Blog: Joy Naylor & Diane Bennett

From visions of banana chairs to Compuware's recent hiring of an arts curator, companies are showing their humanistic side via art in the workplace. Art and design entrepreneurs Joy Naylor and Diane Bennett of Distinct Designs,Inc., a corporate interior design and art consultancy, offer up their perspective on local artists and art selection for businesses.

Post 1: Art Speaks About Your Business

After visiting the ArtPrize event in Grand Rapids, it is no wonder some people cringe when you say you have art to recommend for their business environment. Along with some amazing artwork, we also saw some very wild things.  One of my favorites was the hat tree, 12 feet high with numerous branches holding over 100 custom made hates of every conceivable odds and end material one could image.  They were all funny and most were pretty strange.  It stuck me as unworthy of my time until I read the artist's statement explaining what led him to make these hats. His effort to provide a bit of humor within a difficult and serious military environment got the effort he was hoping for and that experience lead to many more funny hats putting smiles on many more faces.

That wasn't the only experience of that kind during the day at ArtPrize. Many pieces of art (crafts) that I saw made no sense at all until I read the artists intent.  That didn't always make me like it any better but sometimes it helped me appreciate it more.  Usually I felt more connected to the artist's intent, but in some cases, I was still left asking myself "WHAT?"

These kinds of experiences are helpful in reminding ourselves, as designers and art consultants, of the importance of the connection of the artist and viewer.  Clients often feel concerned that they will be presented "weird stuff" and may lack the confidence to express what they like vs. what would be appropriate for a business setting.  Helping with that connection is very exciting when it happens.

For example, a local law firm, Brink, Hofer, Gilson & Lione, wanted to appeal to their clientele with some reference to the industry they serve.  Businesses buying art want to also appeal to their employees making sure that it is interesting and will support creativity.  This was especially true of Pfizer.  Dr. David Cantor was a great believer that the arts in the work environment can spur creativity in employees and worked with us in establishing several rotating exhibit spaces on campus. Rotating exhibits are also a source for finding art to purchase, such as a major university in Michigan that bought a series of one artist's work from the Eagle Crest Conference Center in Ypsilanti.

Artwork in the work place, in our opinion, will make a statement about the image of a business. For one thing, it's an opportunity to make a positive impression.  The subject matter and style of the art must make sense with respect to the kind of environment and the specific location.  For example, a high tech, cutting edge business may appreciate art that is a bit more avant garde and unusual, a style more in line with the nature of their business.  On the contrary, the artwork in a healthcare/healing environment would be much calmer, serene, but certainly no less interesting and fresh.

As interior designers, we have the ability to arrange things to obtain optimal functionality, balance, and beauty: all of which adds to a company's bottom line.  Approximately 74% of employers say that productivity improves when artwork is a part of the daily experience on the job, yet it can be a very challenging process for clients to select art and place it appropriately without help. Very often clients wish to add new pieces to existing artwork. With a new frame and mats, the image can take on a new look that enables the old to fit well with the new.  How pieces are grouped or placed in juxtaposition to other art or surroundings will add or distract from the art and how it works in the space.  Art can create moods, bring energy into a space, and calm a room that is too active. It can help make a space look larger, more intimate, or provide a focus of interest in waiting areas.  Art can contribute to good feng shui!

It is NEVER about just putting artwork on the wall.