open workstations, for example, need to be balanced
with nearby private spaces for focused, heads-down
work so the right space can be chosen for the activity at hand.
SECURE, YET UNOBTRUSIVE
“It’s best to have any security experts hired and a
part of the design team at the very beginning of the
project,” urges Koplin, “Their expertise can affect
such design and planning issues as size, shape, and
location of rooms, and how space is allocated. They
can advise on an enormous range of specifics, includ-
ing thickness of walls, insulation, acoustically rated
door hardware, and acoustical leaks.”
The norm is for designers to connect their cli-
ents with experts to handle such issues as digital and
cyber security, storage and disposal of documents
and old equipment, and the installation of security
cameras. Regardless of the issue, a designer’s role
should be to make sure that what can be hidden is
and doesn’t interrupt the aesthetics.
The interior appearance of judiciary offices, finan-
cial companies, and law firms is as important as their
operation. Customers must feel welcomed, recog-
nize the institution if it is a branch office, and feel
equally cared for whether they are there for a large
transaction, like purchasing a mortgage, or some-
thing as small as making a deposit.
One can’t always assume that bankers are conservative, says Williams, although they often are. Much
is determined by location and brand, he explains,
mentioning how firms in the Southwest typically
prefer brighter colors than those in New England,
and the marked difference between, say, a credit
union that is geared to the community and ING
banks that appropriated the color orange and were,
perhaps, the first to install coffee bars.
“A fundamental part of the entire project from
the outset,” says Pollard, “[is] the design is often conceived in tandem with a branding expert.” In many
cases, this includes everything from a corporate logo
to building signage, websites, and brochures.
“We try to find something intrinsic to the brand,
that’s scalable and looks beyond trends and conspicuous technology. We work towards a deeper
understanding of our clients’ values, identifying
what is important to their customers,” notes Pollard.
For a credit union on Vancouver Island, for exam-
ple, where a sense of place and landscape was key,
sand dollars, which are found throughout the area,
greens recall the surroundings. This design scheme
was used in all 16 branches.
Nelson says law firms feel particular pressure to
differentiate themselves from their peers. In the case
of Nixon Peabody, “They wanted to break the mold,
and have visiting clients say, ‘I know they’re a law
firm, but what type of law do they do here? They
don’t look like a typical law firm.’”
One thing this client wanted was to promote
interaction between clients and staff by locating a
café adjacent to the reception area. A new client
experience, it created a more relaxed and collabor-
One size, one style, one design plan cannot and
does not fit all. But with the original thinking being
shown by designers today, both functionality and
privacy are met within a comfortable, appealing
Michele Keith is a New York-based writer and nonfiction
book author who focuses on design-related topics. Her
work has appeared in The New York Times , ASPIRE Design
& Home, Luxury Listings NYC, and DESIGN.
Design at Nixon Peabody promotes a relaxed and more
collaborative atmosphere between lawyer and client.