Cliché alert: First impressions are important. You work hard on the exterior of your building and signage to draw in clients and potential clients. But once they’ve pulled into your parking lot and entered the building, you’ve got to keep them there. Be honest with yourself: Is your reception area a dingy and cluttered mess that turns clients off as soon as they see it? Here are tips to make your brand-new hospital or remodel shine from the time folks swing open the door, courtesy of Wayne Usiak, AIA, NCARB, and Becky Valentine, of BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, New Mexico:
Stop to think about what your welcome does.
Are you a general practice or do you focus emergency care? Do you want to offer daycare or grooming? Do you need a retail alcove? Try to think of what spaces you’ll want to have easily accessible straight from check-in. Perhaps you don’t want grooming to be front-and-center, preferring to have it behind the scenes. Client and staff circulation is an important part of this discussion.
Pause to consider what your welcome says.
What do you want your practice to say to clients when they enter? Is your vibe homey and traditional … light and fresh … formal and sophisticated … bright and bold? The important part of the design is that it matches your philosophy and is consistent throughout the space. Little details will set you apart. Do you have a killer logo? Create a feature wall with the logo on it. Are you an emergency practice where people may wait for a while? Put in refreshments and cozy chairs. Good-looking photos of staff or client pets are a nice touch too.
Include edutainment in your welcome.
Put your reception area to work the instant clients have checked in. Use a TV or tablet to play informational videos or interactive client education—or give them a behind-the-scenes sneak peek with views of daycare, grooming or boarding in either a video or windows to those areas.
Put well-loved colors in your welcome.
Color can affect how a person perceives a space, which is important in a first impression. Generally, colors are divided into two categories: warm and cool. Warm colors feel like they’re advancing toward you. They’re best used in areas where physical tasks take place. Warm colors can make cold spaces feel warmer and time move slower. Cool colors feel like they’re receding from you. They’re best in areas where visual and mental tasks take place. Cool colors also make hot spaces feel cooler, and time move quickly. How you want your space to feel should guide your color selections.
And what about light? A layered combination of natural and artificial light usually works the best in creating a welcoming environment. Natural light looks different depending on the angle. Sunlight from the west is the harshest, while light from the north or east is less intense.
So yes, even though it’s cliché, your first impression is important. Have fun with it! Take a few moments and brainstorm with the team how you want your welcome to feel, and the steps to take to tie everything together.