February 4, 2019

5 things we learned curating art for offices

Art on Display

It’s been a couple of years since we started ColourSpace, with the idea of helping businesses create dynamic, vibrant environments filled with local art. We wanted to do something that helped create better office environments for the people who worked there, whilst also helping local emerging artists find a new way to share their art.

In these two years, we’ve seen and learned a lot of interesting things about how businesses approach work environments, in particular with regards to art. In turn, these learnings helped us grow and improve our service; and we thought we’d share some of those things!

1) Art is first and foremost used to express a business’s identity

In our two years of operation, this was the most important lesson we learnt. When we originally came up with the concept of ColourSpace, we thought that businesses would be interested in new, creative ways of engaging their staff and clients. Whilst that is a factor, what we later realised is that art in a workspace is actually more like fashion; it expresses the identity of the business.

Art, in addition to the other design elements in a workspace, first and foremost tells anyone who walks through the door who the business is, and who the business is not.

So why would anyone want art then, instead of branding? The difference is that art humanises a work space, bringing something richer and more joyful that a logo or slogan does not.

ColourSpace - Leigh Webster - Reflections - OneFortyOne

2) Art can be seen as part of a business’s ‘hygiene factor’, but it can be a powerful way to express change

The ‘hygiene factor’ in context of a work environment essentially describes this phenomenon: As long as a work environment is clean and tidy (hygienic), then no one particularly notices it. As soon as it starts getting dirty however, that’s when it becomes a problem for people.

Whilst this might sound like a problem for us, what we’ve also found is that like fashion, change is equally important. Anyone who’s work in a business environment can attest to this – decorations, branding, and artwork can all blend into the background and become blind spots.

However, the more we changed artwork in offices, the more we noticed the subtle impacts we were having. People really do notice! When we bring artwork to new clients, staff members more often than not come up to us to exclaim how much they disliked that there was no art, or that a print had been on a wall for years at a time. As one employee said: “It actually seems like the business has thought about art in our space, rather than just ‘filling a wall’.”

3) Everyone (naturally) has an opinion on what they think is ‘good art’

It probably comes as no surprise that with something as subjective as art, everyone has an opinion. Sometimes people offer us comments about why they liked or disliked a piece of artwork for us to act on, or whether they thought an artwork was ‘good’.

However, that same artwork can generate vastly different responses from different people. We’ve not yet come across an artwork that hasn’t both been loved and hated at the same time, by different people.

So what do we do? Well, we often like to invite someone else to come up and have a look as well. We’ve always said that art is there to foster engagement and discussion, and we try to foster that where we can!

4) Some businesses can be conservative as to what artworks are displayed at first, however with time, their tastes expanded

Going back to the first takeaway point, because art is often used to express a business’s identity, many businesses start with artwork that falls on the conservative side of the spectrum. Whilst not unexpected, this reveals just how powerful art can be in conveying messages.

But one of the coolest things we found is that as we started to change the artwork for our clients, and they became accustomed to it, their tastes started to expand. And with that, their confidence in being open and supportive of what is displayed.

It’s incredible to see how the simple act of changing artwork has helped subtly increase the confidence in a business. Instead of only displaying ‘safe’ pieces, some businesses have started requested brighter and edgier artworks, and welcoming new stories.

5) Displaying (and changing) art does make a subtle, yet powerful impact to the people who work there

Whenever we change artwork, we’re stopped by people who work in the businesses. There’s always a little anecdote they want to share with us. From an artwork reminding someone of their childhood, through to client meetings whose ice-breaker revolved around the latest artwork on display, and even passing comments from people who notice the new artwork.

We started ColourSpace because we wanted people to engage more with local art.

This quote from the HR Manager at Cube Group sums it up best: “I have enjoyed the changing art at Cube. Every time I go into a meeting room, I contemplate the art again because it hasn’t been there forever. Every time I come in and out of the front door I admire the amazing picture that’s there now. It’s very vibrant – I can’t tell you what I think, but I notice it and it makes a difference to my work.”

Pondering Life’s Subtleties Display

Everchanging and engaging

Thanks for reading! It’s been fun to look back and reflect on some of the things we learnt in ColourSpace’s journey so far.

What are your thoughts? What’s the best work environment you’ve worked in? Why?

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