This is the second installment of our interview with the Global Director of Poly’s Experience Program, Renée Niebylski. If you haven’t already, read Part I.
When refreshing the designs for Poly’s experience centers, what did you draw upon for design inspiration?
Renée: Our team drew inspiration from many sources, but three key players shaped this redesign. First, we wanted these experience centers to convey the DNA of our products and our brand. That’s why we brought in Poly’s VP of Brand and Corporate Design, Darrin Caddes to share his energy and passion for great design through a curated color pallet, textures, and lighting.
Another point of inspiration was the cities where the briefing centers are located. We wanted our centers to become a part of the city and not merely a space that looks over it. Each experience center was designed to celebrate the local culture of their city.
Finally, we focused on the concept of our technology work so seamlessly that it fades into the background – providing an effortless communication experience. We did this by looking to enable rooms that fit the varied needs of our company and our customers. Formal conference rooms sure, but also huddle spaces, collaboration rooms, and more casual discussion areas. By focusing on room types and user types rather than designing a room around a specific product, our devices always have a place as our portfolio evolves.
How has the pandemic shaped the way you’re designing the spaces now?
Renée: This is a question that will follow many briefing or experience program designers for years to come! In all cases, we are focused on creating flexible spaces that allow for virtual demonstrations as well as in-person experiences. Thankfully, our technology makes this easy. Historically, we’ve had dedicated virtual studios with complex gear managed from a small windowless room. Now, technologies for virtual and in-person need to be shown in tandem.
For example, we re-created the virtual experience with rolling carts outfitted with Poly cameras. These are easy to tuck away when guests arrive for in-person experiences. This is the kind of flexibility that I would not have thought necessary a year or two ago, but today it’s critical for business continuity. We know customers will visit in-person, but virtual demonstrations are also here to stay. With the re-design, we’re now better equipped to accommodate both.
How are your Experience Centers designed for accessibility and inclusion?
Renée: From a physical perspective, the space is open, flexible, and has a variety of workspace styles to choose from. Of course, in every country we follow ADA requirements, but we strive to go further by thinking of where and how people can effectively work, not just whether there are obstructions. That slight change in design perspective opens doors to varied table heights, interesting conversation areas, and overall, more diversity in the layout to accommodate different work styles. Some may crave the buzz of others working around them. Others may need a quiet space to enable focus. The new room layouts and furniture selection were thoughtfully picked to welcome everyone.
This concept of designing physical spaces to accommodate different work styles intertwines with that of outfitting different job functions with specific technologies. At Poly, we’ve done a wealth of Persona Research on the different types of employees to understand how they should be supported. Each persona may need different areas or technologies to make them productive throughout their day.
In our new experience centers, we created the environment to support multiple personas (an Office Collaborator vs a Connected Executive for example) both to support our employees and to demonstrate these insights to our customers.
What has been the biggest design challenge so far?
Renée: For most briefing centers, designing around glass walls isn’t a large issue. But for audio and video applications, glass can be challenging when we need to mitigate reflections, echo, and glare. In the past, our Experience Centers were designed to be completely closed off to natural light, giving us more control over the experience. Our new centers need to convey reality – and for many offices that includes glass! Our experience center in London is a great example since it’s inside the round glass Gherkin skyscraper.
Just as most companies don’t build their meeting spaces in windowless boxes, most home offices don’t have blackout shades and soundproofed walls. The transparency built into our experience center is an important part of the demonstration.
Final question, what’s a piece of advice or a lesson you’ve learned that you’d like to share with others who are thinking about designing workspaces for the future? Whether it be for experience centers or other employee workspaces.
Renée: Don’t get caught up in designing specifically for today. As we continue to work through the pandemic, I’ve been asked several times if there are too many chairs in a room or if the seats are too close together. The answer today may be “yes,” but next year the answer may be different. Although it’s difficult, I think it’s prudent to design flexible spaces that can transform as needs change. Also, when the time comes, be willing to pivot your plans. We can’t control all aspects – designs will inevitably change. If you rely on the strength of your relationships as well as your knowledge and experience, you will succeed.