Tim Hardingham and Kailee Lane are both recent
recruits to Realys, a global design-led consultancy
that builds and transforms work and retail spaces.
Tim is a relative veteran having joined as Design Director
in 2015, while Kailee joined just a few months
ago as Creative Lead. Here, they tell us about some of
the interesting projects they’ve already been working
on and hint at others to come.
Tim’s first job was to design the interiors of Realys new European headquarters on Gracechurch Street in London. He describes how the office works as both studio, showcase and testing ground for ideas, and how challenging the status quo is at the heart of all Realys does.
Both he and Kailee also give their views on the way workspaces are evolving (in some cases not fast enough!) and what is driving those changes. And as experts in this field, we are naturally delighted that Realys has chosen to sponsor the WIN Awards 2017 Workspace Interiors category.
Kailee and Tim come from very different design backgrounds, but they do have one thing in common from their pasts: an unusual relationship with the humble television set. Curious? Wait until you hear about Tim and his tin can collection! Read on and all will be revealed…
We’re delighted to welcome you onboard as a WIN Awards sponsor. What made you want to get involved?
Tim: The WIN Awards have a great profile. They also have a global dimension, which is consistent with our own footprint and client base. It’s an out-and-out design award and we put design at the forefront of everything we do.
Kailee: As a community of designers and architects, it’s important to come together and celebrate the creativity and progressive work that is going on around the world.
Tim, we’ve been lucky enough to have you as a judge on the WIN Awards not once, but twice in recent years. What was the experience like for you?
Tim: Really positive. The judges are drawn from a diverse set of backgrounds, so everyone brings something different to the table. I really enjoy being around some of the best creative minds.
How closely do the two of you work, and how do your roles relate to each other within the Realys design team?
Kailee: As a whole, we work really closely together; we collaborate on all projects so that the client gets the best of all angles of creativity. We like to think we have an open forum in our design studio. So it’s not just Tim and I, it’s the whole team that work closely together to generate new ideas.
Tim: That’s right. The difference between Kailee and I is that we come from different backgrounds; I’m from traditional and Kailee is from Design & Build. So by combining our strengths we are creating a new offering. Being quite different to one another works in our favour.
Tim, you joined Realys in February 2015 and at the end of June 2015, the company moved into its new 12,700 sq ft offices on Gracechurch Street. The project design was led by you, so you must have had to hit the ground running! What were some of the requirements and challenges facing you?
Tim: It was my first job when I came through the door! It was a lot of pressure but a big opportunity to get to know people in the business and showcase some of my ideas.
The company had changed radically in its first 18 months and there was no sign of that trajectory slowing down. So we needed to design a space that was adaptable and allowed for future growth.
One of the bold decisions was to place the design studio as the focal point when you walk in. This was all about underpinning our design-led approach. People still comment on the impact of seeing our designers working away the moment they step out of the lift.
In what sense had Realys changed so much?
Tim: In 2013 Realys was effectively a start-up. In the period before our relocation the business changed quickly and in several ways. Firstly in terms of headcount but also - perhaps more importantly - in the range of services that we developed, particularly the addition of Design-led Construction to our Portfolio Solutions offering.
We’d also been a bit ‘below the radar’, and the move to Gracechurch Street coincided with the launch of our marketing strategy and us developing a much more public persona.
How do you feel your new offices have been received by both employees and clients?
Tim: I think it has been received very well. Now 18 months on, we are into a programme of development works that will adapt and develop the space further. As the company changes, the space can change with it.
We are very keen that our office is a ‘design lab’. It works as a prototype to test ideas and demonstrate concepts to clients. We don’t have much that’s fixed in place. Everything can be reconfigured and the space can continuously evolve.
What workspace projects has Realys been working on this year?
Tim: Our team in Singapore completed a distinctive, award-winning design for Allianz. In London, we completed Hackett’s new store, the end result was really high quality – it’s one we’re really proud of.
We’re also working on the implementation of a customer experience centre, which is really interesting. It’s designing a working space that showcases the organisation’s products. It blurs the line between workspace and retail, which is great for us as we work in both sectors.
