Blank canvas or blanket response – briefing your fit-out company

Dream & Create Office Fit Out

Blank canvas or blanket response – briefing your fit-out company

By Marlon “Train” Forrester with Cassie Hallinan


“What do you reckon?” and “Here’s what I’m thinking…” can be equally problematic openings to an initial client meeting/site visit.  At least that’s the case for office fit-out companies looking to build an extension of the client’s brand and also showcase their own best work (one should flow into the other by the way).  In the fit-out world as is the case in life there is the path of least resistance and the path of maximum assistance.  You should always try to travel the latter.

When a client comes to a team of designers and says “what do you reckon?” some will see an opportunity to overlay a basic template, the execution of which will be quick, easy and cost effective for all.  On the other hand some may see this as an opportunity to create “award bait”: build something that features their best pieces of furniture, wildest ideas and shoehorn them into your office space in the hopes of promoting their services to others.  Admittedly these are the extremes and are by no means typical.  That said, neither outcomes nor their variations get your walls, floors, windows, fittings, furniture and ceilings working harder for your brand.

The other side of that coin is the “Here’s what I’m thinking…” opener.  The caricaturised version of this is a blizzard of stream-of-consciousness suggestions from everyone from the MD on down to the barista on the ground floor.  Many of whom may not know your brand objectives much less be invested in them.  In cases like this, designers can either fall into the trap of agreeing to everything and regretting it or coming across as a naysayer – and nobody likes naysayers.

Of course, it’s most certainly not the clients’ fault.  After all, they may have toiled long and hard to become the best in their class in say, forensic accounting.  Surely that’s enough.  Why should they have to become experts at briefing designers as well?  They shouldn’t.  But in order to get the best result there will need to be some communications common ground on which to build the foundations of a design project.  Cue the “quick 6 tips” for a successful initial briefing meeting:

a) If you don’t mind my asking.  What does your company do, for whom and why?  What’s are the important elements that might support that? Trust, excitement, creativity?  These are important questions, give them due consideration.

b) Do you see what I see?  Do a walkthrough, start from outside your office, approach the entrance, enter and then take a lap.  Do so through the eyes of both your customers (if you’re client-facing) and as someone that works for your organisation (Inspired? Yes? No?).

c) Mind the gap.  Your office fit-out company isn’t there simply to divide up the open spaces, install a kitchen and activate the “trusted contractors” list.  Get them to bridge the gap between point A and point B – which might mean a straight line to our team at Dream & Create (D&C).

d) Needs vs wants.  Know the difference.  Why? Because your needs (it should be a short list) are must haves.  The fit-out simply will not work without them.  Wants should be subject to the approval of the Brand and its functions.  I personally love astro-turf, palm fronds and heat lamps… these are wants – enough said!

e) The money.  Self-explanatory really.  How much is in the budget?  Is that realistic?

f) What’s the time?  The timeframe could be rigid by necessity (opening for business on…) or as fluid as a Caribbean happy hour.  But whatever it is, a time frame needs to be set in wet, quick-dry cement before anyone leaves the room.

This is not an exhaustive list.  However, it is an excellent start, giving you a far better opportunity to get what you, your company, your brand needs and as an added bonus, you’ll have a clear idea of whether your vendor can achieve your goals.

Voila! A not-so-brief guide to better briefing.  Here’s to fit-outs that fit your brand.