Manhattan Office Space: Signage Is More Important Now Than Ever with Jen Meilan

A lot of folks think getting into a new office space is pretty simple – you check it out, decide you like it, sign on the dotted line, and move your company in. Right? Wrong. After you’ve signed on that line you’ve got to make sure the space will reflect your company’s culture and creates a safe environment for your team. In this regard, signage, the idea of your company’s visual designs, can be absolutely critical.

For this episode of “Conversations with Cohen,” I brought on Jen Meilan, Principal at 71 Visuals,  to learn about this important aspect of a new office space and what they’re doing to help in the fight against Covid-19. Jen’s got an exorbitant amount of knowledge in this unique space and raised a lot of points I hadn’t even thought of. You know when you’ve learned something new and all of a sudden start to see that fact, name, or word everywhere? That new knowledge has just given you a heightened sense of awareness about the topic. Well, that’s what my conversation with Jen was about signage. This conversation was so enlightening for me – it’s really a must read/watch for any business that’s planning on heading back to the office!

About 71 Visuals

71 Visuals is all about translating a company’s brand into their environment. A great example is retail. Clothing stores or other shops want to have a certain feel to them when a customer walks in. A company like 71 Visuals helps design the space by ensuring that the furniture, colors, and layout among other things reflects the company’s brand. They do a lot of work with architects, as they’re involved in the full process of outfitting a space for a client, from production through installation.

Any office space you’ll walk into these days has a lot of glass all over the place. It can be a great way to make the space feel more open and cohesive by having see-through materials. What you may not have realized though, is that the glass normally has something called a “distraction film” on it. It’s basically exactly what it sounds like: a design on the glass so when you’re walking you realize the glass is there and don’t walk into it. Think that’s funny? Jen told me about a time she nearly walked into a glass wall in a new space with a client before the distraction film was on there. “That’s why you need it!” Jen told the client.

So, what else might 71 Visuals help your business with when thinking about a commercial property for rent? Everything from ADA compliance and bathroom signs to a nice bright logo behind the reception desk. Trust me, walking into an empty office space takes some serious imagination to envision that beautiful new office your client wants. People like Jen over at 71 Visuals are those imaginative minds that transform a new space (or even an existing one) into your company’s new stylish stomping grounds.

71 Visuals’ Response to Covid-19

Everyone is trying to help in the fight against Covid-19. It’s been all of our responsibility to stay home and help flatten the curve, but 71 Visuals has really taken that call to arms to a totally new level. When the state of New York first announced restrictions back in March, 71 Visuals thought about potential ways to keep working safely. As a design and production company, they decided to produce their own model of face shields to keep themselves and other employees safe at work.

It turned out that 71 Visuals’ own employees weren’t the only ones interested. Quickly hospitals, individual doctors and nurses, and other organizations started calling them up asking for these shields! They were shocked to hear that frontline medical professionals didn’t have all the necessary gear, so they set up a donation drive of their shields to hand out to those frontline workers. Nurses literally stood crying out of gratitude, as supplies simply hadn’t been reaching them in time. In their first day of production, 71 Visuals produced 1,000 face shields, but they didn’t stop there – now they’re making nearly 10,000 a day! Talk about a call to arms…

Transitioning Back to the Office

There’s so much concern around the transition back to the workplace, and rightfully so. Commuting is challenging, cramming into elevators is complicated, and people are just nervous about how it’ll all work. I really wanted to hear Jen’s perspective as someone who’s both a manager of a business and an advisor to clients on how to best design an office, what 71 Visuals has been doing in this difficult transition.

71 Visuals has been paying a lot of attention to the ever-changing CDC guidelines, and putting together a full signage package for clients based off those guidelines. For everything from floor graphics to wall signs that bear social distancing reminders to new signs on conference rooms where they reduce the occupancy level so 6-foot distancing is possible, 71 Visuals is really putting together quite the package. Of course, they specialize in design off of brand, so the team has taken it upon themselves to make sure some of those signs can be customized and reflect the personality of their clients’ company. They’re also focusing on producing a 2.0 version of that face shield we mentioned earlier. They’ve upgraded the shape and changed some of the design so it can be a little less intrusive and more comfortable. Some people are even purchasing those shields for their commute, not only for sitting in the office.

One really concerning area for folks is how to use elevators when they start coming back to the office. Jen thinks elevators could be a different experience then they were before. A lot of landlords are allocating different elevators to different parts of the building, meaning some for higher floors and others for lower ones. On top of that, fewer occupants will be allowed in, so people will have to be prepared for some lines. But the concern with elevators doesn’t stop there. If there will be lines, where should people stand waiting? As such, the organization within lobbies will become a real area of focus, so that people can stand in organized lines and 6 feet apart from one another. Yet, even ensuring there are signs all over the building won’t cut it. It shouldn’t feel like some overly clinical sign that just says, “don’t forget to wash your hands.” 71 Visuals tries to make all their designs are warmer than that, and to try and incorporate the company’s brand into their designs and messages. It really is more complicated than it seems!

A Little Something Extra…

You know the drill, no “Conversation with Cohen” is complete without some talk of food. Jen’s a big restaurant fan but, for obvious reasons, hasn’t been able to get out during the pandemic. So, her favorite takeout place during this time? That’s been Lucali’s pizza out in Brooklyn. There lines are normally so long, but now that they’re doing deliveries Jen’s actually found it be more accessible than usual! She still can’t wait to get back in a seat at a restaurant, particularly at burger joint JG Melon. As she put it, “taking out a burger and fries is just not the same.”

For more info on 71 Visuals check out their website here and for my FULL video interview with Jen just click on this link.

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