Commissioning Artwork for your Office

1 August 2006 Timandra Gustafson

The interior design scheme of your offices says a lot about your company. Timandra Gustafson, Chief Executive Officer of Axis, explains how you can use this representation of your company to its full potential.

So, you've rebranded and things are going well, recognition is up and positioning surveys are coming back positive or maybe you're working with a well-established brand that needs a bit of reinforcement. All you need now is employee buy-in but isn't that just easier said than done?


In modern business the brand isn't just the logo or company Pantone colour but rather a continuation of those elements into a lifestyle, a corporate ethos, a company vernacular that must be conveyed to all stakeholders in ever more subtle ways.

"What about light work, textiles or even interactive video pieces?"

A memo circulating the new 'look' won't suffice to create the amount of support needed for effective brand positioning in the mind of the employee, so what techniques are available to create a brand-led workplace?

Your facilities actually offer you a multitude of opportunities to instil the company ethic into your employees. One only has to look to call centres for examples of maximum capitalisation of the opportunities the workplace presents for branding.

But whether you operate a huge call centre or a small / medium enterprise you can still use the office environment as a lever for competitive advantage by stimulating creative thinking.


Whether it's a classic oak panelled hall or a minimalist pod, the interior design scheme of your offices says a lot about your company.

A well turned out reception area and pleasant meeting rooms are vital ingredients in making the right impression with all your stakeholders.

Unlocking the brand potential of these spaces through contemporary art can be one of the easiest and most impressive ways to bring the company's mission and ethos into the workspace and there are many more options available to you than buying some prints from IKEA.

Indeed, it is well worth considering commissioning an artist to produce bespoke pieces that both align with your brand and enhance your office environment.

Anyone who's walked into a thoughtfully appointed modern office with cutting-edge contemporary art on the walls knows they are dealing with a forward thinking, boundary-pushing organisation. There is no need to stick to traditional materials either (think about what that says about your company).

Painting is an excellent and versatile option but what about light work, textiles or even interactive video pieces? Your main question in this decision is 'what type of company do I want to portray?' and the answer can be supported and promoted by the right kind of contemporary art.

Stimulating offices and breakout areas play a crucial role in employee creativity and engendering 'serious play' that can lead to a more engaged and stimulated workforce. In a report for Arts and Business, John Knell of the Intelligence Agency writes that:

"A well turned out reception area and pleasant meeting rooms are vital ingredients."

"An organisation engaged in serious play will be good at sparking new conversations, and creating new models and prototypes of how things could be different."

"They should foster a spirit of enquiry and creative collaboration, boosting their internal 'bandwidth', enabling them to create more ideas and hold those possibilities open for longer."

"If we accept that these types of approach are fundamental to creative companies, then the arts can undoubtedly play an important role in fostering creativity."


Really integrating the artist with the business can provide a unique creative locus for team building exercises, public relations initiatives and corporate responsibility programmes.

They are also a highly effective tool for managing change, as Leeds-based charity Axis found out when they employed an artist to document their move from long standing premises to a new build media centre in Leeds.

Artist Sarah Spanton worked with staff in the weeks before the move photographing the space and interviewing staff about their thoughts on leaving, their memories of that workplace, why they wanted to leave, why they didn't and gathering objects and key words to use in her final presentation.

Shortly after the organisation was installed in its new offices the artist returned. She led staff on a treasure hunt around the building using the materials she had gathered previously and the architectural facets of the new facilities.

During the activity she performed a physical theatre piece and showed a video she had made to summarise the experience of changing work environments.

Axis Opportunities Coordinator Hayley Harding explains, "I was a bit unsure about how Sarah could actually contribute to the process of moving but it helped me to really focus on what it means when you encounter major change in your working life. In the end we didn't just get dumped into a new office, it became a really positive, engaging experience."


So where can you start looking for an artist to contribute to your business development?

If you have time to allocate to the project you could consider signing up to the mailing lists of local galleries and subscribing to a contemporary art magazine such as Freize or Art Review.

"Integrating the artist with the business can provide a unique creative locus for team building exercises."

You can also contract an art consultant such as Art For Offices or an agency specifically designed to promote collaboration between the arts and business sector such as Arts and Business. Finally you might like to use an internet resource to research artists from the comfort of your desk.

Axis has put all the professional artists you'll ever need all on an easily searchable website including detailed biographies of artists, images, film and audio clips.

With a collection of over 2,000 practising artists and a powerful search facility that allows you to select by geographical area, artwork material and type you are sure to find someone suitable from your area.

As well as looking for and contacting artists through the website, Axis can post your call for an artist on their opportunities notice board and send your project details direct to the most suitable artists.

The arts can undoubtedly play an important role in fostering creativity.
Unlocking the brand potential of company spaces through contemporary art is easy.