Trends in Brand Integration

by on August 12, 2016 - Leave A Comment

Integrating brand into a physical space has been called many different names: graphic design, branding, environmental graphics, experiential design, brand integration, the list goes on and on. But no matter what title you give it, brand integration into physical space(s) has been appearing on nearly all of our clients’ wish lists lately.

These clients aren’t just corporations wanting branding on their office headquarters either. Educational clients want their students to be inspired, healthcare institutions want to create a calm and safe experience for their patients and clinicians, retailers want to appeal to consumers through their physical spaces, and office clients want their physical brand to attract and retain talent. So how do you accomplish this? Finding the right balance of brand, wayfinding, space and identity is key.


The Ohio State University, College of Nursing

Although brand integration can be as simple as placing a well-designed logo on the wall, it has grown to encompass so much more beyond that. It is that intangible identity you feel when you walk into a space. You can understand the core values and culture of an organization before you even talk to a single person there. However on that same note, it is also those super graphics that grab your attention, communicate information and guide you through a space. No matter how it’s designed, interior branding needs to be intentional and work in harmony with a building’s architecture and interior design.

So if interior branding has become a staple, what are the trends that distinguish timeless and well-designed spaces from the rest of the pack? What trends are still going strong? Below are my own insights, not in any particular order, backed up by real internet sources. So they have to be true.

1) Material selection is everything (seen on this list at #2)
Consider all things as having potential for an installation or brand piece. I’ve seen everything from pencils to sticks to empty paint cans artfully arrange to echo a brand. Thoughtful arrangement and intention is key when using raw and unexpected materials.

Material Selection 1       Material Selection 2

2) Getting personal (seen here at #2)
I’m convinced people are tired of only seeing the surface level of a brand. These days people work for companies and companies work for clients that align with their ethics, work culture and core values. But that alignment can’t just been known, it has to be seen and felt.

3) Designing for Employees (seen here at #3)
Integrating brand into the physical workplace not only gives employees a sense of place and pride, but is a wondrous tool for recruiting and retention. Especially for those Millennial folk. win/win/win.

4) Digital Integration (this whole thing)
With the constant advancement in the digital arena, digital brand elements have become incredibly popular to integrate within a space as a standalone element or as a part of a more static design. Digital integration helps spatial branding stay current and also, adds a dynamic element that triggers our other senses to experience a space.

            Digital 2

5) Health conscious branding (seen on this list at #7)
Our whole world is shifting to be more health oriented (yay!) and the up-and-coming environmentally conscious WELL Building Standard Certification is triggering a whole new set of spatial graphic requirements that integrate health and wellness elements.

Wellness 1

Wellness 2

Posted in: Commentary, Design, Design Trends, Expertise, Visualization / Graphics Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

ACA Impacts: Designing More Efficient Medical Facilities

by on June 27, 2016 - Leave A Comment

It’s been more than six years since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law and overhauled health insurance. The ACA impacts the design of healthcare facilities across the United States as well in order to accommodate the estimated 20 million Americans that have gained health insurance coverage since 2010 (

The ACA impacts have brought two major shifts to the designing of healthcare facilities:

-operational efficiencies to support healthcare as a financially viable business

With programs such as Medicare Value-Based Purchasing which reward acute-care hospitals for the quality of care they provide, the ACA is pushing patient-centeredness, patient satisfaction and patient engagement to a whole new level. Doing business as usual is no longer an option when it comes to efficiency for health systems. The ACA legislation is asking providers to do more with less to reduce costs. Health systems are challenged to achieve financial and care-delivery goals in new ways. They’re becoming more efficient while providing a better, more holistic patient experience. This explains why many systems are looking to the retail, corporate workplace, and hospitality industries to discover new approaches to operations and facility design. The ACA impacts have made it difficult for healthcare facilities to accommodate increased patient volumes — this is where we come in.

Our projects have been no exception to these ACA impacts—designing a more complete patient experience is the overarching purpose behind the facilities we design.

