February 15, 2018

Last year, I wrote a blog post about the reasons that branded environments matter in corporate spaces. These spaces can include headquarters and offices, hotels, restaurants or retail stores, among others. In a nutshell, I made the point that branded spaces allow you to tell your organization’s story and connect with users and customers in a more memorable, meaningful way. Someone’s in-person interaction with your brand can have a much greater impact than even PR or advertising.

Since writing that blog post, I’ve had the chance to work on some very exciting new spaces for organizations across the country. One of my favorites is LifeWay’s new corporate headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. At more than 125 years old, LifeWay is one of the largest providers of Christian resources in the world. Talk about having a story to tell! The company’s brand is based on their legacy, their rich history, and the mission and values that have been steadfast through the decades. Our primary challenge in their new building was showcasing that legacy while still helping them to modernize and evolve. Not an easy task.

Our team was determined to find a way to communicate LifeWay’s history without turning the headquarters into a museum. It would have been simple to just fill their space with artifacts on display and hope that both employees and visitors would appreciate the company’s significance through those pieces. But we wanted to marry old and new – to represent their history within the context of a more modern design. So we focused on taking their most iconic elements and reimagining them in memorable, creative applications.

As soon as one enters the LifeWay lobby, they’re met with eight hanging stained glass panels that originally lived in the Van Ness Auditorium of LifeWay’s old Sullivan Tower. They adorned the sides of the sanctuary for 50 years and LifeWay continues to regard them as a visible expression of the company’s commitment to the Word of God. The panels cast beautiful colors throughout the lobby from the natural light passing through them, and they depict the lessons Jesus taught in eight parables. As most people are used to seeing stained glass in a church chapel, the hanging panels in the lobby are an unexpected focal point. The design team also repurposed historic stained-glass structures off the main lobby and on the second floor of the headquarters. These features communicate LifeWay’s values and storied history in a unique way, from the minute someone enters the space.

The LifeWay brand is expressed and experienced with a variety of other touchpoints throughout the facility. Each touchpoint reinforces the company message and values in a different way. The book collage features publications representing every decade LifeWay has been publishing, beginning with children’s Sunday School literature and a small book from the 1800s. Wall graphics feature words representing the company’s core values or Scriptures that were selected by employees. The classic and illustrative graphic style reflects the vintage form of printmaking observed in earlier LifeWay publications.

LifeWay’s space is meant to foster a sense of pride and remind employees that they work for a hundred-plus year old company that has remained relevant through the decades, and to communicate a story of past, present and future for guests. A branded environment is one of the most effective methods for creating an atmosphere that tells a compelling story like this one – and the branded environment itself can become an important part of the company’s legacy.