How to Design a Business Incubator

by on March 16, 2016 - Leave A Comment

Leveraging design to create purposeful use of space is extremely important for a business incubator, as these spaces have become synonymous with innovation. While these spaces require heightened collaboration and idea-generating areas, at the same time, they need private spaces for individual work. So, how can the design of a business incubator help cultivate all of these things? I interviewed M+A’s Director of Design, Dan Pease, and Interior Designer, Kelly Heitkamp, to find out.

By Entrepreneur magazine’s definition, a business incubator is an organization designed to accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services that could include physical space, capital, coaching, common services, and networking connections.

Traditionally seen with technology startups, business incubators are spreading into other arenas. Cardinal Health recently launched Fuse Innovation Lab to develop innovative products for use in healthcare. Additionally many municipalities in the Central Ohio area are creating entrepreneurial centers to get small business owners out of their basement offices and into a space with infrastructure, collaboration, and most importantly, a network of support.


Q: Microsoft recently described its business accelerator, Microsoft Garage (pictured below), as “a protected habitat for Microsoft employees and their wild ideas.” How can you leverage design to promote a nonbiased, creative space conducive for an incubator?

Microsoft GaragePease: Creative synergy can be initiated and promoted by considering each user’s requirements to conduct business. Having open creative areas with centrally-located amenities, promotes a relaxing environment – allowing better and more honest participation in discussions/workshops. People need to feel a level of acceptance to let their guard down and offer, in some cases, ideas that are a little out of the box.Microsoft Garage 2

Heitkamp: The design process should mirror the innovation of the start-up companies —and Microsoft Garage is a perfect example of this. Because the purpose of these spaces is to promote out of the box thinking, you have to approach the design in a similar way. Part of the design challenge is to determine exactly how this is done. To help foster innovative thinking, the environment should change your frame of mind as soon as you walk in the door. It could be through using materials in unexpected ways, incorporating amenities that allow the users to feel comfortable, or incorporating cutting edge technology.


Q: What are specific design elements/techniques that you would integrate into creative spaces?

Pease: The creative area should have a combination of casual seating and flex space with chairs positioned in a circle or u-shape to promote idea sharing. The lighting level should be designed to reduce glare and stress. And bold colors/materials should be used to invigorate the casual, yet fun environment. I’d also integrate a tabletop smart-screen to help efficiently capture creative sessions and a marker wall or pin-up area. Ideas left pinned-up for display helps engage stakeholders who may not have been in the discussion.

Heitkamp: From a space planning standpoint, it’s all about an open environment promoting connection and interaction between the users.

Another component—one that can be hard for us, as architects and designers—is taking a step back from the design and avoiding the urge to make things look “too perfect.” Not only does a space with some raw edges communicate authenticity, it is a reality for most start-up companies. A space designed for a startup company shouldn’t look or feel the same as a corporate headquarters. I think harnessing the charm and excitement of a start-up space through the building design is important.

Time Warner Office Design

Q: On one hand, you need to foster cutting-edge ideas that challenge normal business practices, but on the other hand these ideas should serve the business and its market. Are there any traditional office elements you would incorporate?

Pease: Sometimes an individual user or small group will want to take time to work on their own. There needs to be intimate break-out rooms, in close proximity to the creative space, that are enclosed to control sound. The size should accommodate four to six people and should include similar amenities as the creative space. Locating both types of spaces near a kitchenette aids in creating a non-stress setting. Again, we want the users to be comfortable and relaxed, making conversations honest and personable. This attitude promotes teamwork and makes the process fun, resulting in more efficient productivity.

Heitkamp: In an open office environment, it’s important to incorporate quiet, private spaces for respite and contemplation. Striking a balance between private and public spaces, while maximizing flexibility, is the sweet spot. A lot of this has to do with boundaries in the space. Is a stud and gypsum board wall really better suited to be a glazed modular wall or a visual division of space created by high backed seating piece? This is an example of the kind of questions that you should be prepared to ask when designing the space.