“We pay a lot of attention to what is happening in each space. For example, an exam room in a primary care practice could have an exam chair instead of an exam table, which could reduce building area,” said Wes Hawkins, director of our healthcare studio. “We are also unitizing the spaces to retain ultimate flexibility in the changing environment of healthcare. An exam room, a consult room, and a manager’s office are all created to be interchangeable as needs fluctuate.”

For example, research has found that 30-40% of medical office building real estate is tied up in private offices that are unoccupied 90% of the time. That is a lot of costly square footage that could be used in other ways. To curb this inefficiency and allow for better utilization rates, you can provide small hoteling stations where doctors can have private phone calls and do notations however, these areas aren’t dedicated to one specific doctor.

Whether it’s consolidating different centers into one space or minimizing private offices in medical buildings, we are all about helping our clients update their facilities to maximize flow and efficiency.

Taking cues from retail and hospitality, we’ve also been designing waiting rooms to be more engaging. “Retail environments are designed to attract customers and that’s one of the new aspects of healthcare architecture,” said Hawkins. Moving beyond a few rows of chairs and scattered magazines, waiting areas can be consolidated into a shared space that serves the whole medical office building. Patients would have the opportunity to choose seating that matches their comfort level, whether that’s a table to do something on, a comfortable couch to read on, or an intimate setting with family.


Healthcare project manager Mark Hollern adds that “in retail settings the public are expecting comfortable environments that clearly direct them to desired services or products. We choreograph our integrated finishes and wayfinding elements into a warm, calming and attractive experience that veers away from the common sterile healthcare environment and provides the consumers with a sense of healing, clarity of services and positive distractions.”

These changes aren’t easy. Some doctors and other healthcare staff can be resistant to change, but with more ACA regulations going into effect each year and patients becoming more like consumers—thoughtfully choosing their healthcare providers and services as active decision makers—healthcare systems will need to be proactive in enhancing operational efficiencies and being more patient-centric.

Posted in: Design, Design Trends, Healthcare Design, Projects Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

ADA Reform Supports Businesses and Limits Lawsuits

by on June 8, 2016 - Leave A Comment

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act was intended to make the built environment accessible to those with disabilities and be more inclusive of all people. An unintended result of this legislation is that businesses are now threatened by serial plaintiffs who serve demand letters requesting money in exchange for not filing a lawsuit – basically lining the pockets of unscrupulous attorneys. Worse yet, these demand letters never state what the violation actually is, so that businesses can correct the violations.

Property owners should be given the opportunity to fix any violations or respond to the complaint, within a reasonable time period, without a lawsuit being filed. As a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) Ohio Government Relations Committee, we have been testifying as a proponent for House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 32 in support of federal legislation HR 3765, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2015. These bills will provide disincentives to filing these frivolous lawsuits, requiring that the violation be identified and a 120 day notice and cure period be provided prior to the commencement of any lawsuits. This will ensure that problems get fixed, rather than paid off without consequences.

Throughout my career there have been several experiences with clients where it became clear that we can do everything right, yet the client is still exposed to lawsuits, and thus we are exposed to lawsuits.  This is especially true in existing shopping centers where the requirements are vague and up for interpretation. In addition, there are federal requirements (ADAAG and FHA regulations), state requirements (ANSI) and city building code requirements regarding accessibility that can conflict and it is often difficult to determine what regulatory body governs.

Shoppes at Union HillFor example, when working on a shopping center renovation project our client was hit with an ADA lawsuit the week we started demolition. For existing facilities, ADA and the Ohio Building Code require that 20% of the cost of the alteration be spent on reducing or eliminating barriers. To determine where to spend dollars for barrier reduction the code establishes a list of priorities in the following order:

1. Accessible entrance
2. Accessible route to the altered area
3. (1) Accessible restroom for each sex
4. Accessible telephones
5. Accessible drinking fountains
6. Lumped together accessible parking and storage

As this was an existing center, the owner had a budget of approximately $4.9 million to renovate the interior and exterior of the center. They spent in excess of 20% on upgrades that reduced barriers including modifying grades leading to accessible entrances, providing automatic door openers, leveling the interior floor to eliminate cross slopes, modifying restrooms, modifying slopes at accessible parking and the route to the entrances from the parking.

