Branding and Collaborating through Interior Design and Color

I recently wrapped up a commercial interior design project for Top 1 Oil in San Mateo. I was brought in by the client, whom I had previously worked with on some residential color design, to assist with paint color and materials selection for their new office space. It was such a pleasure having a client like Top 1 Oil, which is entirely family owned and operated. Founded in 1979 by William A. Ryan, the company is thriving due to the hard work and dedication of three generations of Ryans. And the most dedicated of all? 90 year old Kate Ryan who works for the company every day...and looks fabulous!
Before - Lobby/Hallway 
After - Lobby/Hallway
Colors used: Benjamin Moore's Key West Ivory, Nimbus and Moroccan Red
Before - Second floor workstations
After - Second floor workstations
Colors used: Benjamin Moore's Key West Ivory, Moroccan Red, and Blue Nova with Nimbus trim; Carpet - Atlas Limbo in Iron Charm. 

One challenging aspect of working on Top 1's color design was in staying true to the branding colors, which are basically primary red, yellow and blue, while at the same time creating an office design that was professional and not overly childlike. I brought in the gray - Nimbus - to give an edge of modern sophistication, and also to replicate the look of the existing aluminum door frames. We also opted for a very dark grey and black carpet to bring a sense of groundedness to the space. I loved that it simulated asphalt - very apropos for the company!
Before - Second floor offices
After - Second floor offices
Colors used: Benjamin Moore's Key West Ivory and Blue Nova
During this project I had the privilege of working with Debra Disman, decorative painter extraordinaire, of Artifactory Studio in San Francisco. I met Debra last year through an IACC seminar, and though I had seen her work via facebook, Twitter, etc., we hadn't yet had the opportunity to tackle a project together. As a matter of fact - this was the first time I had worked with any decorative painter on a job. The project went incredibly well. So well, in fact, that the client has recently asked Debra to come back and do MORE work for them in the space. Isn't that the ultimate compliment?

Debra did two installations on the second floor of the offices. Both were nearly exact replications of the company's logo. This might sound easy - it's just copying, right? Yeah - it's not quite as simple as that. I was really amazed at the process myself. Kudos to Debra for making it look effortless.
It was at the Feng Shui consultant's suggestion that we incorporated the company logo on the back wall of the second floor. She also highly recommended that we have a heavy dose of red on the back wall. Rather than bathe the entire logo wall in red, however, we opted to place the red just on the pony wall. The primary red and blue sitting right next to each other would have created too high of a contrast and would have taken away from the impact of the logo itself. A pale yellow (Benjamin Moore's Key West Ivory) became a more appropriate background color - and it was actually used as the main color in the entire office.

Debra's finished product. The graphically designed logo (from print and web) was used as a guide for actual Pantone colors, proportion and scale.
Debra hard at work.
The other decorative installation was added to an adjacent wall on the same floor. We did a very wide stripe design taken from the lower section of the large logo. (Debra has a few better photos on her article.)
After - Debra's Top 1 Oil "stripe" with Benjamin Moore's Key West Ivory
The collaborative process was really fun on this project. We worked hard, had lots of details to decide upon...and a few moments of "ok...who's gonna figure this one out?" But that's pretty much how every design job goes. The beauty of this project was that we had such a great group of people - the clients, contractor, architect, subcontractors - everyone was really fantastic to work with. Debra took note of this exceptional collaboration and wrote about it in her most recent article for the Bay Area Women's Journal, "Business Branding: It Takes a Village to Paint a Logo!

For the article, Debra asked the client and I to answer a few questions about the collaborative process. I'd like to share with you a little more of our Q&A that didn't make the final edit. Enjoy!

DD} Do you see collaboration as a key part of the design process for the new Top 1 Oil office building? Why do you think collaboration is important in the design process?

After - Second floor office
Colors used: Benjamin Moore's Key West Ivory and Nimbus
KB} I couldn't have done my job without collaborating with the client. Although I had worked with Mary and Kate Ryan on residential work prior to the Top 1 Oil job, it was imperative that I learned about the company before moving forward with any design specifications. Frank, in particular, had very distinct visions about the company image and how it was to be portrayed through the interior and color design. Meeting and working with Top 1 Oil representatives was a must for me. If I had done any work without their input it would not have been as authentic...and the end result would have been more of my vision for the space - not theirs. The collaboration allowed us to create the space together, and to achieve an end result that supported the needs of the client as well as their clients.
Before - Another shot of the second floor back wall
After - Another shot of Debra's masterful work!
On another note, we also collaborated with a Feng Shui consultant. Before any design work begun, the Feng Shui consultant did a report and developed an energy flow strategy for us to use as a guideline. This turned out to be a very good starting point for the design and we did our best to respect the suggestions she made.
Debra showcasing the finished product. (And yes - this was summer in California and she has a winter coat on. It was FREEZING that day!)
Additionally, collaborating with Debra, the decorative painter was a wonderful experience. Debra and I worked closely on the design and layout of the company logo, which really is the showstopper in the the space! The client knew from the beginning of the project that they wanted to incorporate the company logo somehow, and when I suggested we bring in Debra, they were thrilled with the idea. She did an amazing job! Although it took several meetings and emails to decide on the exact placement and scale of the logo, it was well worth the hard work. And the collaboration with the client allowed them to feel like they had a hand in the design. Without the client input  a disassociation can occur. Why not bring them in on the design decisions? It only allows for a better end product - one that truly represents the client, the company and the brand - when they are intimately involved. I wouldn't have it any other way.
And a pic of me. (Per Anna's request.)

How do you feel about collaboration on design projects? Please share your experiences!

If you need assistance with color and materials for your commercial space, and value branding and collaboration, call me at 650.867.3896, or shoot me an email at to discuss your project.