Branding interiors – not only in-store

In 1954, Coca-Cola’s advertising slogan was “For people on the go”. Sixty years later the same phrase embodies the design of the company’s new European headquarters by London design agency MoreySmith. “At Coca-Cola it’s about giving people the choice of workplace environment: how they work and where,” explains design director Nicola Osborn. “Everyone has a desk but they have enough space to provide a working environment where open plan does feel open and less congested, because people are choosing to break away and do other things: team presentations , meetings, even travelling.”

Bottling brand values

Coca-Cola’s new location, once home to the Royal Society of Medicine in London’s West End, houses 300 staff behind its Edwardian facade. A staircase runs through the core of the four-storey building and links to a completely refurbished 1980’s rear extension via a staircase linking a roof terrace, café, meeting rooms, open plan office space and hot desk facilities. Architecturally, it unites the floors, and by analogy, the staff. Alongside the stairs there is a custom-built, double-sided display wall – a bespoke, intelligent, light installation composed of 5000 LED-illuminated recycled Coca-Cola bottles. Each bottle acts as a pixel in one of three screens installed over three floors, providing a spectacular backdrop of the 125-yearold brand’s place in popular culture.

“We wanted to create a unique, one-off, art driven lighting installation that would celebrate the iconic contour bottle shape, and also tie the three floors together,” says James Burke, “Creating a comfortable but productive workplace is a question of balance.” Nicola Osborn, Design director of MoreySmith creative director of art and design studio Acrylicize. “The aim was to design something that was dynamic, changeable, ever-evolving and engaging. Putting light in each bottle references the magic of the drink itself.”

Among the other artworks throughout the building is a four-metre tall comet-like chandelier designed by Stuart Heygarth, comprising 80,000 acrylic ice chunks. Also lit by LEDs, it hangs on ultrathin wires in the reception area epitomising the effect of an ice-cold Coke on a hot, dry day. Elsewhere, amid reclaimed wood, bare brick and exposed concrete, the red of Coca-Cola’s visual branding and examples of marketing paraphernalia from fridges to neon is much in evidence. But brands run deeper than packaging, image or logos. “Using the brand's iconic history, we have created a space which also draws upon the vibrant energy of the organisation,” says MoreySmith principal Linda Morey Smith.

“The result is an environment for team happiness with uplifting and comfortable spaces for staff and visitors to work, meet, collaborate and socialise”, a sentiment echoed by Coca- Cola human resources director Sarah Hutton, who says “the new office creates an inspiring and motivating place to work which celebrates the heritage of the Coca-Cola Company and reflects the values and culture of our brand.”

Tradition with a contemporary twist

“We pride ourselves in putting people first,” explains Osborn. “We design interiors for people and then layer in brand identity. We look at how they work, what drives the business and what the environment needs to do to support that. The next layer gives that environment a unique brand ethos, making sure that the brand culture and the workplace culture are intrinsic to the how people use it.” Osborn is adamant that workspaces should both give employees a base and encourage them to move, change mode, socialise, bond and think.

“Well-being is paramount,” she says. “You can get people to move between floors with destination planning and making sure different areas have different ambiences, which you do through materiality and lighting. You can do whatever you want with that as a designer, but you still need to give them the traditional desk workspace. As a designer you really have to be sensitive to how humans behave. We are territorial animals. We like a place to have our stuff. We want a space that is ours. There always should be a destination that someone can go to on a daily basis but the form that takes depends on the client. Over the years, hot-desking has been run away with in a negative way and instead of becoming a useful implementation in a workplace it is becoming a white elephant. We try to rework that and bring it round to providing touchdown areas or somewhere where people can break away from the open plan.”

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