The stuff behind the scenes of a business.

It’s where the real work happens.

The prototypes, the failures, the collaborations, the culture, the determination.

It’s your human side.

It tells your story. Its the real you.

How do make these qualities part of your customers experience of you in space? What does exposing back-of-house activity actually mean for different groups?

If you are a customer…

It’s like eating at the kitchen table in a restaurant where you can see the cooking, the creation, the passion.

It’s like seeing the workshop beyond the showroom.

Its seeing the interaction of company staff where it’s not for show.

Back-of-house is the new front-of-house. You want to see the workings, the design, the production.

Back-of-house liberates you. You can breathe. Like arriving home after a hard day in the city.

Transparency, provenance and direct connection is more interesting than a marketing façade.

The web does a pretty good job of allowing companies to tell their story, through video, image and blogging. You are looking for something extra in a physical space.

Why should you invest the time to go to a physical space unless its for something special.

You have less time than your used to have.

You are highly adapted to spot the fake these days.

If you find a great back-of-house experience, you refer to it again and again. You tell your friends. It stays with you for life. You become a salesperson for that business, even if you don’t know it.

If you are a business…

You have to find the story worth talking about. One that is very likely to be there already.

If you find your talkable difference (and a brave enough to use it) you won’t struggle to be unique in a space.

You might consider having less commercial space, but the space that you do have will be more bespoke, less homogeneous, more about giving your customers an incredible experience.

You will probably allow the web to do more of the heavy lifting in terms of selling, so your space can be more about connecting with and learning from your customers.

You want a space that tells a clear story about who you are but also allows for the spontaneity of real life to happen.

You know that trying to create a 3D version of a corporate brochure and identity does not make for a space that feels comfortable.

Your buildings eat cash. In order of execution you must chose the right space in the right location, have a light touch, and build things you can take with you. You need an exit plan, just in case.

To justify the overhead you need to do more in your space than just sell products or services. You host talks after hours, organise a product development club with your customers, offer a trial day for prospects engaged through your digital channel.

Its more than just a space with shelves or desks then. You know this is the real way to gather a community around your venture. ‘Community’ can’t be forced.

Buildings are slow, you are fast. Buildings will never keep up with your ideas and your energy. When you use space and build things then, you keep it simple. You think like a developer. You never assume only one scenario will play out.

Opening up. Exposing the fluidity, process and change that goes on behind the scenes is part of what makes for a great space. You embrace this. You understand it displays your unique character.

You are figuring out a relationship between front and back-of-house for your company. How much of each? The tension (interest) between the two is a fine balance. Its a conversation between

When you think of cost, you are looking again at the premise that the money is always spent where it can be seen. When you break open the shiny box that is your business, it changes the way you spend. When customers can peer inside the company, maybe you can’t afford to design everything in the finest detail, and maybe that’s OK.

You are always on the lookout for what truths and interpretive possibilities lurk back-of-house. When you find them, you are creating customer experiences around them.

You know all the good ideas come from behind the scenes. Front of house is where they are sold and marketed. There’s a reason why great companies start in garages and sheds. Patagonia, Apple et al.

Back-of -house is where you are free to create and experiment. The engine of your business. You know not to build yourself a straight jacket to work in.

In all languages there is a formal and an informal way of holding a conversation. You think of front-of-house as the formal, and back-of-house as the informal. The trick is to figure out what to use and when. How to mix them up. When to be authoritative, and when to be humble.

If you are a building designer…

You know commercial interiors consume themselves, over and over again. Clients won’t pay for a new version of the ‘marketing interior’ every few years any more.

Designing less but designing for change is thrilling. You’ll get more work in the long run and you deliver real value for the future.

Pitching smaller projects is liberating. You can prototype ideas that are easy to achieve and trial. Stringing many of these together is more interesting and less risky than having 1 huge account, and you and your clients learn a lot more in the process.

You see people in a new way. We want to feel at home in space. We are not drones. We are social animals. We want a 2-way conversation with a company or organisation. We want to be amazed by the spaces they use and what they find within. We want to colonise space and in some way make it our own, at least for a short time.

You accept that you are partly responsible for why our commercial space is pretty uninspiring. You accept the challenge to change this. There are so many stories out there to tell.

It turns out you quite like what’s back-of-house. You like the honesty and interpretive possibilities of what you see there. It challenges your design education, that was written around creating the ‘marketing space’. You can be less obsessed with the ‘show’. More inspired by diversity of people and their companies.

You can be a creative again, which is why you chose your profession in the first place. Your unique ability to think sideways can bring real benefits for your clients team.

Stories from behind the curtain. Some examples of storytelling being done in the digital space. When I look at these, I think two things;

1 – What a powerful medium digital space is in revealing what is back-of-house.
2 – How far behind commercial space can be in terms of experience, connection and storytelling.

There is much work to do……

Viberg – Watching something being made.

Buffer – Openness and Transparency is all.

Hiut Denim – A company thats wears its back-of-house on the outside.

Lego Commercial – Revealing what’s behind the scenes.

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