Designing my New Space

Posted by Kevin Conroy Smith - January 30, 2012 - Blog - 2 Comments

“When instant cake mixes were introduced in the 1950s as part of a broader trend to simplify the life of the American housewife by minimizing manual labor, housewives were initially resistant: the mixes made cooking too easy, making their labor and skill seem undervalued. As a result, manufacturers changed the recipe to require adding an egg; while there are likely several reasons why this change led to greater subsequent adoption, infusing the task with labor appeared to be a crucial ingredient.” – article by Norton, Mochon and Ariely in the Journal of Consumer Psychology

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When planning and designing my new space I had one rule: no one besides my family would be allowed to see the space until it was complete. There were no cameras and everyone involved wasn’t allowed to speak about the details. This was extremely important to me because I felt it would ensure that I controlled the outcome. Google and Social Media make it easy for us to gather opinions from our peers and I wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted to finish this project from start to finish on my own.

In order to understand the process you must first understand the dynamics of what inspired it. The main inspiration in my life is my family, especially my parents. Their love inspires everything I do. Also, when I reference ‘on my own’ I actually mean ‘we’. My best friend Mike and I share a unique relationship were we think it’s normal to stay up until 4 AM and discuss Social Media strategy. Mike was a huge part of every aspect of this project and was literally involved in every single step including late night painting.

I learned that when you care about the people you work with the results go far beyond what you could ever expect and it actually makes painting 5 coats on 5 larges desks somewhat fun. It’s a pretty magical thing.

Early on it was determined that this workspace was as much an opportunity to express who we were as a company as it was a functional place to get work done. I had four things I wanted to achieve with the design of the new space: 1. Connect our online and offline communities 2. Attract the best talent 3. Design a workspace that embodies our brand 4. Love going to work

1. Connect our online and offline Communities

Over the past four years our agency has received national recognition for our Social Media. I felt, like many businesses, that our offline experience wasn’t matching it. Every part of our new space including the magnet wall, dry erase wall & customer interactive kiosk were designed to translate identically to our Social Media pages. This allows for consistency among the two and offers a unified message to customers both online and offline.

2. Attract the best talent

You spend more time at work than you do anywhere else. So, you better love what you do. I wanted to make sure that the space & culture allowed for this to happen. It all starts with the attitude of the people you employ. The happier the people the more engaged and better the customer experience will be. Working for an Insurance Agency may not have ever been considered cool before but we are changing that. I have always felt that my job as an employer was to lead my staff to become a better version of themselves. It’s hard to not believe that where you work positively affects your mood and how well you work. If you don’t believe me come visit our space and ask my team. With unlimited yoga & meditation classes, shared library access to hundreds of books, one on one weekly life coaching meetings, healthy snacks and a collaborative space to work in it’s not hard to see why we have already started attracting better talent.

3. Design a workspace that embodies our brand 

We chose to sit in an open floor plan. From myself to the interns, we share the same space. I don’t need a private office to show I am the boss – my leadership and guidance should do that. The benefit of the open layout is that we share a greater awareness about what others are doing–and it’s easier to help one another. Another result of this collaborative design approach is that it’s requiring our team to be clean and simple. Our message to customers is that we help make their experience with insurance and financial service stuff simple and this space allows us to show that through not only our work but our environment. You will never get a second first impression.

4. Love going to work

I wanted to build a space and culture that I never need to escape from. There are many details throughout the space that were purposely put in places to trigger certain emotions and memories. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember why you wake up each morning and go to work – through our many reminders in our space we make it difficult to forget.

Achieving the four main goals of the space was not easy. Creating something of quality, beauty and substance requires planning, patience, thought and commitment. Any kind of creative or skilled process demands great attention to detail, passion and belief. Like an artist, I wanted this project to say something about me. I wanted my employees, customers and friends to better understand me through my space. I felt the only way to achieve that was by being involved in the entire process.

I learned one final thing that I wanted to share; effort will always equal reward. In the end, a complete unique experience doesn’t come easy and what lies behind it is often the most interesting part. Understanding what goes into something will help you appreciate the work because you will realize that what you are seeing is a piece of someone’s life. The real joy in life comes from living.

Come visit!


Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

*Thank you Mom and Dad


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