of workplace, she connects people and ideas across Gensler’s Financial Services and Consulting practice areas. A specialist in the New York Marketing studio, Alyson also leads the New York office’s Financial Services practice area. Contact her at alyson_stawicki@gensler.com.