In spite of all this, they were hit with a lawsuit by a plaintiff who had 17 open cases in Central Ohio at that time (and 89 cases in the Southern District). This plaintiff did not bother to check the building plans that were on file with the city showing the scope of work to be done —including a sheet labeled “ADA Compliance Plan” that clearly clarified a vague situation. Our client had to spend tens of thousands of dollars fighting the suit to eventually have it thrown out.

To combat these lawsuits, M+A Architects has taken extraordinary steps to mitigate ADA lawsuit risk for our clients. By reviewing all the city, state and federal accessibility regulations and taking the most restrictive requirement from each, we’ve created our own standards in excess of ADAAG requirements. For example, regulations do not account for construction tolerances, so we add 1 inch to all clearances, on all sides. Not to mention, with the freeze / thaw cycle, what complies in the summer may not comply in the winter.

The goal for ADA reform is to be accessible to everyone and go beyond usual measures to make sure this is the case. HCR 32 urges Congress to pass common sense updates to the ADA. Allowing a property owner to address such minor issues is not only good for business, but it protects the true intent of the ADA.

Let’s make the world more accessible, not make unscrupulous attorneys rich.

Legacy Crossing

Posted in: ADA, Code Compliance, Commentary, Community, Design Trends, Expertise, Press Release Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Meet Our Newest Principals: Lori Bongiorno and Carrie Boyd

by on May 19, 2016 - Leave A Comment

A few weeks ago, we announced that Lori Bongiorno, RA, LEED AP and Carrie Boyd, NCIDQ joined M+A’s team of principals!

While both Lori and Carrie have been part of M+A’s broader leadership team for a number of years, this transition offers firm ownership and starts a succession planning process for current shareholders. Naming a third generation of leadership is often something very difficult for businesses, but it promises a future for M+A.

We welcome the fresh perspectives and recharged energy Bongiorno and Boyd bring with their leadership!

The History

Founded in 1980, by Denny Meacham and Bob Apel, M+A Architects has traditionally been a production firm, focusing on solid construction documents, building code analysis, and functional building designs.

M+A Architects HistoryIn 1994, that started to change, as M+A hired an extremely driven and enthusiastic project coordinator — Lori Bongiorno. A driving force behind some of M+A’s most challenging and complex projects—including Easton Town Center and Bob Evans Farms Headquarters—Lori has helped push M+A beyond the production of construction documents.

Largely focused on mixed use, office and retail projects, Lori is actively involved in the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) at a national level and will be the incoming chair of the ICSC Ohio Government Relations Committee.

“Lori offers attention to detail, a commitment to a high level of service, and personal attention on all of her projects,” said Jim Mitchell, partner and executive vice president, “and Carrie has built a reputation of quality and forward thinking interior design services within M+A Architects.”

M+A Architects Interior DesignJoining the firm in 2007, Carrie brought a focus on design and innovation, further challenging M+A’s production background. She’s crafted an award-winning interior design team, while extending M+A’s service offerings—ultimately providing a more comprehensive experience for clients.

Always keeping an eye towards design trends, she has a contemporary, creative style that can be seen in Columbus through projects such as Turner Construction’s Columbus HQ, OSU’s Office of the Chief Information Officer and Distance Education and eLearning at Mount Hall and The Lane mixed-use development. Boyd is a licensed interior designer through the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ).

Looking to the Future

“M+A Architects is becoming stronger. By adding two very motivated, experienced and dynamic principals to the firm, Lori and Carrie will help M+A solidify longevity in the marketplace,” said partner and president, Mark Daniels.

