Ever heard the phrase “measure twice, cut once”? Sometimes, you’ve got to measure a few times before you’re ready to cut. We spend a lot of our time musing, sketching, re-sketching, revisiting ideas, staring out of train windows and working our grey matter. The journey towards a design solution is just as compelling as the destination - so it's time we gave the journey some recognition.
This is a space for you to see some of our work before it hits the polished sections of our website. It’s a bit like nosying through someone else's cupboards (don’t pretend you don’t love doing that). Think of it as a turbo-charged Instagram feed; a window into the day-to-day world of iDEA.
Did you know that statistically, Bounty Bars (of Mars Celebrations box fame) are the most shunned of any small confectionary? Over half (52 percent) of Brits claim it's their least loved chocolate. The problem is so severe that their creators recently offered a buy-back scheme to allow swaps for a more favourable option (Maltesers every time, surely).
Granted, this isn’t usual fodder for a workplace design post, but there is some relevance to all this.
We have always been passionate about the development and integration of digital design solutions – whether it was the early adoption of Flash-based presentations or the use of animations and movies to help make complex, simple. We have always seen the value in using technology to advance our design stories.
As our business practices have grown and evolved, so too have the digital tools we use. With hundreds of clients and multiple thousands of users we’ve refined a collection of powerful products, which solve unique design challenges – whether it’s calculating space or canvassing opinion.
Somewhere along the way, it became apparent, that as brilliant as they were individually, our tools required a brand realignment to make them work as a cohesive suite. They were, in essence, a box of celebrations; each with an individual identity - forcibly mixed, with little continuity. Each brand fighting not to be the Bounty bar.
Through some detailed design analysis we understood the challenge. It was clear. We needed Quality Street – alone, they should be unique and individual, but together, a delicious rainbow of continuity.
We’re pleased to take the wrappers off our new suite of tools.
Not only have we aligned the brand identities, but critical work has happened behind the scenes to ensure a consistent user interface which translates across all our tools. They also work on a common core API (a shared database) which enables them to ‘speak’ to each other.
The common thread for our tools stemmed from Vantage – so chosen because of its ability to show an uninterrupted view of a building estate. This set the tone for the other tools, all aligned by their link to the great outdoors.
It is International Women’s Day today, and we thought what better way to celebrate it than with the women in our company speaking about the role models who inspired them to be where they are today.
We asked our wonderful colleagues: who inspired you to be in your field of work?
Kim - Designer
Zaha Hadid inspired me as a student because of her ‘stand out’ brave and iconic style.
Ilse Crawford inspired me later in ‘working’ life. Her aesthetic is very much inspired by nature and minimalism. She is known for blending ’Scandinavian-inflected minimalism with warm English comfort.'
Kitty - Chef
There are so many women in the world of food that inspire me to cook the way I do. Rachel Roddy, Clare Thompson, Carla Tomasi, Laura Jackson, Meera Sodha…my list is long and varied. I remember my mum once pointing out that so much of the professional recognition of being a chef goes to men and the backbone of home cooking is for the most part, women. Alas, this is of course true. Professional kitchens are almost always male dominated.
My little kitchen is a one woman show where I shop for produce, I cook, I test things out, I grow seedlings on my windowsill, I listen to what I want to, I make a mess and I clean it up. The woman who inspired me to take on this kitchen is the wonderful woman who started it in the first place. My mum began cooking for the designers of iDEA probably about 15 years ago. What started out as a weekly soup grew into a daily soup, then into more dishes, cakes and all manner of wonderful things. Back in the day they used to call her ’the food fairy’.
For a couple of years mum and I worked in what is now called The Small Canteen side by side. We would sit down with a coffee and decide what to make that week and who would do what. We would ask each others opinions, taste each others dishes. When mum took a step back from the kitchen and I went solo with it I knew I would carry on in much the same way she had always run things - with fresh, vibrant food and a generous hand with the serving spoon.
My mum is truly the most warm hearted person I know. Nothing is too much, she will always greet you with a cup of tea and a slice of cake. If she can help, she will. Even if she can't, she will make it happen anyway. Her kitchen is a place of warmth and comfort. It’s a place of generosity and love. Men may dominate the professional world, but women are always the heart and soul of a kitchen.
