Innovation at the Front Door

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By Sarah Brophy, LEED AP, IIDA | Design Director | November 29, 2016

THE EVER-EVOLVING RECEPTION AREA IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE.

Gusto in Denver. Photo by Frank Ooms.

Reception areas are one of many rapidly evolving aspects of the workplace and, like other areas, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Ultimately, the best strategy will focus on experiential design infused with the organization’s cultural aspirations for the future.

Some companies need a manned reception desk in an area secured from the rest of the office.  But even with this conventional planning approach, there remains a desire to activate these spaces and deliver a unique experience packed with personality.  At Gusto in Denver (above), the reception area creates a residential ambiance at the point of entry, where staff and visitors are invited to remove their shoes and don more comfortable footwear, which serves as a cultural throwback to when the company was launched in the founder’s mother’s basement. This marks the beginning of a memorable adventure tied to company culture and values.

L: Whitepages in Seattle. Photo by Sherman Takata. R: Placester in Boston. Photo by Robert Benson.

At the other end of the spectrum, reception spaces are being abandoned completely. Through purposeful design strategies, underutilized spaces that may not fit company culture are often reallocated to employees. In Boston, this approach can be seen at Placester where the reception area has become an open collaborative space for visitor queuing co-located with the elevator lobby.  When not used by visitors, staff can easily access this space for pop-up meetings. A digital check-in, such as the one at Whitepages’ headquarters in Seattle, is another innovative solution that can maximize space for employees.

L: Hubspot in Cambridge, Massachusetts. R: Sonos in Boson. Photos by Robert Benson.

Most organizations lie somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. For many IA clients in the Boston market, first impressions are paramount. Competition for talent is intense and a “wow” factor to recruit and retain professionals is critical. To further these goals, culture is emphasized front and center. The reception area at HubSpot is coupled with an employee café that immediately immerses visitors in the “buzz” of the office. Likewise, the entry sequence at Sonos offers a sensory experience that embodies brand on every level. The fit, finish, and scale of the reception area is residential, and Sonos speakers, integrated throughout and  streaming music  into  the work zones, extend the reception experience.

How organizations define brand perception and celebrate culture are critical components of crafting a meaningful reception experience. Each client’s brand position provides the initial platform for IA’s design process from which we, as architects and designers, can dive into the inner workings of the organization and design the most supportive workplace possible.



IA is a global firm of architects, designers, strategists, and specialists .We focus exclusively on environments through the lens of interior architecture—a radical idea in 1984, when IA was founded. We are highly connected agents of change, committed to creativity, innovation, growth, and community.




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You get one chance at a first impression - make it a memorable design experience!

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