When you walk through the front door of a business, you get an instant sense of the company’s culture. The colors, lighting, signage, furniture, floor coverings and flow—they all say something about the who, what, why and how of the business.

The lobby makes the first impression.

The question is, does the lobby paint an accurate picture of the brand? Is the company using its reception area to create a meaningful connection, set the right mood and send the right messages?

These questions are important because the lobby is an opportunity for an organization to communicate its sense of self. The lobby lets a company show what it believes in and what it’s trying to achieve. The lobby tells a story. It’s a place for differentiation and customization—which is one reason we offer the Coalesse Color program and other customization services.

When a lobby is drab, when the space is neglected or when the vibe doesn’t match the company’s personality, this represents a missed opportunity.

But even worse, it can be a business disadvantage. By failing to communicate the organization’s vision and strengths, the reception area can be a turnoff for potential customers and prospective employees.

In fact, what the lobby communicates is just as important for employees as it is for guests.

A great lobby can instill a sense of pride and connection. It can remind employees of the goals they’re working toward. It can foster engagement at a time when disengaged office workers outnumber those who are engaged, according to the 2016 Steelcase Global Report.

Disengagement, the report says, “costs companies money, slows projects, drains resources and undermines company goals.”

A great lobby design can also facilitate productivity and creativity. More and more today, the lobby isn’t just a waiting area for visitors. It’s becoming a space that can double as a breakout area or a touchdown spot for mobile workers.

But no matter its design, the lobby should present an authentic experience of the brand. See three examples of how companies are using the lobby to communicate their culture.

1. Custom color

At its North Carolina headquarters, Lenovo, a global personal technology company, uses its signature color in prominent ways. In the vibrant lobby pictured here, red upholstered Circa Lounge System seating and handy Sebastopol accent tables give both guests and mobile workers a place to touch down. Design by Perkins+Will. Photography by Mark Herboth Photography. See more photos from this space at Steelcase.com.

2. Natural materials

When it revamped its San Francisco headquarters, The Nature Conservancy wanted the space to embody the organization’s mission and spirit. In the lobby, this goal was achieved through the use of a natural color palette, reclaimed and sustainable materials, and a unique topographic ceiling installation. The versatile furniture setting on the left includes the Bob Chair and the Together Bench. Design by MKthink. Photography by Cesar Rubio. See more photos from this space on Office Snapshots.

3. Energetic spirit 

Energy and motion are the heart and soul of the athletic equipment company ASICS America. This is clear from the moment you step into the lobby of its California headquarters, with its airy design, larger-than-life multimedia displays and eye-catching artwork. Reception area furniture includes the SW_1 Lounge Seating and SW_1 Occasional Table. Design by LPA. Photography by Costea Photography. See more photos from this space on Office Snapshots.

Find more design inspiration in our Lobby + Reception Planning Ideas. For ideas on product customization and branding, see our Customization and Personalization board on Pinterest.