SGH Design Partners

Responsive Office Design

SGH Design Partners has been providing office design services since 1987, and the company’s succession plan secured the continuation of this highly successful business for years to come, with Carol Smith, Tom May, and Monika Sarkisian at the helm.

SGH offers a full range of commercial design services. When SGH hires design professionals to join the firm it is expected that the individual will have the capacity to work within the SGH workplace strategy but will also be able to provide new and innovative input to augment the synergies and expertise of the Partners and the design studio.

Smith has been designing offices since 1977, her expertise is especially evident in the areas of pre-lease planning, programming and workplace analysis. May focuses on project management, facilities management, strategic sourcing, cost and financial management, site selection, space optimization studies and audits. Sarkisian rounds out this strategic team by concentrating on overseeing the corporate office design solutions and practice while focuses on the analysis and tactical implementation of specific design strategies.

Although the “SGH Design Partners” name is well known to many in the design and corporate sectors, SGH continues to expand its design services to new markets. Existing and new North American and international clients seek out SGH for its unique strategy in the delivery of design services to clients. As a mid-sized design firm, SGH is well positioned to provide a hands-on service model that few of its peers are able to duplicate.

With 23 staff, the three Partners have chosen to maintain the firm’s size to better facilitate their focus on the provision of exceptional service, and  to ensure that there is always a personal connection and a thorough understanding of the client’s design needs. SGH strives to provide exceptional and professional service while remaining nimble and responsive to its clients. It is this nimbleness that has brought some very large projects to the company. Simply put, by building a strong sense of trust with its clients SGH Design Partners can take a client’s project from start to finish while providing the client with the comfort that it’s often complex corporate initiative will be successful. SGH Design Partners strives to make the client’s workplace as smooth as possible and allow them to continue to focus on their core business throughout the process.

“While we have expanded our service lines, workplace design remains at the core of our business. We work with a vision of making clients more aware of their environment, creating sustainable design solutions.

“In terms of design solutions, we have clients who really understand who they are and what their future is, and we translate that into their office space. It’s about taking the brand and making it tangible. We go beyond efficiencies of the space, and it’s important to us to make clients realize that the office should become part of their ability to promote their brand, and bring the sense of care to their staff. Some clients are really concerned with retaining their staff and attracting the best talent. The office is part of that attraction. We have to understand who the clients are, and who their staff are, so we can design for that demographic,” says Smith.

The ways people work today has changed, and so the ideas behind office design have changed significantly over the past 25 years. Today’s workplace is becoming more open with more collaborative space, and the modern design has to respond to the ways people work and collaborate today. With changing and evolving mobile technologies, the office design has to adjust to accommodate the more fluid and mobile workplace.

“People today are working in their homes, cars, and during travels, and the office has to accommodate that. We have to understand the nature of the mobility of each client — to what degree are they mobile and how will that continue in the future (in their specific case). The office is created differently for operations that require dedicated work stations, to the ones with more collaborative setting, or office as a touchdown space to discuss and reconnect with colleagues while the work is done outside the office. The office needs to adapt to that with different types of work areas,” says Smith.

Over the years the rising real estate prices created the need for more effective and more efficient offices, resulting in the space becoming smaller while still providing employees with everything necessary to deliver. Today, the green solutions also represent a desired aspect by many of SGH’s the clients. Some even require LEED certification for their office design.

Design in Action

Over the years the company worked with clients such as AIG, Bayer, Coca Cola, LG Canada, IBM, TD, Norton Rose LLP, and the list of clients just keeps getting longer.

SGH Design Partners currently works with Aimia. Most will know this company under its former name, Groupe Aeroplan, the company that brings the retail loyalty programs to the retail customers. SGH Design Partners is designing Aimia’s head office in Montreal (100,000 square feet), and office in Toronto (50,000 square feet). The company guided Aimia’s leadership teams through “visioning sessions”, working to identify Aimia’s key objectives in terms of the office design. Two main objectives were knowledge sharing, meaning need for collaborative spaces and open areas; and the desire for a bright office with plenty of daylight, and permeated by the Aimia brand.

“The brand is fully experienced throughout the space. We worked with the architectural elements of the building and also incorporated suitable lighting that promotes the youthful feel. The Toronto office is finished and Montreal is currently under construction,” says Smith.

The company was retained by CBC in 2012 to consolidate and relocate CBC Sports group to a single space. To provide users of the space with what they wanted, the firm prepared optional feasibility plans using the firm’s “Neighbourhood Design Process” which facilitated visualization and feedback for the different user groups with the different departments. “We created a space with plenty of daylight, and used a ‘demountable system’ to allow for flexibility, usability and efficiency of the space. The final product was a very elegant and cohesive space with embedded CBC branding. It was a fun space and a fun client to work with,” says Smith.

With its name firmly planted in the design and corporate communities of Toronto, providing stunning designs that seamlessly match the brands of its clients, the company plans to provide the personal service clients enjoy in the years to come, be it in North America or around the world.