Another big project this year was designing and delivering an office relocation project for a well-known travel booking company. It was multi-level and the design included huge wooden bleachers, glass floors and a statement staircase.
In December 2016, we started on site with two different London-based tech companies. The designs are very different but both have really exciting visions for their space that we have helped bring to life. Our focus on people-led design has also attracted some US-based clients in the tech area. We’ve completed a series of projects for them.
And what’s in the pipeline?
Tim: Without giving away too much, we have found a lot of interest in the serviced office sector. In one way it’s quite a mature market but in another, it is not very sophisticated. So we are excited to be working on a concept with a new player in 2017. We need to find new ways of differentiating them from their competition; but also to find ways to industrialise the process of delivering high-quality projects quickly.
Kailee: The exciting thing is clients are coming in with an open mind in relation to their brief and brand, which means we can explore some really interesting new design concepts.
In your view, what are some of the key drivers behind the current trends in workspace design?
Kailee: Creativity is a key driver across all sectors now, workspace design included. It’s not just tech and media, it’s everywhere. Offices that are intelligently designed contain employees that are more engaged and productive. So we need to be more creative than ever and test the boundaries in everything we do. Who knows? We could be heading towards our first deskless office in 2017.
Tim: We will definitely have a desk-less office in 2017, I’m sure of it.
Kailee: And technology allows for that now. You can pretty much work anywhere, with anyone. Our office at Gracechurch Street allows for that – you can get up and sit anywhere in the office. The kitchens, sofas, break out areas...
Anything else you’ve noticed about where we’re headed next?
Tim: For me, the trend is around employee well-being. It’s something we firmly believe in and something that is high on the agenda of every business we are talking to.
There’s an overlap with technology and the way we work but also in the different spaces we work in. One element of this is movement – get employees moving around the space. They don’t need to be - and shouldn’t be - fixed to one spot. They will move around if there are legitimate places to move to.
It comes back to the whole idea of user experience – it’s seeing your staff as your customers. Think about their experience, how they can adapt their space and make it work for them. We want people to connect with the places they work in and actively want to be there.
I think well-being, productivity and creativity are all interrelated – we are keen to identify specifically the impact of our designs on behaviour. Consequently, we are closely aligned with research companies to see how effective our designs actually are. Well-being is not just an overlay to justify our designs; it’s the fundamental basis of them.
Tim, you’ve said that your work is about ‘applying disruptive innovation in design to create value for others’. Can you expand on that a little, perhaps giving a couple of pertinent illustrations?
Tim: I read the other week that if your lease is expiring in 2017, it is likely that you made decisions on your current workspace before the release of the first iPhone about 10 years ago. Think how far smartphones have come in that time, but if you look at offices, that drastic change simply hasn’t happened. We also need to design with an awareness of that context.
We are not about re-doing what we did last time. It may sound clichéd, but every project is different for us – otherwise, we are not creating value but borrowing it from someone else. I want workspace design to be as forward thinking as the tech industry is. We should design spaces that set companies up for an agile future.
You’ve also expressed the view that design is ‘more about finding a way to get something done’ rather than ‘simply being the way something looks’. Again, can you give an example (or two) where this has strongly applied?
Tim: First and foremost the design has got to work for the people in it. There has to be a reason for it. We have great designers and the end result will always look good. But we’re looking for more than that, it has to work and contribute something positive to our clients’ businesses.
There are too many offices or areas in offices with no one in them. Every part of the spaces we design should be used - constantly. If not, the design is flawed.
Before joining Realys you spent 24 successful years with GMW Architects, Tim. A two-part question please: why the move to Realys, and what do you feel you have brought to Realys from your experiences at GMW?
Tim: I got to the stage where I was wondering where I would go next. Then Realys gave me the opportunity to be part of the creation of something completely different. A consultancy that also builds was something that was unfamiliar, and it really appealed to me. There’s nothing else quite like it in the market.
What have I brought to Realys? Well, I have worked in workspace design for almost three decades. Realys started in more of a retail direction and so my background brought the workspace knowledge.
