The new Huckletree West space, for example, is an imagery addict’s dream. There’s a bold events space with colourful, statement art splashed across one wall, a bright green sunken seating area for breakout meetings and a funky no-tech willow hut or meditation yurt – as well as Huckletree’s signature black and white stripes running across the ceiling to stamp the space’s branding across the entire site.
This focus on standout design is also vital to attract Huckletree West’s target audience: the digital lifestyle demographic. It really looks the business so you run your business – and has all the work amenities you’d expect and need too.
Founder Gabriela Hersham explains: “Visuals are always going to be a key part of creating an inspiring workspace. At Huckletree West, we teamed up with agency Golden Wolf to create a hyper-Instagrammable graphic wall for our auditorium. It’s eye-catching, captures our brand’s playful personality and is an amazing backdrop to inspiring events at West.
Yes, we have our signature stripes across our workspace walls and ceiling and orange Anglepoise lamps (which are so cool our members have joked about taking them home!), but we’re careful not just to design for the ‘gram. It’s about comfort too. Our meditation yurt is beautiful but beneath that, it’s carefully thought out to encourage relaxation: it’s constructed from mariners rope, features low lighting and is filled with plants to create a genuinely calming space.”
Emphasising the aesthetics of a space to win punters and promote a brand is no new phenomenon. AirBnB, for example, offers free photoshoots to hosts in eligible cities – and those with such professional imagery are 2.5 times more frequently booked than those with amateur shots. The wider hospitality industry has also embraced this trend, with the food and beverage industry hungry to create kitschy, colourful and photogenic restaurants and products.
There’s also an interesting crossover here as some restaurants are setting up as coworking spaces during quiet times. Spacious is one organisation currently based in NYC doing just that, and it understands the importance of offering a beautiful and practical space. Its CEO and founder, Preston Pesek, said: “Ergonomics is a key consideration. There are plenty of bars and clubs that look visually stunning, but we would pass on that opportunity if they do not have the right facilities. Most restaurants, on the other hand, have the right furniture and selection of areas to provide the right environment for work.”
The ability to migrate around a space is important to boost productivity, and restaurants offer this ability through their variety of spaces, according to Pesek. For example, you could choose to work at a standard restaurant table, then move into a private booth for an informal chat or use a cocktail bar as a standing desk. “It’s an accidental coincidence that restaurants are beautiful and perfectly suited for a 21st century way of work where your workstation comes with you in a backpack and not attached to a piece of furniture,” Pesek added.
Spacious also makes sure each restaurant space has the “three things that are critical for productivity” – namely free coffee/water, superfast wifi and a prevalent power supply. Pesek said: “We do have a social media strategy to encourage users to take photographs of the space and share them. But the key piece for us is productivity, comfort and inspiration. That tends to also correlate with those spaces that are also beautiful on Instagram, but that’s a side effect rather than a primary criterion.”
Of all the traditional NYC coworking spaces, The Farm is unique in its design and its work ethic. The SoHo-based loft space is decked out in timber from a barn that was shipped all the way from Missouri. The effect is visually stunning – but The Farm also needs to take the practicalities of the space seriously to attract its target audience.
Lucas Seyhun, founder at The Farm Coworking, said: “We’re located in one of New York’s technical hubs, so we need to give our members all the tools to do the job. But we wanted to offer them something different in terms of the design. It’s important to stand out both on a practical and visual footing.”
“So, our space is highly modular – there are a lot of different areas so members can knuckle down and do some work, or they can crash out in a nap pod if they need to, for example. We deliver practicality and beautiful design by bringing versatility and choice to our space and our members,” Seyhun added.
Over in Austin, Texas, the atxFACTORY coworking space worked with interior designer Kim Lewis to transform a derelict warehouse into its current coworking nirvana. Its founder, Vijay Mehra, explained that decision: “Kim is best known for being on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and we consulted with her to ensure that we have the right vibe and feel to our space. We wanted modern, yet have it feel like Austin. We also wanted to promote local businesses so our desks were created by a local fabricator, our furniture was purchased from an Austin-based company, and we used a local artist to design our Biggie/Willie Mural in our bar.”
“The space used to be an old lighting warehouse so in the walls there are the signatures of our original members, who signed their names inside the walls before the drywall went up,” Mehra added.
The atxFACTORY is more focused on bringing movement to its social media imagery, rather than colourful graphics. “Really for Instagram, it’s about motion, so we just need to get people in the space and enjoy the experience. Video is everything these days so the more opportunities we had to record short videos of the space the better,” Mehra said.
Presenting this movement is important to attract the space’s members too, as Mehra added: “We wanted to have action and moments in our photos. Potential members want to see that your community has fun and grow their businesses here. The more events and moments of interaction we have, the better for our social appeal. This is why having a large bar and community area at our space was such a key factor.”
So, are coworking spaces building in social media baits over practical value?
It seems not. Coworking spaces understand that to stand out in an increasingly competitive market, they need to offer a balance. They need to gives their members a space that they can work in and want to work in.
They also understand the importance of this design appealing to their individual target audience. Then, that community will want to shout about their coworking experience across the social media spectrum because it resonates with them on a personal and professional level.