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Environmental Design Checklist: First Things First

Office Design Checklist

Have you ever been involved in a project that feels like the cart was before the horse? If so, it’s not just you — most of us have. When I kick off a new commercial graphic design engagement with a client, I have come to use a checklist to lay the foundation for a smooth execution and to avoid unpleasant surprises.

  • Assess space: This can be done prior to construction via floor plans and elevations and again after the space comes to life with walls and windows. Doing this early gets the concept phase off the ground so that there are no last-minute dashes. When walls are in place, the secondary assessment is critical as it provides accurate measurements for sizing brand elements prior to actual production. Visiting the space once it has been constructed can also be beneficial in making sure the concept plan is scaled correctly and flows properly.
  • Measure: This one is a straightforward clerical task, but is a must.
  • Establish the brand’s vision for the space: This provides insight into what my client has in mind. Sometimes, a vision is already formulated; in other cases, I am the idea partner and it becomes a collaborative process to create the vision.  
  • Keep practical matters top of mind: During this step, we evaluate a variety of considerations and ask questions, such as: “Do the walls we’re affecting back to interior or exterior spaces?” “When were existing walls last painted?” “Is there any existing damage that first needs to be repaired?” No matter what the space or surface, it’s important to be cognizant of the area and mindful of signage placement and wayfinding. A recent post took a close look at these considerations.
  • Learn if the space is internal-only or will welcome external visitors: This impacts messaging and often other considerations such as level of sophistication and budget.
  • Take photos: The main purpose of photos is to prepare a photo rendering of the concept, and photos are a great reference to double-check specific details during the design process. Last but not least, photos are needed for “before and after” case studies.

Space Rendering


  • Understand brand guidelines: Ask for a copy of the brand guidelines as it is critically important to ensure the space is consistent with the brand look and feel. Many times, respecting both brand guidelines and the preferences of the team you are working with can be a balancing act. 
  • Confirm do’s and don’ts: These can come from the landlord, local building codes and corporate guidelines. Examples include whether or not wall murals or stud-mounted art are allowed as well as proximity to sprinklers, motion detectors, exit signs and more.
  • Verify the decision making/approval process: This looks different for every organization and also varies depending on the budget involved. Be sure to have the right people involved in the conversation early on so the team doesn’t have to backtrack because a key stakeholder isn’t on board.


Using a defined process is key in avoiding pitfalls, but continual process improvement should also be incorporated into project management. What other checklist items have you found helpful kicking off new environmental design projects?

POSTED UNDER: Branding, Environmental Design

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