Christine - HR Diector
Lyse Doucet, just because she's someone who inspires me everyday in my life which although is nothing to do with journalism does touch on how you treat people, not to look away and reach out the hand of human kindness.
Tracey - Senior Designer
At the end of the day my Mum. She was a real fighter for a Peaceful and Nuclear Free World. Between the age of 8 to 10 we spent much time on peace marches, being part natural peaceful marches where we slept in the van as we walked the lengths of the country. She also did charity work for the peace groups and we spent all our time very Sat morning at the market stall to raise money. She jumped in front of a nuclear submarine which came into Auckland port to refuel. She was pulled out of the water by the police. Her only trip to the UK was to Greenham Common to protest.
NZ became Nuclear Free 1987
So my mother wasn’t a very traditional mother. My siblings and I had to become very independent. But also when she wasn’t there other women stepped in. So they also had a huge influence.
Sylvia - Senior Designer
I have to say that my main inspiration too was my mother who was a feminist in her quiet way and raised us to believe that we were all capable of doing what we put our minds to and that there were no male/female chores or professions. The women I admire in particular during these times of conflict are the journalists on the front line such as Kate Adie, Marie Colvin (RIP) and Lyse Doucet.
Successfully communicating a design ideas to clients can be tricky, It is not just the look but the feel that needs to be portrayed, to evoke an emotional response with our clients. After all, it is their space, their workplace and somewhere they can be happy to call home. They are spending a majority of their week working in these spaces so we want them to fall in love with it.
We've deliberately recruited to ensure we nurture the talent and capability to produce all our rendering, from modelling to animation, completely in house. We never outsource. Not only do we benefit from a rich blend of design disciplines (and perspectives) under one roof - when you come to iDEA you know what we have to offer from day one.
Looking at 2D plans and elevations can make it hard to visualise how the space is going to look - even with samples and mood boards - so creating a 3D representation of the space is extremely important in making important decisions quickly and effectively. Don’t like those chairs? How about these? Will that green feature wall clash with the carpets? We can take a look.
This is type of communication is not just for the client though, it is used by the designers from the outset to work up their ideas and see their vision come to life before any heavy work is done. It is used to make decisions on layouts, textures, finishes and furniture.
The nature of the design process often means a lot of change - be it materials finishes or furniture. The goal is to ensure designers and clients can make sure that the whole design works in harmony.
A lot of influence in the design process comes from situation - a building surrounded by other buildings may not let that much natural light in, or an atrium may be filled with natural light - these all impact the design right down to the artificial lighting that needs to be installed.
Looking at a 2D plan doesn’t allow you to see this. Using geolocation and accurate representations of the lighting we can see how this is going to effect the choices made, solar studies allow for the designers to position desks in appropriate places or partitions to be removed to open the floor up.
Along with the space planning visualisation the 3D model comes in extremely handy when it comes to wayfinding and manifestations. These need to be visualised to ensure thet the design works, heights and size of the graphics is very important but hard to invisage from a 2D elevation, the 3D model allows us to test different designs quickly and across the whole floor or building.
Sometimes our clients will struggle to make a decision on a design, should the doors be black? should they be walnut? What does the combination of these doors look like with this carpet?
Our realtime rendering allows us to instantly test and make these changes and give the client a wide range of options to chose from.
When modelling for a render every little bit of detail counts, from accurate skirting to pens pencils books, we make the spaces feel like a lived in environment and gives a richer idea of how the space will look when finished.
Once we have the model there are a wide range of things we are able to do with it. From still renders, flythroughs and panoramic tours, to VR and AR, giving the client options on how they would like to visualise the final output.
We’ve helped hundreds of clients to create end-to-end communications plans to support workplace change. We’re great at 'lifting the lid' on organisations - defining the right things to communicate, before packaging and sending it out in a way which resonates with your audience. From this experience we’ve become quite expert at getting the right messages, to the right people, at the right time.
We know every organisation is unique – so before we do anything else we’ll talk to you. Or rather, we’ll listen. Only by doing this we can understand the language of your business and determine what to say, when, to who, and how.
What to say. Establish a project brand – an eye-catching identity to enhance the narrative and create a definitive ownership and personality to the messages. A tone of voice your business will relate to. An alignment with existing or company brand can be just as powerful.
