Research has shown that the places where we spend our time affect us deeply. People’s psychological states are partially determined by the buildings and cities where they live and work. Our brain cells react to the spaces around us, making spatial design vitally important to our mental and emotional well-being.
How Google attracts
and engages talent
through spatial design
This is especially true in the workplace—just ask Google.
Google is a company that’s driven by design… but when they first launched, they followed the same concept of most other American offices: isolated cubicles with opaque dividing walls. This workplace configuration may be universally accepted and easy to replicate, but that doesn’t mean it’s ideal.
According to architect Clive Wilkinson, cubicles are “humiliating, disenfranchising and isolating.” In 2005, he got involved with Google and convinced them to try something new—a change that would revolutionize the company and its future.
“Physical space is the biggest lever to encourage collaboration”Ben WeberPh.D. and workplace interactions expert
“The theory is that open spaces that are fun, where people want to be, facilitate idea exchange”Teresa AmabileProfessor and author
Wilkinson and his team designed a transparent workspace for Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters.
They replaced the cubicles with glass walls, creating an open space that encourages interaction and collaboration.
But the improvements didn’t stop there. In the years since, Google has become the epitome of creative spatial design with similar locations.
The Google “campuses,” as the offices are called, reflect a unique philosophy: “to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world,” according to spokesman Jordan Newman. The spaces themselves are colorful, open, and modern, with a consistent aesthetic that matches the company’s brand image.
Google offers employees much more than cubicles and conference rooms; there are play areas, coffee bars, open kitchens, outdoor terraces, fitness centers, and cafeterias that serve free gourmet food. You can find everything from enormous gathering spaces to tiny nooks for more intimate conversations. Some employees even get to design their own workspaces, adding elements like treadmills or standing desks.
The result is a place where employees want to spend their time. Google doesn’t impose restrictions on hours or force people to come in to the office—they don’t need to. People are happy to work in an environment that accommodates their needs and prioritizes their well-being.
Spatial design is focused on the meaning and impact of spaces on the people who inhabit them. It combines aspects of architecture, interior design, service design, and landscape architecture and design.
At its core is the concept of place identity, or how spaces affect the identities of the people who use them.
What do spatial designers do?
Spatial designers create exterior and interior environments that are optimized for their users. They might work with public or private spaces, ranging from the interior design of a single room to broad regional strategies.
Their goal is to design spaces that match the needs and situations of the people who are using them, whether those people are employees, customers, students, or citizens in general.
They use research methods related to product design and service design, as well as social and historical concepts of place identification.
Google is now known worldwide for its creative interior design along with its technological innovation. It’s consistently ranked as one of the best places to work, and other companies have begun to emulate its philosophy. But Google wouldn’t be the company it is today without the ingenuity of spatial designers.
To tap into employees’ potential, companies must provide workplaces that promote productivity—and this is where spatial designers come in. They optimize the spaces where we live, work, and socialize to maximize our efficiency and happiness.