The Dear Office Project: Connecting Us-Virtually

Read Time: 2 minutes

IA Interior Architects created a participatory art installation, reconnecting its staff and sharing with the world the positive aspects of office life.

Lonely these days? Working from home? Missing the office?

Maybe the office is missing you, too.

That was the proposition of IA Interior Architects during the design firm’s fourth-annual EGD Week (Sept 14–18, 2020). More than seven months into the pandemic, the organizers considered how to reconnect IA staff in a fun and engaging way despite the social distancing of the quarantine.

Their solution: an interactive—and generative—art installation titled “The Dear Office Project.” IA staff, colleagues and the general public were invited to write and submit “Dear Office” messages expressing all the things they missed about office life.

Participants started by viewing “Love Letter from the Office,” an online video where The Office expressed how much it missed the staff. Staff then responded in kind by leaving messages on the Dear Office website.

Those participating in Dear Office voted on the messages they liked best. The messages with the most votes were then projected onto the storefront window of IA’s Raleigh (North Carolina) office, located in the heart of the city’s Warehouse District. Some of the top vote-getters included:

  • “I miss the energy one feels when walking into the office—the movement, the buzz, the creative collisions—our own productivity playground.”

  • “I miss laughing and collaborating with my friends, who happen to also be colleagues.”

  • “I miss pinning up work and being able to stand back from it.”

“The installation had a good response, with people stopping to see the bot work [outside the Raleigh office],” said Judy Nelson, Director of Communications for IA. “The online response was also impressive. We received over 100 messages on IA’s Dear Office website.”

Designed and created by Ali Ucer, IA’s EGD Director, in collaboration with IA’s Raleigh office, The Dear Office Project proved to be so popular that the installation stayed on view for four weeks—from September 14 through October 9—well past the initial EGD Week.

“Being able to connect the digital realm with the physical realm, effectively and seamlessly, gave me the greatest satisfaction on this project,” said Ucer.

The objective to connect the digital with the physical fit well within IA’s theme for this year’s EGD Week: “For A Changing World: How Graphics and Technology Can Be a Unifier to Address the Challenges Facing the Physical Environment.” In addition to Dear Office, IA also presented three webinars during EGD Week aligning with this theme:

  • Office as Brand Experience

  • Experience for All

  • Analog vs. Digital

Working from home definitely has its advantages, but with so many people now dispersed because of COVID-19, physical separation from colleagues can also be an isolating experience. “Dear Office” created a positive outlet for IA staff and others, building optimism and encouraging mutual support and kinship—virtually!

Ucer summed it up by saying “The submitted messages are truly coming from the hearts of individuals who miss their colleagues and their work environment.”