Earlier this month I went to meet the team, have a look around their workspace and chat with their Design Director, Nic Pryke.
After a delicious and relatively cheap lunch at Chilango, otherwise known as the ‘best burrito joint in London’, I made my way around the corner to Oktra’s HQ on High Holborn.
Although my expectations were high, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Would their office be a showroom, displaying their back catalogue of work? Or would it be packed full of quirky design features from across the ages, like a museum? Maybe it’d be something of a blank canvas, emulating the stripped-back feel that many workspaces have embraced recently.
What I discovered was a design-led and fully optimised working environment, with every inch of space utilised to its full potential. All the design elements in Oktra serve a purpose, whether it’s to enrich visitors’ understanding of the science behind design, or to promote employee productivity and wellbeing.
During our conversation, Design Director Nic Pryke explained that the most important thing about an office’s design is its functionality- people want to be able to do their jobs efficiently.
Nic talks coworking, the design process and creative careers below:
Designing for over a century
Oktra’s journey began back in 1911, when the business began to produce manufacturing equipment and furniture for the growing textile industry. 29 years later, a WWII shortage of manufacturing materials prompted them to focus on reusing and recycling old office furniture to create something new.
At the beginning of the 60s, Oktra side-stepped and began to compete in the electronics market, expanding into office design in the ‘70s. This year, they hope to transform the working lives of around 20 000 people through their work.
Designing an office space happens in three stages.
“After we’ve got the brief together, there are three stages to the process. First there’s the conceptual stage and that’s the innovative, creative, ideas-based part. We give the client lots of ideas and gradually narrow them down into a resolved concept.
Stage two is where we create a detailed design, producing technical drawings and providing all the information for our building team to begin constructing it.
During the third stage, we’ll start to talk to the client about things like branding, and how it might integrate into the design.”
Like many of their own clients, Oktra value employee wellbeing, and made the top 100 small companies to work for this year.
Printing out floor plans- stage two of the design process.
Subtle white noise is piped into the workspace, creating a strangely calming and focusing effect.
Nuggets of design knowledge are written on the wall for visitors to absorb.
The magic formula for creativity.
Oktra’s textile library contains a collection of colourful samples for clients to browse.
A view from the kitchen, where you can request a hot beverage on an Ipad. Sound proof booths in the open plan area offer quieter places to work.
“One of the most interesting things that’s happening around coworking is the focus on community and culture; getting access to people from other industries and sharing skills. The concept that underlies the coworking environment is where the innovation lies”, explains Nic.
Oktra have completed twelve projects with WeWork so far and have a dedicated team working with them. To achieve the signature ‘industrial’ coworking look, they stripped back the interior to expose the ceilings and structural components of the space. Coworking is known for flexibility when it comes to desk space; Oktra and WeWork were able to maximise occupancy capacity through their design.
The coworking model is now widely embraced by both freelancers and traditional employees. It is part of the wider concept of workplace innovation, allowing businesses to adapt the way they work, from they way they structure their team to the way they interact with clients. Workplace design is intrinsic to this: the environment can be curated in a way that encourages productivity and interaction. When planning a space, designers will consider the following:
- Use of space
- How sound travels
- Use of colour
- Functionality & practicality
- Air conditioning- which happens to be the most expensive design element!
The idea behind the design for this WeWork space was to create something contemporary, aesthetically timeless, and of course, functional.
As I sipped on my freshly made post-tour latte, I reflected on what I’d learnt from my visit: office interior design is ultimately about facilitating productivity, not just making something look good.
For more information on office design, visit Oktra’s website.
For information on renting a workspace and availability, call us on 0203 355 5584.