Interview: Johannes Hädrich, CEO of swift.consult

After hearing about swift.consult‘s recent office move from the company’s CEO, Johannes Hädrich, I asked if he would answer a few of questions about his the office, their move, among other office design topics. In case you missed it, we posted their offices earlier this morning. Hope you all enjoy! (and please excuse the grammar as English is not his first language)

1. How did you go about the process of designing the new office and how long did it take?

When we decided to move into a new office (the old one was shared with another company and as we and the other company grew, the office became too small), we were lucky enough to have a flexible moving out date.

The first challenge was to find the right office in the neighborhood we wanted to relocate to. Our old offices were located in Düsseldorf’s media harbor, a famous architectural centre of Germany. Buildings of Frank O Gehry and other spectacular office buildings were just in sight when we look out of our windows. So we had some demands and this part took about 6 months…

After that we planned the interior. A central problem was that the previous tenant was still in the office so we had to work with photos and Visio drawings. Especially Visio helped us a lot to move around furniture and to plan how people would like to work, meet, relax and so on.

2. Were the employees of the company involved in the design process?

Our employees were involved particularly into the design process. I think it’s important to get them the environment they demand and need, to work in the most effective way. Everyone was able to make some suggestions and select the equipment for their work area (as computer monitors, chairs, etc.). In addition to that we have made a webpage in our wiki called “wish list”. Everybody can make wishes for future investments in the office. At the moment a table soccer is leading…

3. You mentioned that some of your inspiration for your new office came from Office Snapshots. Were there any particular offices that you found yourself going back to look at during your design process?

Indeed, inspiration came from officesnapshots. There are so many great offices on your site which give a good idea, how an office, where you spend more time than at home (awake), should look like. And some offices show also, what not to do. I knew Joel Spolsky’s company Fog Creek Software before I came across officesnapshots. He operates an excellent blog and some posts represents the same principals, I stick to, too. Place the developer in the centre of what your doing and give them a great office, that cheers them on. When you look at Joel’s pictures of the office, you know what I mean. So this office was certainly an office that has inspired us. Browsing through other company’s pictures, we memorized some details. For instance actually we plan to have a large whiteboard in our conference room like the one the new Facebook office features. It’s gorgeous to give your visions room to evolve.

4. Did you need to purchase any additional office furniture for your new space? If so, what brands did you choose and why?

As we moved from a smaller office we needed to buy some new stuff. I always like a good mixture in design. We used some VITRA and USM furniture in our new office, but not everything from them has to be outstanding as not everything from IKEA is dreadful. For example the base of the high bench in the kitchen is from VITRA, the 280cm x 85 cm table top is from a local carpenter and the bar stools are from IKEA. Looks great and what is far more important to me – works great.

The lighting system is made by PHILIPS, they have some great lamps which are able to change the light color from 2700 Kelvin (yellow normal light) to 6500 Kelvin (Daylight). Every workstation lamp can be tuned, using a wireless remote. So you can go with a blue/white light during daytime and a warmer light for the evening hours.

5. Have you seen an positive impact from the new design? If so, can you explain?

We moved into the new office 2 1/2 months ago and see some promising impact on the work. Due to the open space with a centered meeting room, communication improved very well. Now we have a frequently used meeting room for brainstorming and other creative work. These important processes do not disturb others any more . The informal meeting point in the kitchen area is going to be our information hub par excellence.

6. What other information can you provide our readers to assist them in their future office design projects?

Planning your office is very specific to the kind of business you are in. If you’re an event agency you might have other layouts and areas than a software development company like us. Joel Spolsky described a simple funnel that fits other business domains, too: “Best work conditions attracts the best developers, who make great software which leads to superior revenue.” Your office is not the only part of “best work conditions” but surely an important one. It is the place, potential new colleagues and new customers see first when they visit you. As a small company (now 5 employees) we cannot offer fancy stock options to employees nor boat cruises to our customers. But a nice office combined with an amicable working atmosphere covers both: increased employee satisfaction and a presentable place to see the customers.

Last but not least: We love to fool around, for example during our weekly bicycle race in the office icon smile Interview: Johannes Hädrich, CEO of swift.consult