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Does Your Office Design Lie About Who You Are?

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

Are You Being Honesst?

I’ve heard it said: the average person lies three times per ten minute conversation. It doesn’t matter if you are a housewife from Duluth, a school teacher from Vermont or a little old lady from Kansas. Find that staggering? Don’t!  It’s true.

Studies show we lie to everyone, 86% to parents, 75% to friends, 69% to spouses and 40% on resumes. Now when it comes to online dating, estimates say an unimaginable 90% of people lie on their profiles. Does that dilute your faith in humanity?

Workplace designs tell the truth

Notwithstanding all the evidence to the contrary, I am convinced that most office designs tell the truth about the business. Being in the business that I am in, office furniture and design, I have visited hundreds of offices in my lifetime. From the moment I walk into a business’s reception area, I can tell a lot about the business. 

Office Design

If you are paying attention and being observant, you can tell if a company is organized by how neat and “in place” items, desktops, and reception area layouts are designed and kept. The condition of the furniture can indicate how caring and meticulous the company is about details. The style of the furniture can often tell you if the company is forward thinking or still using an abacus. The accommodations for visitors or lack thereof can often tell you something about the way customers are treated. The quality of furniture and appointments can often tell you if the company is successful, a step away from a banana peel, or utterly wasteful.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

These things, and a plethora of others, are what I call “micro-design expressions.” It’s an amazing thing. Every person and every object has an expression of some kind, unless of course you are in a poker game. And even then you have expressions - they are just harder to detect.

Years ago researchers by the name of Haggard and Isaacs found that our faces reveal hidden information that we purposely want to conceal. Little facial and body expressions we make reveal the truth or falsehood about our intentions.

Although inanimate, I have found details about a business environment and design reveal unspoken information about the business itself. Micro Design Expressions are crucial; first and foremost in your reception area because it communicates in small ways the things you want your audience to grasp about whom and what the company is all about.

Your design expressions can show your business failure of success. Because your design elements connects with emotion, what you show your audience will be more impactful than anything you say.

How Design Can Affect Your Mood

Everything from color, to shape, to quality, forms how your customers and prospects feel about your business. Here are a few examples:

The color blue beckons mental images of things we associate: sky and sea, which makes people feel such emotions as comfort, understanding, clarity, calm, and trust.

When we think about the color green, we often associate with the harmony of nature, growth, what you feel is calm, relaxed, trust, peaceful, and hopeful. Financial institutions often use the color in association with money and growth.

Black conjures ideas of sophistication and boldness. Sometimes black is associated with the formality and mystery of night, or the bad boy effect.

ideas office

Designed by: 90 Degree Office Concepts


If you want your workplace design to tell the truth about your business, begin first with your reception area, it’s the first thing your visitor sees when coming to your workplace. Decide what you believe is true about your business and look for design elements that support those concepts. Use all elements at your disposal to gather support; color, shape, size and material. Don’t forget the details, those micro design expressions that subconsciously affect how people feel and what they believe is true. 

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