Micdee Designs Ltd. is a two-year-old architecture and design company stretching the boundaries of how people work, live and play. Earlier this year, they completed the implementation of the new office campus dubbed "Eko Novo" for Softcom Limited.
Softcom is a 12-year-old engineering company that builds products, platforms and programmes that connect people and businesses with meaningful innovation, according to their website.
In 2017, Softcom consulted Micdee to design and build a befitting modern office environment that would help build intimacy with her clients and amongst her employees. In the grand scheme of things, employees would be more productive at their jobs and Softcom would have created the serene environment needed to close business conversations with potential and existing clients.
The execution of that brief is what resulted in Eko Novo. The word "Eko Novo" is a portmanteau of the Yorùbá word for "Lagos" (Eko) and the Portuguese word for "new" (Novo). Today, Softcom's Eko Novo sits on a 1768 square metre land area.
Cunningly, just as the name "Eko Novo" has two words, much of its design can be talked about in twos. For instance, the new Softcom office can double as both an office (in the day) and an experience hub (think: nightlife art gallery). This perspective is possible because of another set of twos: the desire to create an international work environment with a connection/reflection to the problems the company is solving. Hence, the Afro-centric art and mural choices.
Four months in, what has changed for Softcom?
Speaking to a Client Services employee at Softcom, he said "Our new office gives me bragging rights. More than ever before, I always anticipate a second meeting to invite a potential client to meet the team (read as "show off our office"). It just sets the tone for a more financially respectful conversation".
Before Micdee began the Eko Novo project, a member of their team understudied Softcom's (now old) office for about two months to understand the work culture.
During this time, Micdee realised that most developers at the company prefer to work remotely, especially as Softcom has a flexible working policy for engineers. While there is nothing inherently wrong with remote working, a scanty office with only a few people in on a workday does not fit Softcom's goal of projecting her capacity to guests and potential clients. Hence, the office was designed to keep people at work and make work fun.
"At some point, we had like five architects on that (Eko Novo) project", Michael Awonowo tells Benjamindada.com.
Forward-thinking organisations are keen on having a productive and exciting office space, but many tend to go about it the wrong way, Michael tells us. Recently, there was a renaissance of office designs in the Nigerian banking industry; especially as many banks began to spin out digital outfits. For instance, Union Bank and Standard Chartered Bank. In fact, Micdee once did a design for Stanbic IBTC bank.
However, for most Nigerian tech companies, their office design is usually geared towards replicating Silicon Valley-type office, which is epitomised by Google's office. The obsession with Silicon Valley is so much that the startup cluster in Yaba, Lagos, is nicknamed Yabacon Valley.
Photoshopping another company's office design into yours could prove counter-intuitive. Because every company has a unique identity (like ideology, brand visual assets and culture) and this is regardless of whether or not they are in the same sector or industry.
"Softcom's Eko Novo is not like Google's office; neither is it like an insurance company's office. It is peculiar to them (Softcom)", says Michael even in a tweetchat with @dadabenblog.
Personalisation in today's world goes beyond the type that comes from amassing and analysing data. It can also be found in office designs.
Unlike many architectural firms that focus on just the architecture, Micdee approaches office design from three focal points: architecture, interior design and brand environment design. "The companies that will stand out in the 21st century will need to have a distinctive brand and office design", Michael adds. All three combined, they were able to convey Softcom's brand, culture and philosophy with the Eko Novo project.
Deep diving into the science behind Softcom’s Eko Novo
"Eko Novo's geometric design captures Softcom's penchant for simplifying things", Director Michael tells us. This simplicity drive is evident in Softcom's tagline to "organise their complexities and simplify their offerings" to potential clients and the public.
Of the three types of shapes---geometric, abstract and natural---geometric shapes; squares, rectangles, triangles, and circles, are the simplest.
"We employed the use of rectangles for this project. Rectangles formed the base system that is evident in the building, walls, furniture and fixtures, and we carried that consistency to even the exterior and art", Michael adds. "We (Micdee) wanted the different spaces on the campus to flow seamlessly into each other. So, we chose straight lines and rectangles".
Similarly, the interior design employs a distinctive linear outlook, evident in the furniture and light, which guides your vision through the office.
In fulfilling her “intimacy” goal, Softcom’s office has a community space for both employees and guests. Behind the main building is an annexe where employees go to unwind, sometimes over lunch and in the evenings, you’d easily find staff playing table tennis in open-air. Still at the back, is a well-furnished event centre where Softcom holds her internal and external events like Carpe Diem, a company-wide monthly briefing and DevX, an TedX-esque knowledge-sharing event put together by the engineering department.
The future of office design in Nigeria
As the gig economy continues to blossom and Millenials demand more from their employers, the onus lies on organisations to provide, amongst other things, exciting workspaces that will attract such high-in-demand talents. Micdee Designs, an innovative architectural firm, seems poised to take on the challenge of helping tech companies design the offices of the future.
Beyond companies, “Architects play a key role in the development of a state or country,” Michael tells benjamindada.com. “Ancient great kingdoms like Egypt and Greece gave architects a key role in government that's why they could build such a world wonder like the pyramid”.
This article was done in partnership with Micdee Designs.