FutureSpace: Space Design and Build Trends That Will Make Old Spaces New

Alex Aujero

Alex Aujero

Lead Designer

After 15 years of interior architecture in Portland and L.A., Alex joined Hyphn to bridge the gap between architecture, furniture, construction, and technology. He is dedicated to the future and flexibility of workspace leveraging his experience with Steelcase's endless research and support.


This article originally appeared in the Portland Business Journal.

When a few fellow designers and I were thinking about how to approach this article, we discussed how easy it would be to offer a hot take on trends and how the debate might change what you do with your company’s next space. But we thought that would be taking the easy way out. While we can muse all day long about things like fresh color palettes and trendy amenities in the contemporary office kitchen, or even the merits and pitfalls of the open office concept there’s a much more fruitful conversation to be had. 

Call me biased, but I’m convinced that there’s no better time than now to be working with corporate space design. The one major factor in proving my point: data. So, when we want to talk about space design and build trends, we’re going to skip the lookbook style conversation and recenter around how “FutureSpace” is one in which data helps us make decisions that elevate the human experience of work. 

First, I need to drive home the point: data technology, space technology, and design mean nothing if we’re not protecting and centering people throughout the entirety of this digital transformation. This immediately throws out things like individualized productivity trackers, surveillance, and sensors in cell phones. In all cases, the end goal in actualizing “FutureSpace” is creating a space that boosts productivity and retention. So we’d be effectively shooting ourselves in the foot if it felt like Big Brother is at the core of this conversation. 


Work, in relation to physical spaces, has changed. Instead of putting productivity output first, we’re working harder to support humans and their interactions. That’s when productivity happens organically. That’s what makes for a content and inspired workforce. This prompts progressive companies to no longer ask, “what chair do we want and how many should we buy?” Instead, they’re asking, “what are the most important activities our employees are doing each day and how can we design spaces that best fit each style of activity?” The result (upon implementation of strategic room sensors, thorough employee input and feedback, and with the help of a seasoned expert in the matter) is data-driven answers about the particularities of a conference room, the number of deep-focus spaces and how they’re situated in the larger floor plan, technology that accompanies small-group collaborative spaces, and so forth. We can even dig into such minutiae that tells us a conference room will get more use simply by adding an additional power source. We can also discover that the middle of the cafeteria or a couch by the window is the choice venue for small group meetings. We can add power and supportive elements in these places too to make people and their unique workstyles feel central to space design. 

A mantra worth embodying here, and one that brings everything into focus is this: “guiding action shapes behavior.” What we’re trying to do is support even the smallest daily action an employee takes at work, thereby guiding behavior and boosting company culture. Ultimately, a strong company culture is proven to increase employee retention and productivity which, at the end of the day, sure, it boosts bottom lines but it also makes for a more fulfilling work environment for people. That, to us, is what it’s all about.  

Which brings us all the way back around to the bottom line: people. Simply, the exercises involved in building a true “FutureSpace” is less about whatyour company does, keeping up with the curling wave of ever-changing technology, and hot trends, and more about supporting the ways people work and interact. When those people come first, everything else will fall into place.

ArticlesCraig Hawker