Beginning an office design project quickly reveals infinite possibilities. This sea of choices has both positive and negative attributes. Office planning can swan dive from exciting creativity to overwhelming decision fatigue in an afternoon. The most impactful tool for harnessing the benefits of your glorious array of options is the big-picture questions you ask at the beginning of the project to help define the goals and mission of your office space.


Start your journey with an overall vision to guide your design decisions. Without a guiding vision, suppose you fall head-over-heels for a specific desk or lighting feature (who among us hasn’t?). In that case, it can be tempting to shoehorn your project into accommodating a whim before prioritizing the need. Make sure you can answer these 3 questions for your space at the start of your project:

1. What is your overall vision for the space?

All of our brains work differently. Answering this question may start with floor plan doodles that help you name different workspaces. Or you may begin by brainstorming words and phrases you want to describe your office vibe. Where or how you start isn’t as important as just starting and getting your thoughts onto paper to see what resonates. Let your imagination take the wheel.

Visioning and Design Inspiration for a Modern Office Space (example): 

  1. A minimalist desk for focused writing with no distractions to improve employee productivity

  2. Storage that keeps files, supplies, and swag organized, out-of-sight, and secure

  3. A casual-yet-elegant lounge area for up to 4 people to network with a mini fridge and coffee bar

  4. A mounted screen with a camera, microphone, and lighting for virtual interviews and meetings

  5. A gallery wall that incorporates calming pictures from nature, abstract art by local artists, a family photo, a clock, and framed credentials

  6. Design elements that blend strength, warmth, and elegance—such as warm brown leather, natural edge wood surfaces, brass, glass, and raw silk in blues and greens

  7. Overall feelings of peace, focus, and welcome

By the end of your design inspiration process, you should be able to define what practical elements would be most helpful when you work, what feelings you want the room to evoke in your workplace, what current problems you need the space to solve, and whose experience you want to prioritize.

Final Vision (example):

  • Helpful Practical Elements: Dedicated writing desk, adequate storage, comfortable networking area, and virtual meeting capacity

  • Feelings Evoked: Focused, productive, approachable, elegant, timeless, warm, welcoming, calm, and creative

  • Problem Solved: Tidy storage and intentional space needed for growing virtual presence

  • Who It Is For: My “in-the-zone” focused self, in-person guests, and virtual audiences

2. What aspects are most important to you?

Use your initial vision to streamline what is most important to you and clarify needs from wants. For example, you may decide that having a personal coffee maker in your office isn’t necessary if you have a thermal carafe. Clarifying your needs and wants will help you nix the coffee bar and prioritize having fewer electric items displayed on table surfaces without sacrificing the comfort of your guests.

As you dive into the office design details, you’ll need to look at more specific considerations in regards to the type of space (open plan office, private office, meeting space, collaboration space), the work environment, the office furniture you need, and other essential elements like electricity. 


Space Planning Questions

  • Do I need a desk or a meeting table for a conference room/meeting space? How many chairs do I need?

  • Will my space accommodate guests with disabilities?

  • What are my furniture shape preferences?

  • Do I have specific office furniture size requirements?

  • What electrical outlet, window, and door placements do I need to navigate?

  • What are my storage and filing needs? What storage space do I have?

  • Will I need wall space for a whiteboard or projection screen?

  • What are my tech needs?

  • Are any other items being placed or stored in the room?

  • Do I have a preference for the placement or navigational direction of items?

  • What ergonomic needs should I keep in mind?

    • Lighting?

    • Height-adjustable desks, surfaces, and workstations?

    • Anti-fatigue standing mats?

    • Keyboard trays, monitor arms, and monitor stands?

  • What is my budget?

  • What is my time frame?

  • Is it possible for the employee to enjoy fresh air and natural light in the space?

Clarifying Importance for Your Office Layout (example): 

My priorities are functionality, personality, visual tranquility, ergonomic safety, natural materials, effective lighting, and excellent virtual meeting quality.

  • Functionality: I need to be able to work independently, host in-person guests who may require wheelchair access, and have professional quality video interviews and meetings with remote workers.

  • Personality: I want the space to feel uniquely mine. I’d like the gallery wall to display pieces of who I am—places visited, things I like, people important to me, etc. to spark conversation. It should also house the credentials I’m legally required to display.

  • Visual tranquility: I focus better without visual distractions. Therefore, I need adequate and hidden storage, no visible tech chords or power-on lights, mostly clear surfaces, and solid blocks of color instead of distracting patterns.

  • Ergonomic desk and desk chair: Height-adjustable, anti-fatigue mat for standing, laptop monitor stand, tray with attachable keyboard and mouse

  • Natural materials: Avoid plastic or synthetic materials whenever possible

  • Effective Lighting: Intentional lighting options should help the space transition from solo productivity to social gatherings to video setup.

  • Video/Virtual Meeting Quality: Easy-to-use, professional, and engaging permanent setup for virtual meetings that takes the backdrop into intentional consideration.

3. How will you define success for this space planning project? 

Knowing how you will define success for your space should act as your guiding star throughout the design project. Therefore, it is essential to recognize how to meet your named priorities.

Defining Success for an Office Design Project (example):

  • I can focus while working independently and feel calm in the space.

  • Guests feel welcome. Seating is comfortable and accommodates accessibility needs, tables to rest cups and documents on are within reach of each seat, and Wi-Fi information is visible and intentionally incorporated.

  • I am physically comfortable. Working for long hours will not harm my body or strain my eyes.

  • I can easily record high-quality video content.

  • The space reflects my personality and the life and career I’m building.


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