Bongiorno and Boyd have helped grow and sculpt the firm into its current form, building successful teams, creating lasting relationships and embodying M+A’s culture of collaboration. They both bring a unique perspective and a style of leadership that better relates to the millennial generation, helping the firm attract talent and grow from within.

“Lori and Carrie are both very dedicated individuals and firmly believe that doing the right thing for the company is in everyone’s best interest. Their management styles and how they each make important decisions are very sound and they balance out the group with their perspectives,” said partner and treasurer, John Eymann.

Advice for Emerging Leaders

While Bongiorno and Boyd will be part of the third generation of leadership at M+A, there’s room for more seats at that table, as Boyd and Bongiorno explain they’re already thinking about fourth generation leadership. So, how do you become a principal? After reflecting on their own experiences Lori and Carrie shared their advice for emerging leaders:

Carrie said, “Don’t be afraid to step up and lead. Always be thinking about what’s best for M+A and not what’s best for you personally. Look to impress and go above and beyond what is expected. Think outside the box!”

And Lori offers advice for her fellow architects, “Work hard and be passionate about architecture. Strive to be a knowledgeable, well rounded architect and take opportunities to learn leadership skills.”

Posted in: Community, M+A News, People, Press Release Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

SiteOhio: Making Development in Ohio Easier

by on May 5, 2016 - Leave A Comment

Last week, the Central Ohio Chapter of NAIOP held an event focused on SiteOhio and the current development climate in the State of Ohio. SiteOhio, a program started in 2013 as a joint endeavor of JobsOhio and the seven economic development organizations across Ohio (including Columbus 2020), aims to help prospective entities find development-ready, certified land in Ohio. With other regions already certifying sites for development, this program will help Ohio compete as a prospective destination for these projects.

When initially started, the program had three main goals: identification, gap analysis, and education. However, as the program started gathering information, it was clear another benefit was emerging. SiteOhio’s database of available sites helped the organization understand inventory when a prospective business sends a Request for Information (RFI). Even though the sites may not be certified, they could very well meet the requirements of the inquiring businesses.

SiteOhio Pre-Qual ListFrom there, SiteOhio established a qualification process, with the help of Insight Consulting, to identify criteria that is important to the end user and provides a more offensive approach to site certification, rather than reacting to RFIs when they are submitted.

They anticipated approximately 150 sites to be submitted for certification—but over 400 sites were submitted! Of these sites, 336 sites met the qualifications. From there, further review was necessary, so the sites were divided into three categories: Certification Ready, Pipeline, and Fatally Flawed.

Certification Ready – site is zoned properly, has a survey, has a Phase I and Phase II (if necessary) report, and is ready to be developed, including all utilities and community support

Pipeline – site does not entirely meet qualifications, but can be remedied relatively quickly.

Fatally Flawed – site requires significant improvements to receive the “Certification Ready” grade. This may include utilities being run to the site, zoning issues, and other setbacks.

No sites were deemed certification ready, but 28 were identified as being very close and with some guidance could be certification ready with minimal work. SiteOhio will work hand-in-hand with these 28 sites to get them certified and is hoping to have 20 certified sites by August 2017.

The program will continue to update the database of information when new information becomes available for each site. They will also work with each site to ensure the reports and surveys remain up-to-date so site submission becomes a smoother process. While certification streamlines the process, it can’t always be obtained. Columbus 2020 and all the other economic development organizations across Ohio will continue to submit as many sites as they can to future businesses, but having certified sites allows the prospective organization to know the preliminary work is complete and the site is ready to be developed.

SiteOhio allows Ohio to be more competitive and provides distinct advantages to Ohio from an economic growth perspective. The certified sites will allow Ohio to be better marketed to a prospective business while the database will allow the economic development organizations to know the inventory of sites in their area and what improvements they may need to make. This information will continue to help bring businesses and jobs to Ohio and for Ohio based companies find land when they grow.

Posted in: Commercial Office, Community, Economic Development, Industrial, Local Developments, Multi-family Residential, Retail, Senior Housing Tagged with: , , , , , ,