Environmental branding and design

Have you ever left a meeting thinking: that was a really nice office? If you did, it means that the company you were meeting with took care of their environmental branding. Lately, the look & feel of the office has grown in importance as a factor that business leaders consider when deciding to do or not to do business. So we would like to mention only a few of the larger environmental branding projects that we developed: Andu, Volksbank, Petrom City, and Biofarm.

What is environmental branding, actually?

In communicating its image, a respectable brand is not limited to business cards, brochures or websites. The brand personality is also expressed in the working environment, be it offices or commercial areas. This is a natural continuation of the visual identity, expressing the personality of the brand through architecture and decorations. That applies both to building exteriors and interiors, which have to follow the principles of the brand’s visual identity. For the interior, environmental branding projects aim to reflect the brand personality in the front desk, meeting rooms, working and recreational rooms, as well as commercial areas.

Let’s say for example that you wish to create a luxury experience for your clients. You need to ask yourself the right questions to prompt a clear image of what the luxury experience consists of. What is the taste of luxury? What does it sound like? What does it make you feel? Environmental branding aligns brand messages with various sensory inputs, such as color, sounds, taste, and texture, in such a way as to put together a convincing brand experience.

Environmental branding is precisely about instilling sensations and is the most visible in – but not restricted to – corporate headquarters.

Why does a brand need environmental branding and design?

A branding agency’s approach to environmental branding and design is different from what an interior design studio does. The branding agency builds the concept for branding the headquarters, according to branding and marketing principles, to attract customers and transform the brand environment into a communication channel. The environmental design, the way a team of architects and decorators does it, should follow the branding principles and recommendations of the branding team. The environmental branding concept created by the branding agency should be the foundation on which the architects build the actual experience.

Usually, environmental branding applies to offices and has a marketing value. If aligned properly with the brand identity, it generates benefits related to business partners, actual or potential employees, as well as actual or potential clients.

This type of branding draws inspiration from the rare perceptual phenomenon of synesthesia. For very few people, stimulating one of the senses also triggers a second sense. This means synesthetes may see colors that trigger a sense of sound. Or experience a taste that also triggers sounds or colors. Psychologists believe that various artists, such as painter Wassily Kandinsky or musician Jimi Hendrix, were synesthetes and were inspired by their condition.

Psychologists and branding experts studied the way such a phenomenon inspires designing brand experiences for non-synesthetic audiences. Some branding choices may show subtle traces of synesthesia, like the rainbow stripes of Skittles’ “taste the rainbow”. Another example is the red star of San Pellegrino, which makes a subtle suggestion about the element of Carbon, as it well suits a carbonated beverage. These are synesthetic visual identity examples, but environmental branding puts synesthetic marketing to use in physical spaces.

What does environmental branding consist of?

The purpose and values of an organization are proved, communicated, and manifested constantly through all its touchpoints with its audience. These touchpoints include the working environment, media coverage, marketing campaigns, commercials, and social media visuals. Therefore, environmental marketing may be thought of as part of the brand’s media mix, due to its capacity to improve the brand’s reputation for employees, clients, and investors.

In the digital age, especially now when work is done largely remote, the functions of environmental branding have been updated. Many contemporary brands favor digital experiences, but a tangible brand identity remains the foundation of any good branding strategy. A brand’s physical touchpoints create room for long-lasting impressions and offer more personal ways of getting to the customer. More than ever now is the time to align the digital dimension of a brand with its physical presence.

Exterior environmental branding

Most of the time, exterior signage is the first element of your brand that a potential customer will come in contact with. No matter your industry, whatever you display on the outside will create a first lasting impression and it will give the customer a perspective on your brand.

Exterior environmental branding does just that: it makes sure that the outside of your headquarters effectively mirrors your brand’s visual identity. Volumetric and marquee letters, window appliances, banners, and various sensory experiences pertain to environmental branding. All these aim to produce a memorable interaction that makes your brand likable to your audience. Environmental branding also plays a part in generating awareness: passing by your building, people perceive it as your brand’s headquarters. But don’t mistake headquarters signage with huge logos used for advertising big brands on tall buildings, in heavy traffic areas.

Interior environmental branding

Physical experiences generate long-lasting impressions and represent an opportunity to get to potential customers more personally. Companies should not forget the power of first impressions, be it physical or digital. While it might be true that the digital environment has become more relevant than the physical, the latter might as well become ever more essential in standing out from the competition. Even when a brand operates mostly online, important business decisions are usually made in personal meetings. Therefore, interior environmental branding still constitutes a central point in building your business reputation and impressing your clients, investors, and employees.

Interior environmental branding may give way to incredible physical translations of brand purpose and values. For example, Apple’s mission entails simplicity and trans-innovation. These values are manifest in the interior design of all Apple stores and offices. Facebook uses the power of environmental branding in a manner that is a little unorthodox and might even feel menacing. On its campus in California, Facebook kept the brand signage of the former tenant, Sun Microsystems, a constant memento of winning and losing within the tech industry. This is a direct message to Facebook employees: stay focused on your work!

Wayfinding signage

This type of interior environmental branding facilitates orientation in large headquarters, helping navigate between offices. This kind of signage is useful not only in office buildings but also in factories and commercial buildings, such as malls and hypermarkets. Have you ever forgotten where you parked your car? This is the reason why they use various color and numbering systems for parking lots. A friendly brand doesn’t neglect this aspect and goes out of its way to make the entire visiting experience as pleasant as possible. You wouldn’t go back to a mall that doesn’t help you remember your parking spot, or that does nothing to help you not to get lost.

The INOVEO way of doing environmental branding

This step is an extension of the visual identity by drawing attention to the brand through inside and outside signage. The exterior of the building is as important as the interior. Both should follow the branding rules established in the visual identity design.

Initial research and analysis

We identify the best practice and trends within the category, conduct internal and external interviews, draw conclusions, and make our recommendations.

Outline the concept

We develop creative routes, draw first drafts, and make an overall plan for implementing the concept. Of course, we rely heavily on info gathered during previous steps.


We present the creative routes to the decision-makers.