4 Office Design Disasters and How to Avoid Them

Here at Rhino, we’re all about crafting beautiful workspaces that inspire workers and encourage productivity. However, not all office fit-outs are created equal. There are plenty of ways workplace design can go horribly wrong, but we'd particularly recommend avoiding the following four faux pas.

1. Tacky Gimmicks

We don't like to name and shame, but The Wonderfactory's office in New York City was the epitome of gimmicky.

Upon arrival at their office, visitors and potential clients were greeted by a cluttered, door-less room with a tasselled rope hanging from the ceiling.


When the rope was pulled, a secret door in one of the bookcases opens, allowing entrance to the main workspace. “50% of people who visit call us and say “Hey, I’m stuck in some old man’s library, how the hell do I get to your office?”” boasts The Wonderfactory’s founder David Link during this video tour of the place.

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This gimmick may be a bit of harmless fun, but if it was confusing half of their visitors, was it worth the joke? And spare a thought for the people that worked there – how fun was this entrance for employees after the hundredth time?

And things only got worse once you were inside.

The open plan office was a hodgepodge of half-cut design ideas. Some areas were typically modern and stylish, but others were garishly out-dated. And the less said about the room with the flame table the better.


The Takeaway: It's fair to say that creative workspaces can help energise and inspire employees, but going overboard like this is more likely to just give them a headache. Keep gimmicks like slides and secret doors out of your workspace – each element of your office should serve some purpose. The wonderfactory spent $1.6 million on this fit out – we recommend you spend your money more wisely.

2. Clashing Colours

It’s true: plain white walls in office spaces should be avoided, but crazy colours just for the sake of it can be a whole lot worse. Check out this Brighton-based media company's offices, for example.


The colours used here are harsh on the eyes, but worse still is the dense mishmash of patterns and shapes. It’s like they’re each fighting for your attention – not good for employees trying to focus on their work.

It’s common knowledge that colour affects emotions and moods. Blue hues can be calming and aid creative thinking, while reds can get the blood pumping and may be an effective colour for sales-based environments. Whichever atmosphere you want to create for your office, don’t let colour choices be a secondary thought when designing your new workspace.

The Takeaway: When designing your workspace, consider which colours will best reflect your company while creating a pleasant environment for your employees. And avoid slime green at all costs.

3. Industrial Design

There’s been a growing trend over the past few years for implementing industrial design into workspaces. While this style philosophy – which prioritises natural materials and metalwork – can look fantastic when handled by an expert design team, you have to be careful your office isn't left looking cold and clinical.


Remember: on average, your employees are going to be spending a third of their lives in the space you’re about to design, so think about keeping it friendly and inviting, rather than simply ‘on trend.’

The Takeaway: If you feel industrial design is the right look for your workspace, consider the ways you can keep it warm and welcoming, such as by introducing soft furnishings and colourful furniture.

4. The Open Office Debate

Popularised by trendy tech firms like Microsoft and Google, the open office has become the defining design philosophy of modern workplaces. Gone are the days of partitions and cubicles – now the focus is on open spaces which are said to encourage communication and collaboration.


Although these benefits are proven, recent studies have suggested there are some downsides too, igniting a hearty debate around the pros and cons of open plan design.

It's been said that open offices can be distracting and, far from encouraging social interaction, they can encourage more emailing. More employees tend to be off ill during the winter months in open offices, and there are rising concerns about the lack of privacy in such layouts.

However, many of these studies drew their conclusions by examining poorly designed open plan offices – work environments that offered no private spaces or break-out areas. "A designer well-versed in workplace strategy would never suggest such an environment for a client," says architect Ashley L. Dunn in her retort to these damning studies.

We’re not suggesting here that your new workspace shouldn’t be open plan – in fact we’ve designed some stunning open plan offices – but it’s wise to ensure you include secluded areas in your design where employees can make calls in private or hold meetings.

The Takeaway: There are many benefits to implementing an open plan office, including lower costs, increased employee interaction, and increased collaboration. However, as Ashley states, "a thoughtful mix of open and closed spaces is key to any successful office design."


With a 5th of millennials turning down jobs because of poor office design, it’s never been more important to get your workspace design right. Yes, your office needs to impress visitors and clients, but it must also keep your workers happy and productive.

As an entire new generation begins to enter the workforce, there's never been a better time to consider a re-fit. 

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