Time Warner Office

With millennial entrepreneurs launching about twice as many businesses as boomers, business incubators could have a huge impact. The “millennipreneurs,” as they’re called, are taking the entrepreneurial leap at a younger age and have higher targets in mind. Business incubator design that can offer an innovative, collaborative, technology-integrated space, business coaching and opportunities for networking could be a huge asset.

Share your thoughts! Do you think business incubators can lead to startup success and/or idea generation? What would you want to see designed into an incubator space? 

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Using Design Details to Improve Patient Experience

by on February 23, 2016 - Leave A Comment

In life, it’s often the little details that we appreciate the most; the little details make the patient experience.

As an interior designer who has focused my entire career in the healthcare industry, I’ve become acutely aware of how patient-centered environments tell a story and provide evidence of that story to customers, day-in and day-out. By incorporating the latest trends into the design, it creates the intended experience – typically presenting itself in the little details that patients remember.

Self Check-In Kiosk

Corendon Hotel | Amsterdam

It all starts with the greeting experience. Healthcare providers are taking cues from the hospitality and retail markets. Five star hotels call every guest by name, anticipating their arrival and personalizing the guest experience. Employees are trained to focus on the client and it shows with a smile and warm hello as you enter their properties. The opportunity to provide a warm friendly greeting to patients and visitors sets the tone for the entire experience. Leveraging design, make registration and waiting areas a focal point upon arrival, allowing clients to focus on their patients and visitors immediately. The greeting experience can instill an enormous amount of loyalty. The interiors must be warm and inviting and allow more casual interactions. The use of self-check-in kiosks are also becoming more common to appeal to tech-savvy consumers.


Improve Patient Experience

The Commons Hotel | Minneapolis, MN

Recently, waiting areas are becoming referred to as “living rooms.” To align with that expectation, they should come with all the comforts of home. These spaces must be inviting, user-friendly, and convenient to visitors. From areas of technology such as, free Wi-Fi or charging stations for mobile devices, to comfortable residential type lounge chairs, the furnishings should provide variety. With an aging population, some seating should include arms and have a seat height of 19 inches for elderly accessibility. Natural palettes that are inspired by the outdoors with elements of organic textures or patterns are a welcomed sight in the high tech world we live in today. All of these items improve the patient experience.

Improve Patient Experience

Waldorf Astoria Hotel | Panama City

Branding is another big trend. Taken from the corporate world, branding and environmental graphics are now prominent in healthcare. Promotion of your brand and your tie to the community around you can be shown through digital imaging, which now can be printed on virtually any substrate. Showcasing your pride and involvement in local efforts promotes stewardship and recognition of community improvements. Creating multi-functional spaces where community events can occur, allows occupants to experience the space in a positive environment. For instance, a coffee bar can also be used to teach healthy cooking classes—which helps promote wellness and can create a VIP experience.

As healthcare shifts to a value-based service model, where outcomes and satisfaction drive reimbursements, we must leverage the front-of-the-house and provide engaging spaces that add value. The details in the design can set the tone for the entire patient experience.


Posted in: Design, Design Trends, Expertise, Healthcare Design, Senior Housing Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Top 12 Ohio Building Code Updates for 2016

by on January 14, 2016 - Leave A Comment

The Ohio Board of Building Standards has kicked off 2016 with a laundry list of Ohio Building Code updates. Typically, Ohio Building Code updates are grammatical improvements, additional definitions, and minor clarifications to improve the text of the code and enhance understanding of the code’s intent, but the 2016 New Year update is full of code changes. Many of the Ohio Building Code updates realize some of the more desired modifications in later versions of the International Building Code (IBC), which forms the basis of our Ohio Building codes. These changes also address some overdue revisions to clarify the use group and application for some specific building types.

