Behind the Build: Designing a Dynamic Creative Environment

  • Categories:

    Agency News, Inspiration

  • Date:

    July 16, 2020

Behind the Build: Designing a Dynamic Creative Environment

Agency News Inspiration

We’re building a box to think outside of.

At a time when so many companies — including Wray Ward — are redefining remote work, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the almost paradoxical timing of our upcoming move to a new, purpose-built space in Charlotte’s emerging FreeMoreWest neighborhood later this summer.

Long before the pandemic hit, we knew we’d outgrown our current office at 900 Baxter (our home since 2007). And with that lease ending in 2020, we embraced an exciting opportunity to live and breathe our clients’ brands and their stories. To experience those stories firsthand.

Now, more than four months since our entire team last worked together under one roof, I’m hyperaware of the fact that just 46 days remain until we welcome them back with the start of the agency’s next chapter at 2317 Thrift Road.

I couldn’t be more thrilled.

After all, COVID-19 has tested the limits of our industry, communities and so much more. Meanwhile, our people, like millions of others, haven’t missed a beat. I’m humbled by what they’ve achieved, continuing to create amazing work for our clients while often juggling extra duties as caretakers, educators and chefs.

I miss these special people. I miss their faces and personalities. I miss hearing their laughter in our halls and their footsteps outside my office door. Wray Ward is my extended family, and I’m ready for us to all be together again.

Luckily, we’ll have an incredible new home to share when that day comes.

It’s an exciting time for office design, especially when it comes to creative businesses like Wray Ward. From smarter meeting spaces that are high tech yet easy to use, to personal seating space replacing open-plan offices, office space is evolving. At Thrift Road, we’ll also have the fusion of old with new and fresh elements like color-blocking for an energizing feel — all folded into a decidedly non-office approach that borrows from other worlds to build a place where creativity thrives.

Architect Brooks Runkle of Redline Design Group took these concepts to another level when he designed our new space. With the August move quickly approaching, here are a few elements I’m most excited about experiencing.

An office design that promotes collaboration.

How we collaborate may be different for a while, but collaboration is still a cornerstone of this agency. At Wray Ward, collaboration is the means by which good ideas become great ones. 2317 Thrift Road was designed with this in mind.

Remember when workplace design trends began to shift away from the cubicle mentality? At the time, companies prioritized large, open spaces featuring collaborative work areas, thinking whole-floor visibility would help workers feel connected to their colleagues. Now, the industry understands that people have their own preferences. That throwing everyone into a melting pot may reduce rather than encourage collaboration.

Most companies, like Wray Ward, employ people with wildly different roles and tasks. Consider: the agency has more than 100 on staff, from designers and developers to project managers and copywriters. Designing a logo calls for different work conditions than writing code — which, in turn, is different from small group ideation sessions.

That’s why Runkle conceived Wray Ward’s new office to meet staff where they are, providing 1.5 collaboration spots for every desk. These spots won’t exist solely in a single, large room or traditional conference rooms: Instead, they’ll be in the large auditorium with dramatic raised seating, the bright café that creates a dynamic collision point in the center of the building, informal touchdown spaces and flexible rooms with — yes — doors. Staff can also tap into a material library to review and present creative work.

More natural light to feed our productivity, creativity and well-being.

A 2018 Cornell study found that optimizing natural light in office settings dramatically improves employee health and wellness, equaling happier workers and higher productivity. Meanwhile, Human Spaces research illustrated that natural elements such as greenery and sunlight return a 15% gain in well-being and creativity.

Luckily for Wray Ward staff and visitors, the new office will have plenty of sunlight, with glass on three sides and VELUX® Sun Tunnel skylights for areas like the on-site Studio or first-floor rooms in the center of the building.

The Studio will also have giant, sliding garage doors for copious natural light (or, if a shoot calls for it, complete blackout) as well as easy offloading. Meanwhile, because everyone has unique needs, the agency’s digital developers will have their own space away from the sunshine.

Fresh air for healthier bodies and minds.

Countless studies have shown better air ventilation systems and access to fresh air increase energy levels and productivity while decreasing employee absenteeism. Healthier environments. Vitamin D (sometimes called the sunshine vitamin). Elevated mood. Improved concentration.

Long before COVID-19 considerations touted the benefits of being outdoors, our plans included lots of fresh air access — for indoors and out. Those early decisions will benefit our team as we make our way back to the office.

That’s because 2317 Thrift Road will have no shortage of fresh air, with large venting skylights from VELUX over the lobby in addition to the fixed skylights and Sun Tunnel skylights in other areas. Our staff will also gain easy access to great outdoor spaces such as a roof deck amenity (with an incredible view of the Charlotte skyline) that may just become the office’s most well-loved feature of all. An inspirational setting for group huddles and staff or client meetings, the terrace will be great for individual work nine months out of the year in Charlotte’s temperate climate.

An adaptive reuse project that combines the best of old with new.

Adaptive reuse projects like Wray Ward’s future home, which blends a renovated 1950s industrial structure with a new, two-story attached building, preserve priceless history. They sustain the natural patina and character of a space without going faux.

So much of the modern workforce — and especially millennials — yearn for these creative settings that maintain an older structure’s original character, especially since very little of the “old” has survived in most American cities. Picture exposed wood beams and new, steel beams in perfect lockstep. These spaces exude warmth. They’re inviting. And people love working in them.

Charlotte’s FreeMoreWest neighborhood is at the heart of the preservation movement, and Wray Ward will fit right in. The building has a large footprint that vertically and visually links the old and new structures. It’s no vanilla box (design speak for cookie cutter office space). Instead, imagine a slick, white envelope with punches of the agency’s signature orange, all grounded in the original building’s authentic, gritty, raw soul.

Colors, patterns and textures that make up the essence of a stimulating office space.

A gift from the fashion world, color-blocking combines solid colors from different sides of the color wheel for a fresh look that boosts the mood and stimulates the mind.

Wray Ward is a creative company, so it stands to reason that our office should have quite a few layers of color. But Runkle and his team at Redline took this concept to another level, integrating bright white with pops of color throughout the building. Then, they added graphic wall coverings, bold textures in performance fabrics, and even backlit, perforated metal wall panels. This blend of clean, vibrant color with more geometric or abstract elements will bring the space to life for an office that’s anything but dull.

The chance to fearlessly forge on — together.

Resilience means the ability to quickly recover from difficult circumstances. Put more simply, resilience means “toughness.” After watching our staff and clients continue working apart yet together so well through extraordinary challenges, I can only imagine what we’ll be able to do when we’re back under the same roof.

I’m excited about the possibilities of our future home. As much as it taps into contemporary office design trends, it’s also a home built to withstand the test of time. And because we live and breathe “home” working with our clients each day, I’m inspired by the chance to channel their products, their principles and their vision into our own space.

We look forward to sharing more updates and photos as construction nears the finish line, and we can’t wait to welcome you to 2317 Thrift Road as soon as it’s safe for us all to be together again.

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