Workplace Design: How We’re Telling Our Story Through Signage

Workplace Design: How We’re Telling Our Story Through Signage

Where you work has a big effect on how you work. To create a modern workplace design, we went beyond office art with a totally custom timeline wall. The goal was to tell the Smartpress story, show off our premium print capabilities and instill an even bigger sense of pride in each other and what we work for each day. Here’s how we did it with our various signage products (and how you can do the same).

An animation of a blank wall, a drawing of a design concept and a completed timeline wall.



“The timeline illustrates our expansion, diversification and commitment to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in print, design, fabrication and millwork.”



The Idea

Before we had the idea for a timeline wall (that’s more than wall graphics, by the way – it’s interactive!), we first had to consider what workplace design is in the first place. What does it encompass? What makes it effective? How does it benefit the people actually working in and around it?


We saw an opportunity to go further than simply branding a space. We employed an impressive array of our business printing services and custom capabilities to create a display that radiates Smartpress’ values and engaging culture, illustrates how we’ve grown and – frankly – looks cool.


“We thought it would be helpful to visually showcase the journey that has brought us to where we are today,” said Smartpress Vice President Matt Chapman. “As a division of The Bernard Group (TBG), the timeline illustrates our expansion, diversification and commitment to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in print, design, fabrication and millwork.”


Collaborating with TBG, we combined custom printing and manufacturing to envision a built-in cabinet that would span three wall sections in the Smartpress offices. There’d be a set of lower cabinets with routered fronts that’s capped by a row of display cases with acrylic windows and upper floating shelves.

We’d place print materials on the shelves and in the display cases that could be refreshed as needed, while a metal strip on the face of the shelves would allow us to hang materials with magnets. But we didn’t stop there…


On one end of the fixture we imagined a corrugated feature wall with cards we could change out, while on the other end, a backlit Smartpress logo wall wrapped in wood veneer. We wanted a wide acrylic strip to cut through the center of the whole display and feature milestone years etched into the surface that would glow from backlighting.


(Yeah, we go all-out around here.)


Hint: Have questions about how TBG can design fixtures for your retail locations or corporate environment? Fill out this contact form and drop us a note.

The Smartpress timeline wall with a custom built display case, shelving, signs and backlit dates.

The Design

To kick off the design process, we turned to – who else – our graphic designer, Nate Johannes. For a workplace design that needed to be both a visual marketing marvel and a conveyor of company culture, Johannes took inspiration from a variety of sources.


“Primarily, we sought inspiration from high-end designed retail interiors like Apple and Nike flagship stores,” he said. “We were also influenced by art galleries that have a unique blend of showcasing many types of artwork with modular systems that evolve over time.”


And because we love a challenge, we wanted to incorporate multiple print substrates into the design, adding even more complexity to the whole project. Johannes said finding a balance between aesthetics and functionality was crucial:

“We wanted it to be not only visually appealing, but also practical and functional. We wanted to create a design that would engage viewers on multiple levels, so we considered aspects like traffic flow, ease of interaction and sightlines throughout the space to really lead us to our design decisions on which products to feature and where.”


To “transform the space by creating an immersive and impactful environment,” Johannes’ design included an array of Smartpress’ custom signage options, including wall decals, honeycomb cardboard signs, cardstock signs, aluminum signs, hanging banners, clear acrylic signs, PVC foam signs and metal prints.


Hint: We’re proud to be an online printing shop where actual people painstakingly put your print projects together. See how it’s done: Why We’re Different: See Smartpress’ Brilliant Print Process.

A custom wooden display case with shelves holding printed booklets underneath backlit dates.

A man and woman wearing Smartpress T-shirts flipping through a booklet by a timeline wall.

The Build

Then it was time to construct Johannes’ design. To make the workplace design idea a reality, the construction and build was in the capable hands of TBG Millwork Manager Jeremy Olson. Blending Smartpress’ custom printing services with TBG’s manufacturing prowess, Olson said the install was a true representation of what we can offer clients:


“This project very well defines what our equipment and people are capable of. We’re typically tasked with budget-minded retail displays, but this project exceeds in elegance and really displays our range of capabilities.”

With so many details, the timeline wall begs visitors to get up close and personal with it. It’s those details that highlight the expert execution that TBG does day in and day out. Olson said the proficiency spans multiple specialties:


“From the equipment used to make complex cuts for the doors, to the skilled craftsmanship needed to assemble components that create the angled wedge and miter folded corners of the feature pieces, to the fine detail needed to create a superior quality finish from the people in our finishing department.”


Hint: Sustainable printing and manufacturing is in everything we do – including the timeline wall. See how we work to lessen our environmental impact: Green Goals: An Inside Look at Our Environmental Management System.

Smartpress' workplace design, including a custom timeline wall with shelves, signs and backlit dates.

A man and woman standing next to the Smartpress timeline wall and putting a sign in place.



“I’m wowed by the design and craftsmanship. It instills a sense of pride as a co-owner.”




The Result

When we embarked on an updated workplace design, figuring out how to create a positive work environment was also part of the conversation. After all, the timeline wall isn’t just for visitors and clients, it’s for Smartpress employees, too (people who get to actually walk by or work near it every single day).


So when the install was complete, Johannes was confident the result would make the intended statement. “The whole thing is a showstopper. When the cabinet doors were installed, my jaw hit the floor,” he said. “The overall vision for the space has been brought to life in a big way!”


Olson was eagerly anticipating peoples’ reaction when seeing it for the first time, and if Smartpress Account Executive Lisa Timek’s feedback is any indicator, he can rest assured it’s a positive one.


“It’s absolutely stunning! I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s awesome to now see it in all its glory,” Timek said. “As I walk by, I’m wowed by the design and craftsmanship. It instills a sense of pride as a co-owner.”

The feeling was mutual for Smartpress Customer Experience Specialist Jacob Rider: “Seeing the timeline every day is refreshing. From where I sit, I’m one quick eye movement away from seeing the logo that symbolizes the team I have the honor of being a part of every day.”


And while the display is visually stunning, it also achieved the bigger design goal of conveying what Smartpress is all about and the progress we’ve made year after year.


“I think this is going to be wonderful for not only TBG employees, but also customers and clients to see just what we’re doing and the incredible history that Smartpress has the privilege of telling,” said Rider.


Hint: When we consider our work environment, it’s so much more than the actual space – it’s part of how we do business as a whole. See what being an ESOP is all about: ESOP: What are the Benefits of Printing with an Employee-Owned Company?

A custom timeline wall that's part of Smartpress' workplace design.

The Impact

As Rider noted, our new timeline wall will have a significant impact on clients and customers, no matter their business, no matter their industry. It’s something Chapman is looking forward to – a workplace design that has lasting effects.


“The timeline wall is a tangible representation of our commitment to excellence, innovation and continuous growth. It communicates that we’re not just a provider of print solutions, but also a dynamic and forward-thinking company invested in clients’ success,” he said. “Showcasing samples of our small and large format print products, along with our visual merchandising expertise, reflects our dedication to quality and attention to detail.”

The timeline wall’s changeability is also part of its lasting effect. Designed sustainably and with the ability to be reconfigured, it can accommodate future achievements and milestones – something essential for Chapman.


“It sparks curiosity and invites dialogue about the evolution of Smartpress and the broader capabilities of TBG. For both new and long-time employees, it’s a living history of our shared successes.”


Who knew a visual display could do all that?

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