Spatial Relations


Details like the display of JWT's global photo collection support that headquarters presence in a global network.

"The visual message of communications is a very powerful one," underscores Wilkinson. "Our involvement in most of these projects is to be a change-management agent. JWT's leadership had already decided they wanted change."

Communicating that change internally is more subtle than the public face put before clients and competitors.

"I believe you shouldn't be marketing to your own people the way you do the outside world," Wilkinson says. "The brand to the interior world is a much deeper, more self-defining thing, and it needs to be less superficial than a set of corporate colors and a few silly icons."

CWA has proven that making that kind of connection to users of a space is not only good design, it's good business. Southern California's Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising now has nearly 400,000 square feet of space completed or on the drawing board with CWA. Since 2002, when the firm finished a redesign of the school's Irvine, Calif., campus -- which serves as a recruitment and tour facility for prospective students -- enrollment has jumped 400 percent. The school's L.A. Annex Studio resembles a "chic boutique hotel," says Annie Johnson, CFO. It has a pool, chaises, couches and low tables, and is a fashionable backdrop for students. "They never want to leave. The spaces are always full with students working," she says.

Similarly, Rick Boyko, the former Ogilvy & Mather North American creative chief who heads VCU's Brandcenter, says that since CWA redesigned the school's space, the students choose to hang out there. "Before the place had wide hallways, everything was gray and beige with offices. The students didn't stick around. They used to go to coffee shops, restaurants, home to work," he says. "Now they're here 90 percent of the time with their peers. It's a fun space and they want to be here. It's better than most ad agencies."

Boyko wanted CWA to create a more collaborative learning space to prepare students for a new era of agency and client roles. But corporate America, challenged in the new economy to think more creatively about its own business problems, may not be far behind.

"During the last five years, American companies are becoming more open; their organizations are realizing technology enables them to work differently and perform better," Laing says. "Inevitably they ask: 'Why do we have the same office space designed for the way we worked 30 years ago?'"