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Imagine you have a brand-new space that you and your team have poured your hearts and souls into. The programming has been meticulously analyzed. The views have been optimized, and the finishes are in pristine condition.  You start imagining the growth and fellowship that is about to take place between these freshly painted walls. Then it hits you, while you know this new building like the back of your hand, will your visitors feel just as comfortable?  

Most of us can agree that navigating a new space can create some anxiety. “Will I be able to get where I’m going?” Will I belong?” It is a designer’s job to help ease some of these anxieties and curate a positive experience for all visitors. Signage and furniture tend to be afterthoughts, but it is the furniture and signage that send the clearest message to the visitors of a space. Let’s look at what subconscious messages we are sending. 

Signage – “We’ve been expecting you” 

When a complete signage package is integrated into the initial design of your space, not only does it create an overall cohesive look, but it also sends the message to visitors that this space was created with them in mind. It is important to remember that not all visitors have the same needs. You will have visitors of all ages and backgrounds that may not read a sign the same way. The use of pictures and color-coded wayfinding are a great universal way to guide people. Nothing creates more inclusivity than sending the message “We’ve been expecting you.” 

Furniture- “We are here to meet your needs

Upon entering a space, visitors should quickly “feel” the type of space they are entering by the furniture arrangements. Imagine you have just walked into a 30’x30’ room. This room has a concrete floor, white walls, and is completely empty. You’re asking yourself, “What do you do in this space?” Most likely you’re looking around for visual cues on how to respond to your surroundings. Then, imagine you have walked into a 30’x30’ room with a concrete floor and white walls, only this time you see a cluster of café tables and stools all centered around a small barista station. The tables and chairs tell you this is a place to socialize, and the barista station tells you the function of the space.  

We can continue to curate the experience by furnishing the space with a combination of table and chair styles. Bar height tables and low back stools encourage interaction between guests by placing seated guests and standing guests at eye level.  The low back stools allow for easy movement from left to right and from standing to sitting. By including a seating arrangement with dining height tables and higher backed chairs, you are inviting your guests to spend more time in the space. The variation in styles sends the message to guests that “we are here to meet your needs.”   

Through thoughtful furniture arrangements and clear messaging, you are putting your visitors’ needs first, thus communicating a message of acceptance and hospitality. 

Kristin LaPorta 
Interior Designer | ASID | NCIDQ | LEED AP

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