When to say it. We’ll chat with you to create a narrative plan – a storyboard of your entire project, which identifies key events and milestones. Working out the pinch points and establishing a timeline.
Who to say it to. Our online web portal is designed to target your whole organisation, or just a select group. Messages can be tailored to suit different audiences and direct notifications sent. It’s a two way channel which enables your staff to feel part of the journey of change.
How to say it. What works for one audience might completely miss the mark for another. That's why the 'getting to know you' stage is so crucial - stupid questions included. Tone aside, the narrative device used is just as crucial. Typically an online portal is central to quick communitaion, but it’s often supported by our other rich media including 3D models, interactive presentations, staff surveys, occupancy studies, photography and video.
We aren’t ones for splashing out on company assets. We don’t own property, and we’re certainly not interested in a fleet of vehicles. However, when the opportunity arose to genuinely make a difference to the environment, we thought it a worthwhile investment.
Like many other businesses, we thought we were already environmentally responsible. We car share where we can, we've reduced our printing outputs, we’ve even eschewed tea bags - all the usual things. But it’s not enough. We actively have to start taking carbon out of the air to get the planet back to equilibrium - not just reduce emissions.
We’ve therefore done what any business would do in this situation - we’ve bought 15 acres of untouched mixed woodland, grazing, stream and ponds complete with Iron Age hill fort in South West Wales. As you do.
Idyllic as this all sounds, the driving reason is reducing our impact on the environment - at a time when we believe everyone needs to be making commitments to do the same. We're doing what we can to completely cancel-out our carbon footprint.
Through necessity to assess ourselves, we've been able to develop our own carbon capture module - initially to capture staff travel, but with now a much wider remit to feed into the other digital tools we've developed. It's capable of looking at emissions across all aspects of an organisation. This is something we're keen to push further.
So, if you're in need of a carbon healthcheck - get in touch - we might just be able to show you where you could make some big improvements. If not, we can always take you camping in South West Wales.
It’s Wednesday evening, at iDEA that only means one thing... In homes up and down the country, we grab ourselves a cheeky glass of wine (optional), pen and paper (essential), and find a room in the house that isn’t filled with family members.
We genuinely enjoy spending time with each other outside of work (it’s true) but we had to think on our toes to work out how to continue our popular life drawing classes during lockdown. So, on a Wednesday night we get together virtually for an hour, drawing two of our colleagues Lily and Charlie, who are coincidentally also professional contemporary dancers (and fully clothed we should add) - the poses can be challenging!
Wednesday evenings have now become somewhat of a highlight, the enjoyment of banter with colleagues, alongside a soothing playlist, culminates in some cracking drawings and serves as a celebration of the stylistic diversity which iDEA thrives upon. Any excuse to create something with marker, not mouse, is always something to be cherished.
If you’re feeling nosy take a look at the results on our instagram feed, if you’re feeling brave tweet us what you think, if you’re feeling inspired give it a go with your colleagues!
Have you heard that here at iDEA we have our very own in-house band? If you haven’t, today is your lucky day - you are about to learn all about them.
The band was originally formed during an office lunch in 2012. The story goes that our MD William, looked around the table and said ‘you play guitar, you sing, you play bass… surely there’s a band in that?!’ The rest, as they say, is history. Chris then roped-in his friend, Brian, from a previous ‘crap’ band (who's claim to fame is playing table tennis with Status Quo in-between rehearsals - actually pretty impressive) - and so, the band was born.
Now the band couldn’t be complete without our infamous band manager Nathan Morris, who’s most impressive moment involved him ringing up the bride and groom of a wedding he wasn't technically invited to (the band was playing at the wedding) and getting himself on the guest-list. The man really is the master of persuasion - he even negotiated a 'free'* bar tab for the band.
(*to this day we don't know if it was)
One of the most amazing things about the band is how much money they have raised for Cancer Research over the past 5 years by performing at 'Under The Bridge' at Chelsea Football Club - they are at the current whopping total of £28,000!
Here is a little interview we did with the band for you to get to know them a little better...
Is Harry and the Ramsdens your original name?