I was lucky enough to be involved in some big award-winning projects at GMW and I brought that experience here. I have seen a lot of what’s out there and I use it to inspire, but also to challenge, what we do here. We want everything we do to be new and to do that you have to know what has come before. Realys lets me explore all the ideas that are constantly running through my head. We’re a really creative company.
Kailee, you joined Realys even more recently than Tim, in October 2016. You’ve described part of your new role as ‘keeping continuity of brand as well as maximum creativity in design’. Can it be tricky balancing these two seemingly opposing forces?
Kailee: If you have the right team and the right level of communication, it doesn’t have to be tricky. I work with the team at Realys to ensure everyone here understands and believes in our brand. Your team are your brand ambassadors; they should live and breathe your brand.
This is the approach we take to our clients. We make sure we fully understand their brand, in more than just the literal sense of the colour and the wording, it’s about the people, the culture and the values, and we use this information to inspire our designs rather than suppress them.
You spent some time freelancing earlier on in your design career, Kailee, in order to ‘learn from and meet new characters’. We’d love to hear about a couple of those people who have influenced your path from that time?
Kailee: I really enjoyed freelancing, it had a big impact. One person that really stands out was the Head of Design during my second freelance role. I had been in the industry for two years and everything was still very corporate and by the book.
But when we met our first potential client together she immediately told me to throw out the rulebook and design a space that I would be proud of. She was super creative and full of exciting ideas, which was contagious. So I have always approached my work that way – finding new ways of doing things that energise and engage me, and therefore do the same for my client.
What, in a nutshell, drew each of you to workspace design above other sectors?
Tim: Well, I stumbled into it, to be honest! I started in product design, designing TVs and kettles. I loved it but things evolve, don’t they. I started to design furniture and then went from that to interiors, and here we are today.
Workspace continues to provide opportunities. There’s a new set of problems to solve with every client and they all want completely different things
Kailee: I’m nosey, I like knowing how everyone works and what they do. I like finding out about other industries. I think my curiosity helps me in this job.
You spend more time awake in your workspace than you do in your own home! So workspace design gives me the opportunity to have a huge impact on people’s day-to-day lives.
Were you born to be a designer, do you think? Where does your love of what you do stem from?
Kailee: I have always been creative and my upbringing encouraged that. So I knew I would always have a career in an industry that allowed me to explore that side of me.
In what way did your upbringing foster your creativity?
Kailee: I stayed with my very artistic grandparents for a good portion of my childhood, we rarely sat down unless we were eating. If we were sitting, we were busy making things like models and birdhouses, or painting and drawing in the garden. Which is why to this day I still don’t own a television; I have never found it relaxing sitting in front of a TV.
And Tim, was design always going to be your destiny?
Tim: Well, I was born to play football for Spurs. Or to win Wimbledon! I always loved sport. The only other thing I was good at was drawing.
I think initially I was attracted by graphic design - particularly album covers and brands. As a kid I remember drawing and copying company logos. Bizarrely this interest led to my brother and I gathering a collection of several hundred different soft drinks cans!
So an artistic route was always the way for me. I still think that the ability to draw is a really important part of design – the ability to communicate visually.
To both of you: given that you spend your days immersed in work and workspaces, what interests and hobbies do you like to follow for play?
Tim: Riding bikes! I like hanging out with my kids, music, going to see shows. My son is a DJ, so I enjoy going to see him play.
Kailee: I like to get out and about. As I just mentioned, I don’t own a TV so I’m hardly ever found sitting down! I do like films, so I will go to the cinema with friends at every opportunity I get. Other than that, I much prefer to encourage myself to get outside and keep discovering new things. I like to go on road trips with friends and family to new places, and to keep fit – the usual.
Gail Taylor
Images:

Img 01: Allianz, Singapore
Img 02: Realys HQ, London
Img 03: Realys HQ, London
Img 04: Realys HQ, London
Img 05: Allianz, Singapore
Img 06: Hackett Store, London
Img 07: Realys HQ, London
Img 08: Allianz, Singapore
Img 09: Allianz, Singapore
Img 10: Light detail, Realys HQ