The Laundry List –
First, let me start off by saying that this should not be viewed as a complete list of code updates. These are my takeaways after a quick read-through. For a copy of the complete changes to the Ohio Building Code, please visit the Ohio Board of Building Standards. Also, I am leveraging the expertise of M+A’s Healthcare and Higher Education Studio Director, P’liz Koelker, to clarify the changes to ambulatory care facilities.

Below are my insights into the New Year Ohio Building Code updates:

1. While casinos first appeared in Ohio in 2012, they make their debut in the Ohio Building Code as an A2 Use. It’s also important to note that Table 2902.1 has been updated to reflect the required plumbing fixture counts.

Ohio Building Code Updates - Casino

Casinos are now fully integrated into Ohio Building code as an A2 Use.

2. Mop sinks are no longer required in mercantile and business uses with an occupant load of less than 15. This represents a square footage of less than 450 sq. ft. for mercantile and 1500 sq. ft. for business, so this isn’t earth shattering, but it goes a long way in addressing actual use where these small spaces are often cleaned with household cleaning products.

3. The required clearances for toilet partitions (excluding accessible facilities) has been updated to distinguish between wall-hung and floor-hung toilets. This recognizes that typical wall-hung toilets are more compact than tank-type and floor-spud toilets, allowing compartments to be reduced from 60 inches to 56 inches.

4. Spaces that are required to have only a single men’s and women’s restroom—with a single water closet and lavatory in each—can each be designated as a unisex restroom. This is a huge improvement for any parent who needs to get their children into a single, public restroom.

5. The exception to 2902.2 has been revised increasing the occupant load, permitted to have a single restroom to serve both men and women in a mercantile use from 50 to 100. Even though, not a reflection of the fixture counts found in Table 2902.1, (if it was a true representation, the occupant load would have been increased 10 fold!) regardless, it’s a welcome change permitting smaller mercantile uses up to 3,000 sq. ft. to have only a single restroom.

6. Cafeterias and similar spaces with a commercial kitchen are also now clarified to be an A2 Use.

7. Hoistway venting for elevators is not required in pressurized elevator shafts per the exception added to 708.14.2.1.

8. Clarifications have been added to distinguish between a doctor’s office and an ambulatory care space. Both are still B Uses, but there was plenty of confusion surrounding the requirements of what could be a doctor’s office and what was required to meet the stricter ambulatory care requirements.

9. Expect to see more questions pertaining to patients being rendered incapable of self-preservation. This will be the primary litmus test for requirements pertaining to ambulatory care spaces.

10. Sprinklers are required in ambulatory care uses when there may be four or more patients incapable of self-preservation on the level of exit discharge or just one patient when the space is on a different level. This may impact dental practices.

11. Manual fire alarms and smoke detection is required for ambulatory care facilities, unless fully sprinklered.

12. The march of the voice notification fire alarm continues and it is now a requirement for ambulatory care. It would not be a surprise that it becomes standard across all project types in the future.

As stated above, for a complete copy of all the 2016 New Year Ohio Building Code updates, please visit the Ohio Board of Building Standards. But I hope my laundry list of takeaways is helpful in the meantime!

Kimball Midwest - M+A Architects

Cafeterias with a commercial kitchen are now clarified to be an A2 Use

Posted in: Code Compliance, Expertise, Healthcare Design, Press Release Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Low Vision and Pediatric Optometry Clinic Design

by on December 29, 2015 - Leave A Comment

One of my favorite parts of being a designer in our industry is building relationships with clients and understanding their background, user population, location, and brand. All of these components make each group unique and I love having the opportunity to translate those qualities into a built environment. It may take several meetings, it may happen the first time you step foot on the project site, or maybe it doesn’t hit until you start to put something down on paper, but it always inevitably occurs – that a-ha moment when your vision for a space starts to take shape. This process was no different with our recent clinic design renovation for The Ohio State University’s Fry Hall, where our vision for their space materialized after just a few meetings with their College of Optometry project team.

