Bates Smart’s Richie Healy on the future of workplaces

Saturday Indesign is fast approaching and we couldn’t be more excited! Working with us is a group of industry Ambassadors, each of which we’ll be profiling in the lead up to the big day – set for Saturday 20 June, 2020. Up first is Richie Healy, Associate at Bates Smart.

Richie hails from Ireland and has been based in Melbourne for eight years. Over that time, he has been building his workplace design repertoire, having been at Bates Smart for the past few years.

For Richie, workplace is appealing because, “we spend so much time at work and it’s really exciting to have an impact in that sphere, in people’s lives, and how they engage. It’s also constantly changing and evolving,” he says.

ABW is the new norm

Richie shares that “ABW is the new norm”, but things have changed a lot over the eight years he’s been in workplace design, “Now it’s a very tailored approach. All of these changes have come about with the advent of modern technology. You can pretty much work from anywhere. It’s such an exciting time”.

BCG, Melbourne. Photo by Tom Blachford.

How to design for the future

Designing for the future is one of those big questions. No one truly knows the answer but for Richie, the best starting point is that “The design needs to be timeless. For workplace projects we talk to the company, talk to their brand and their future aspirations.

“This comes through in spatial planning, sensitive use of materials, and a close look at ‘modularity’. Questioning how things can evolve and easily change, consideration for future planning and flex – that’s designing for the future,” says Richie.

It can’t just be about aesthetics, or ‘trend-focused’ lest it will fall into a moment in time more easily. For Richie, designers have a responsibility to guide the client and question trends. “Is it the best investment that we as a designer can put forward for a client? I don’t think it is because trends come and go. You have a responsibility to question what staff are actually getting back holistically from the business, not just aesthetically.”

Australian Unity. Photo by Peter Clarke.

The approach at Bates Smart

The fluid, messy design process has some structure at Bates Smart, with plenty of early stage work being undertaken. “The briefing stage is really critical as it gives the building blocks,” he says, “it helps with understanding the brand, understanding the business, the people and the culture.”

Truly understanding the needs of the clients is key, which is achieved through the exploration of work aesthetic. “It’s really important that we’re on the same page.” One project that brought the process to life was BCG Melbourne, “they really challenged us as much as we challenged them.”

BCG, Melbourne. Photo by Tom Blachford.

On Melbourne’s design scene

Events like Saturday Indesign help to build community. “You can learn so much from shared experiences. Being able to meet with peers, see suppliers and even your own colleagues in a new environment, we can all learn so much from each other,” says Richie. He even attended a Saturday Indesign in Melbourne not long after arriving, an experience that has stuck with him over the years.

Even coming from halfway around the world to city as big as Melbourne, in a short space of time Richie has come to realise that the design industry is still relatively small but incredibly friendly. “I’ve found the design scene to be welcoming,” Richie says.

Australian Unity. Photo by Peter Clarke.

Get amongst the Melbourne design scene and make the connections and friends for your future, register for Saturday Indesign 2020, 20 June.