When Does a First Impression Start?

June 5, 2010 | Branding

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Most of us have heard about the importance of first impressions. As the saying goes: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Research indicates that first impressions happen extremely quickly—sometimes in less than a second—and can be difficult to overcome once formed.

As a designer, I think about this often when building a brand identity. A logo, a business card, or a web site are often the things that make a first impression for a company. It can also be a person such as an employee, or the physical location such as a storefront or office that are the first representation of your company.

Designing the first impression of Visible Logic, with our office

Here at Visible Logic, we recently moved our office. Our previous space was too small and it was time to find something larger.

Our design studio is located in the State Theater building in Portland, Maine. This historic building, also called the Congress Building, holds it’s own impression in the minds of people who may come visit us (or even just hear about where we are located). The State Theater itself (which occupies about a third of the building) has a long, rich history and was once a beautiful concert hall. At one point, it was a movie house showing porn flicks. When Visible Logic first moved into the building, in early 2006, the venue was in poor condition and struggling with second rate musical acts. It shut down a few months later and has been vacant since. Very recently, it was announced that the State would be reopening this fall.

When I was deciding where to relocate our design office, I had to take all of this into consideration. The great things about this building are: it’s an anchor in the Arts District; the other tenants are small businesses and artists—many people involved in the creative economy; the spaces are unique and affordable. Some of the less desirable aspects of the building are: the office spaces are not too polished and professional; there are a lot of people who hang out nearby on the streets who are not always sober; the common areas such as the lobby and meeting room are not in great shape.

After weighing the pros and cons, I decided to stay in the building and move to a bigger suite within it. FYI we are now in Suite 615 rather than 627.

But the question that haunted me was how I can overcome some potentially poor first impressions about the building. Especially when we hear that first impressions are so hard to change.

Separate and create a new beginning

One of the key ideas is the be able to give your audience a fresh launching pad to create a first impression. In our example, we can’t control people’s previous impressions of the State Theater itself. And I really can’t expect the lobby to be redone any time soon. But I can make it so that when someone walks through the doors of suite 615 that is the moment of the first impression.

How did we do it?

  • Signage. We designed a colorful and eye-catching door sign that creates some anticipation for someone to open the door.
  • Color palette. We used bold accent colors to target people’s eyes as they walk in and meet with us.
  • Light and space. The overall feel of the space is light, but not uncomfortably bright, and is energetic without being overwhelming. This is created by the large windows, the french doors, the spacing between furniture, the ocean view, and the wall colors creates.
The new design of the Visible Logic door sign

The new design of the Visible Logic door sign

Visible Logic's new meeting space

Our new meeting area.

The response has been great. We feel better working here and our first visitors are commenting on how the whole space has an immediate positive feel to it (great first impression!). In addition, the colors used throughout the studio build on our brand identity which helps pull together this positive experience with the Visible Logic brand.

If you’d like to see more photos of the office redecoration in progress. Please visit our facebook page.

By creating a clear separation of our space from the building’s space, we were able to set a new starting point for people’s first impression of us. As people walk through our door, it is a new starting point for them to create a first impression.

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