The potential for a meaningful renovation of Fry Hall’s Low Vision Rehabilitation and Pediatric Optometry Clinic was driven by the unique requirements of their patient population, the potential to make a statement for the staff and students, as well as recruitment of future students. Before we began to design, our team researched guidelines for low vision and pediatric populations, the two groups that would be sharing the first floor clinic space. Using the guidelines from the National Institute of Building Sciences Low Vision Design Committee, research conducted regarding pediatric design, and feedback from the college staff, we set overarching clinic design goals to create a set of guidelines for design decisions throughout the project.

Themes for the Clinic Design:
Entire Clinic
Modern, high contrast, graphic

Low Vision Clinic
Simple, sophisticated
High contrast – Dark floor to ground the space. Light walls to reflect light. Contrasting door frames to distinguish entryways.
Bold color palette – OSU themed!

Pediatric Clinic
Playful – yet appropriate for toddlers and teenagers.
Continue high contrast theme from Low Vision in a fun, graphic way
Colored columns and door graphics help with wayfinding

clinic design

Clinic Design features an entrance that creates instant visual hierarchy.

ENTRANCE – Wayfinding and Visual Hierarchy (above)
This clinic is one of two clinics in the State of Ohio that provides the exam required for people with low vision impairment to be tested for driver’s license renewal — meaning patients from all over the state travel to the clinic for day-long exams. Because of the high demand nature of the Low Vision Clinic’s services, patients are often coming in and out of the space and navigating through the entire clinic and the first floor of the Optometry building. Knowing this frequent activity, a key visual element at the entrance of the space was an important objective for OSU staff. Bringing an abundance of light into the space was also key, but we needed to ensure it wouldn’t be a safety concern for those who could not perceive the difference between clear glass and an opening. Our team utilized glass film to help create a visual difference, which also presented an opportunity for branding.

clinic design

The reception desk is an integral part of the clinic design and makes a purposeful and visual statement catering to both user groups.

RECEPTION – Visual Contrast Using Light and Color (above)
To make it clear to patients where to go upon entering the clinic, the reception desk was designed to make a bold, visual statement. Contrast in color and light are the two elements that are most obvious to a person with impaired vision. Keeping this in mind we used contrasting colors in the carpet, ceiling and desk and chose pendants as beacons of light to help direct visiting patients to the front desk. Also keeping in mind that this desk would greet the pediatric patients, we used fun patterns and a playful curved transaction panel to keep things attractive to visiting families and all in a branded Buckeye spirit.

clinic design

The clinic design features intentional low vision specific way-finding.

LOW VISION PATIENT CORRIDOR – Wayfinding through High Contrast and Oversized Graphics (above)
Helping low vision patients navigate to their exam rooms was a high priority of the staff members. They wanted the door openings to be very obvious with oversized signage, but not to the point that might insult patients who could view the space as a place “for blind people”. We designed custom door jambs that were deeper than standard, painted the inside profile scarlet, and included lighting over each of the doors to help them stand out from the white walls and dark carpet. We chose a carpet with an edge accent to help accentuate the openings as well. Bold, modern vinyl graphics help to distinguish the door numbers.

clinic design

Ageless, custom wall graphics are a play on the traditional eye chart.

PEDIATRIC CORRIDOR – Wayfinding through Fun, Ageless Graphics (above)
Creating a fun experience that appealed to all ages — from toddler to teenager — was an important objective for the pediatric clinic. We wrapped existing columns in custom vinyl wall graphics resembling a jumbled eye chart. The wall graphics incorporated OSU’s scarlet and gray brand, as well as a fun secondary palette of colors with small scale letters. Inside the exam rooms, the same graphic was used at a larger scale with a variety of background colors to help distinguish the spaces. The doors of the exam rooms feature animals with glasses and background colors that match the accent wallcovering in the room.

