Environment does not play the lead: #4 of 4 in the VIBE series

This graphic a map of the Fairmount neighborhood in Philadelphia, where I grew up. This environment had profound influence on me in a variety of ways: 

I saw the built environment as a cultural vehicle. And a machine. And a tool. And Fabulous.

I learned an environment is a very complex construct.

I was thrilled by the prospect of shaping and influencing the human experience.

Fabulous- Walking through the studios of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, into Foodstuffs Grocery just down the street, or strolling through the iconic John Wanamaker department store. These are just a few of the thousands of environments that shaped my world view. Each distinct, each designed with purpose. 

Complex- I stand in the reading Terminal Market. What is happening. Everything, all at once. The amount of energy is phenomenal, and contagious. I used to stand still there and try and observe everything- the sounds, smells and sights- and the character of each. Sensory overload in the best way

Thrill- To dance in that place where your role is integral to that complex, fabulous experience is a unique combination of opportunity, responsibility, authenticity and innovation. A lot all at once. 


Your environment can have positive, neutral or negative effect on your brand. When designing, consider this at every point. Different points will have varying degrees of impact- but everything has some impact. Avoid anything in the negative category.

The connection between your environment and brand is direct- both internally and externally. The stronger the tie, the better. 

People are visual, and while we filter a good amount of 'noise' it still gets registered at some level. Appearance matters. 

Genuine trumps facade. You environment should speak to your core values, when it works, it reinforces the other key aspects of your organization. The Wizard of Oz approach is tantamount to lying, and people will see through it. It's especially toxic to your internal culture.

Ultimately your environment is just a part of the entire equation- and it does not play the lead. Architects and Interior Designers pretend the building or space define the tenor of the experience. No. Culture, engagement, service, and product win every time. The environment is merely a vessel in service to this larger objective.


If you are launching an idea, its a great time to lay the perfect canvas from which to grow. Determine the basics, get them right and fill it out over time.

If you have an existing organization, assess your current environment and honestly review it relative to your brand. You might also ask a friend or peers to do the same, they will see it with fresh eyes. If your place needs work, make a list of these things in hierarchy. Many substantive improvements need not be very disruptive or expensive. If it is a total mess, make a plan to move on. 

Hire a design professional. We do a fantastic job with this kind of work, but so do many others. A great designer will read you well, and design a place that is an honest extension of you, your brand and your aspirations.