JBranthamTwo years ago, Storr endeavored to provide more innovative solutions for clients that would change the way we all usually plan and envision spaces. Meet Jonlynn Brantham, Storr’s Applications Consultant. Hear her story on how she has helped our clients discover the space they unknowingly dreamed about and helped to save them time and money through the process.

So, tell me about your role?
I think a simplistic way to describe what I do is that I strive to take office design to the next level. In our industry and in my specific background as a dealer designer, we’re often consumed with being reactive. We would be creating this spatial design because someone asked us to. I’m placing a chair in this spot because that’s what was given to me. What we often fail to do is question, why? What was the client really looking for? Is that chair even something they’re interested in or could be excited about? Questioning the direction of our reactions is where I get involved and what I’ve been trained to do. I want to focus on designing for the unexpected and sometimes the unknown, which hopefully delivers a surprising and resonating concept that may interrupt what the client thought they needed.

Why did Storr create this role?
Over the years, we’ve had a variety of clients come to us with their spatial needs. Some are decisive on what they want and need. Others have absolutely no idea what they want or need for their space and really don’t know how to go about figuring that out either. What we wanted to do is provide a resource for both clients—someone dedicated to being a creative, innovative thinker. Someone who can get involved early on in the design process and hone in on customer needs in an effort to provide a customized solution.

Initially, I worked on a few specific projects where I focused on helping clients to self-realize a grander plan and design for their space and how they could optimize their real estate. Once they realized what could be, they were sold! From then on, my we’ve been adding to my project list, identifying more potential clients who we believe may benefit from this design approach.

What are the types of things that you consider when creating a new space?
What’s not to consider!? My first goal is to completely understand my client’s needs—not just for today, but for the future as their business grows and changes. From there, I address their key business issues to determine the direction of their space. For example, if a company is highly focused on attraction and retention and in particular the millennial generation, I might propose a work café concept for a portion of their space rather than traditional workstation settings. Knowing and understanding the heart behind their project helps me to build them a work space inspired by their corporate identity. Once we arrive at that happy solution, then there’s numerous questions that have to be addressed, like what range of tools do your employees use? Is everyone at their desk for the entire day? How are you addressing well-being at work and how can your space support your corporate initiative? The list goes on and on.

Can you give me an example of this type of customized solution?
Sure! There’s really no size limit for what I become engaged in. I could be considering the design for a 6×6 space or for an entire floor. When I was working with the designers and project team for the Metlife campuses, I was critically evaluating the work space itself and how could I enhance that small footprint to directly impact their employees’ mood, happiness and even their productivity. I considered the heights of the panels, the glass, the finishes, their height-adjustable surfaces and how the space would be impacted should they choose to remain standing. At the same time, I was constantly evaluating the budget to ensure there weren’t excesses where there didn’t need to be. I kept my eye on the design goal and the pocketbook simultaneously.

For the UNC Student Union, we took an entirely different approach. We broadened our scope to include the entire building and how we could re-envision each space to better suit students’ needs and to better reflect the culture UNC wants to create. This project was more about observation of how the space is being utilized now, which would dictate how we propose the space to change for them in the future. So I spent a fair bit of time in the Student Union building, taking pictures of students, studying their interactions, where they tended to gather and what activities they engaged in while in the building. The result was a combination of solutions to meet multiple needs—or what we like to call a palette of place, which basically summarizes the idea that one size does not fit all.

How do Storr customers benefit from your involvement?
I hope to create a series of positive and exciting interactions about our customer’s spaces. Ideally, if we can engage with a client in the early stages of a project, I like to model the physical space and build up a brand new solution. I like to imagine and deliver what could be with their space. Sometimes that visionary approach carves out a specific path for the project and sometimes it serves as a necessary stepping stone to uncovering the project’s path. Either way, it’s a valuable and necessary exercise to think outside of the box up front. That way, our clients don’t spend half of their projected project schedule planning for a 6×8 cubicle when all along, it really made more sense to go with a 6×6 and the entire direction for the project has shifted drastically. That’s just one example of how this approach can save everyone time and money.

Has your role changed over time?
Yes, definitely. My role continues to be redefined so that I can adapt to our customer’s needs. As I start my third year as an Applications Consultant, I realize that we’ve evolved my role into one that fully utilizes industry trends and research as well as my product knowledge from years as a dealer designer. So that blank canvas isn’t paralyzing, but invigorating! I absolutely love what I do—especially surprising clients with a space that answers questions and provides solutions they didn’t even know were possible. That is what I love—delivering the unexpected.

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