Harry: We were called the Futons for a bit
Chris: Purple Square was another name we had before Harry and the Ramsdens (it's a nod to the orginal iDEA logo)
What's your most memorable moment in the band?
Chris: I vividly remember turning up to Under The Bridge at Chelsea Football Club for the first time, crapping myself wondering if anyone was going to turn up, and thinking ‘this is a bad idea’. Then I remember standing there at the beginning of the set thinking ‘wow we’ve actually pulled this off’.
Rob: Ed Sheeran was our supporting act for that wasn’t he?…Well he was playing on the Tuesday and we were on on the Friday…
Adrian: Mine was our first gig at Barons Cross in Leominster, it was the first time my wife had seen me properly play before and at the end she said ‘oh you’re not half bad’.
How do you choose which songs to cover?
Chris: We all recognise they should be floor filling songs that are fun to dance to and not too difficult to play. The set being really good is the secret with a good mix of songs.
Who are your musical influences?
Harry: I have a very broad music taste, not a fan of country and western but everything else is up for grabs. Soul mostly.
Chris: Sunshine of your love by Clapton is the first song I learned to to play and I know Harry doesn’t like it so I would say that. My biggest influences in the 80’s were Level 42, I was a massive Mark King fan.
Dave: Rob Dunsford…
Rob: Johnny Marr from The Smiths is my hero in terms of clean guitar sounds which is what I try to bring to the band.
Adrian: Graham Coxon, Noel Gallagher. At the moment I listen to many things, I’m also a big fan of Queen.
What are your future plans?
Harry: We never think too far into the future, it’s more of a friendship thing rather than a job.
Chris: We just do it for the love of doing it. We do it because we all love music, we love the camaraderie of playing in a room together and not taking ourselves too seriously.
Do you have any original songs, if not would you write any?
Rob: We have written one inspired by Harrys son… We have created a song out of it and it’s very close to being shared with the world.
Harry: He came up to me saying I’ve written a song for the band which were just scribbles on a piece of paper. So I thought it would be nice for us all to create something.
Dave: It’s a good way to keep us in touch outside of work, it’s kept our band WhatsApp group very active.
Now you know a whole lot more about our fantastic company band, if you haven’t seen already, take a look at their instagram @Harryandtheramsdens for their latest ‘move your feet’ song and video, it will definitely get you dancing!
If you follow us on social media you might have noticed us popping up at various Educational Institutions across the country. We aren’t trying to sign-up for further qualifications, although we are broadening our collective brains with each and every visit.
Although our background is in workplace design, we've never shyed away from branching out into new sectors. Over the past several years we’ve found ourselves firmly cemented in the world of University Estates.
From our experience, University Estates are often a rabbit warren of space - generally a mish-mash of old and new, big and small, fit-for-purpose and, well, "a-room-which-was-previously-unused-and-could-accommodate-some-students". Spaces are complex and disjointed, with years of lifting and shifting taking their toll. In all the inconsistency, one thing is consistent, however: University spaces are always changing.
As these spaces have grown and evolved over the years there has been a tendancy to ‘land grab’ often with little time to take a step back and consider the jigsaw of buildings as a whole. Understanding what space is needed hinges on understanding what space is already there, which, in most cases, is much easier said than done.
Our collective experience means we are well-versed in understanding space, and crucially, translating what that space means. We’ve developed a raft of clever tools to help teams plug in existing data, plus forecast growth, to understand how a University Estate can flex for future needs. This digital wizardry, combined with our ever-growing experience, puts us in the privileged position of University Estates Experts. We’d prefer to think of ourselves as the people who make complex, simple.
If all of this chimes, feel free to get in touch with us; we’re always keen to broaden our brains a little more.
What better way to kick-off this new section to the website than with a shout-out to one of its co-creators. As you might know, at iDEA, we pride ourselves on our eclectic mix of disciplines from right across the design spectrum. We strongly believe that it's this creative diversity that drives us forward.
We're lucky enough to have acquired the services of the talented Kitty Rowley, who is not only helping to script our online voice, but also, is serving as our chief visual-capturer (yes, we've just made that a thing).
With a fantastic eye for detail and penchant for a macro, she will be documenting our projects through the camera lens (both still and in motion) - helping us to tell the compelling stories of what we see/learn/experience/uncover/laugh at on a daily basis.