Chamber members collaborate on office concept project at Cobalt Park

Contents Design and Newcastle Building Society

Mark Lane hears out how Contents Design and Newcastle Building Society have connected and worked closely together to create an inspirational new office environment

Contents Design

Newcastle Building Society

When Newcastle Building Society was considering the logistics of office design work for a new project at its Cobalt Park site, the goal was to develop a space in which its staff could interact with customers and which would enable it to build an even stronger bond in local communities.

The business, the North East’s largest building society with 29 branches across the North East, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, recognised that it needed an additional interior design partner that could deliver something extra special.

Newcastle Building Society’s chief executive Andrew Haigh explains: “We were looking for a company with specific experience and knowledge in office interiors, that would go the extra mile in understanding not just our business needs, but what drives us and in particular, the passion we bring to supporting our customers and communities and in providing a great place to work, where all our colleagues can fulfil their potential.”

It sounds a challenging brief – certainly not your bog- standard office makeover. However, when looking at prospective suppliers, one name kept cropping up, and Newcastle Building Society sought testimonials about Contents Design. “When speaking to clients of Contents Design, it was clear that they had built very strong working relationships and the solutions they had delivered together were very much born out of a deep understanding of both the client’s business and their character as an organisation,” says Andrew. “We have therefore started work on an initial project to get the programme underway.”

And it’s certainly a case of, so far, so good. Andrew says: “We are still in the early stages of our project but from the outset, Contents Design have invested the time to understand us and to work with us to develop a concept that does more than just meet the business need – it will be something that we can both be genuinely passionate about and will provide a unique and positive place to work. The initial response to the brief has been very positive and it is clear that director Nigel Scorer and the team at Contents Design are motivated to keep working until we have a proposal that we are really happy with.”

Newcastle Building Society has been present at Cobalt Park for a number of years but recently took possession of the second wing of its building, doubling the space available and providing substantial capacity for growth.

The project with Contents Design is to come up with design concepts for the layout and operating environment within
the initial floors that will be commissioned in the new wing. Andrew adds: “We are seeking an approach that will be bespoke to the very specific services we provide, but can also be adapted to other functions within the organisation and support collaboration and a range of flexible styles of working.”

Andrew also suggests that it has been gratifying to work with a North East-based supplier on this project.

“Supporting communities across the region is very important to us and core to our purpose as a building society,” he explains. “We are keen therefore, where we have a choice and the right skills, quality and value are available, to work with local suppliers from across the region.”

To find out more about this project, I also caught up with Nigel Scorer (pictured left), director with Contents Design. I was interested to find out that Contents Design was set up in 2012 and is a team of only four designers. As such, a contract with a blue chip such as Newcastle Building Society would appear to be a real coup.

Asked about this, Nigel replies: “We are proud to be a micro business, and this is a real benefit to us and our clients. We are able to react fast, be flexible and ensure that our clients get excellent service, we are a friendly bunch and we love what we do.”

Being small in size has not stopped Nigel and his team working on projects across the UK and internationally from its base at Dissington Hall, in Newcastle.

As is often the case with the business, the contract with Newcastle Building Society came about via word of mouth, specifically a project Nigel and his team had carried out at Formica’s European HQ, which Contents Design completed in 2017.

Says Nigel: “We met up with some of the Newcastle Building Society team at Formica and they learnt about the client journey from Formica as well as the design journey from ourselves.

We then visited the Society at their offices to learn more about where they are at and where they are going.”

The project to design Formica’s European HQ involved moving its commercial team out of Cobalt Business Park and back to its main industrial site at North Shields. Contents Design refurbished an old art deco, two storey, brick building which was built in 1945 and in a dilapidated state before the works. All of Formica’s European commercial teams were relocated in a building which was designed to celebrate the industrial heritage of Formica and showcase all of Formica’s products by creating a living exhibit which is the interior of the workspace itself.

“To be recommended by a client of the stature of Formica is always the best way to win new work, it is reassuring to know that they value our services 19 enough to refer us,” says Nigel.

Nigel and his team, in close cooperation with Newcastle Building Society, are currently working on the concept design stage for the interior refurbishment of Cobalt, exploring options on office, meeting, collaboration and social spaces.

It’s early days, but the relationship with Newcastle Building Society has got off to a fantastic start, Nigel says. “We like working with the Society as they share the same values as us and we love how transparent they are, the whole team have been enjoyable to engage with from the start.

We also think that they appreciate the fact that we have worked hard, in a short period of time, to understand them, which is essential for us to have a positive impact on what they do.”

Nigel concludes: “They are approachable, friendly and great at what they do. Their desire to improve communities is real and inspirational, they are a great example of the passion that drives the North East.”