This project illustrates a blend of both science and art. It challenged the design team to give equal attention to specific functional requirements and fine-tuned aesthetic detail, all while keeping the user’s defined needs at the forefront. Since its opening we’ve received some very positive feedback from the Low Vision Clinic:

“You listened exquisitely well to our special needs and brought us options that were creative, functional, and gorgeous.  As a result, we have created an extraordinary new space that is taking our work to all new levels.”  – Roanne E. Flom, OD, Chief, OSU Low Vision Rehabilitation Service, Professor of Clinical Optometry

Getting positive feedback from clients and patients is the greatest reward; it helped close out the project on a high note. We love to hear that the space was successful at aesthetically emphasizing the brand of the clinic, but also easily navigated and enjoyed by patients and staff alike.

Posted in: Design, Expertise, Healthcare Design, Lighting Design, Projects, Visualization / Graphics Tagged with: , , ,

Workspace Design for Millenials

by on December 21, 2015 - One Comment

We’ve all heard it before, “So what do you see trending these days?” Our clients look to us to be the experts in our field, to know what is coming, and to make sure the end-product isn’t out of date next year. It is a challenge that all designers face throughout the life of their career, and one we must diligently work on so that we continue to push the envelope and deliver spaces that will last the test of time.

Recently I had the opportunity to go to Mohawk’s Future Workspace Design (FWD) event to study and understand what is being predicted for 2020. The event itself is an annual meeting where topics like millenials, color forecasting, and product development are all discussed with designers from all over the world. Some of the keynote speakers and presenters are designers that are at the forefront, pushing the envelope in their own spheres of fashion, trend prediction, and of course, design and architecture. For the 2015 seminar, I was fortunate enough to hear from the founders of INNOCAD and 13&9 Design, the Director of Design from Mohawk, and some of the preeminent trend forecasters, Lidewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano.

For me, the most interesting discussion surrounded the 2020 millenials and what they will look for in the spaces they inhabit. An interesting tidbit is that the speakers all echoed the same topics in most of the talks without them even discussing it beforehand. Here are some of the key terms that were discussed and how they will affect workspace design going forward:

Fluid – Moving from work to home to the gym, then back to work makes life a constant state of fluidity. Time is no longer measured, but simply flows from one event to the next. Information is streaming 24/7, so make time memorable. Introduce rewards for taking a moment of respite at work and make sure you bring a bit of whimsy and humor to these times.

Hybridic – We see the rise of a culture with no conception of time or place. They are global and borrow from varied regions or history as they want to – at times creating surrealistic moments. The blending of all of their varied experiences will result in irreverential design. This emancipation will lead to a rebirth of the forgotten. Colors formally seen as drab will now become chic and unexplored cultures will influence design.

Elisa Storzyk

Elisa Strozyk | “Grey-Black-Birch” wooden rug

Nomadic – Here is where the true transient nature of a millennial will shine through. There will be a blurring of urban to rural, so that the edges of the city become more populated. Natural materials will landscape the space, creating a connection to the building’s surroundings and the city’s culture. The future form of the farmhouse will rise more as we see more mixing of organic, nature-respective and farm-like living. Farm to table is only the beginning.

Tactile – The required authenticity of the future generations comes into play with the handmade: those things that look to be original. Yarns, threads, weaving, and quilted are examples of how textiles will be directed. We will celebrate the process. The arts and crafts movement will once again take form. Originality will affect branding in using original artwork that is hand painted and unique. This new style is called calligraffiti.

Aleksandra Gaca - architextile

Aleksandra Gaca | Architextile – Acoustic Textile Panels

From these terms and ideas a place of emancipation will come. As with every generation and turn of culture, we see the old ideas and thoughts become nonbinding. This means that what was once considered taboo will now be embraced as a truth that must be told. So we must be more thoughtful in our design and intent, be purposeful with our resources and materials, and tell a story.

For more information on this event and next year’s please visit,

Posted in: Commercial Office, Design, Design Trends, Expertise, Workplace Culture Tagged with: , , , , , , ,