MEREDITH Strategy + Design

We design the places and spaces where people come together to do great work

The office as an App, redux

David Galbraith offers an interesting vision for the transformation of thinking about and designing houses. My interest is less in the specifics of his design, but more in the consideration of this approach to almost any space where we live or work.

We continuously accept a lexicon of form – “living room,” “dining room,” “office” – that no longer appropriately serves the way that we live. We accept these forms and functions because they may be the only choices the market makes available to us, or because of social norms that we feel we cannot challenge or do not know how to challenge, or because they are imposed upon us by another authority.

Considering how what we do would be expressed in a web app offers a context for insights into how work and life could flow better and satisfy more.

The web apps we select to download or use are those that are well designed both in visual and functional character. We appreciate mostly those that are agile in character, that reduce complexity, that are light in system demands, that have a simple logic at points of decision, that flow well. We appreciate those that provide, when we want or need it, a link to augmenting or amplifying information or features. We choose the ones we like because of the quality of the experiences we have with them, which are mostly engaging and efficient.

I don’t recall that we’ve had a client who has approached us with an initial and core request to provide a better experience. Most typically, the language that accompanies the commission is an oblique goal metric like reduced square feet per person that occludes the real goal of the organization to become more engaging for the people who do its work and more effective in achieving its purpose.

Many of the tools and techniques our profession has attempted to use to move our client’s language into experiential considerations work only where experience is the business – in retail and hospitality contexts, for example. Clients in corporate, scientific, or institutional domains typically squirm at the imprecision of an experiential parameter.

Why do  people who carefully choose and use web apps use an entirely different language and criteria when commissioning the places and spaces where they live and work? Why is more thinking and emotion invested in an app that costs next to nothing, but nothing of similar critical thinking applied to the experiences in the spaces that cost millions? Could the use of the Web App metaphor be a more effective tool in transforming thinking, perceptions and investments?

(See also The Office as an App, part one)