"I try to encourage business owners to see things through the customers eyes," Greta Gray, interior-designer extraordinare, explains.
(Interior) Designing a Corporate Identity
One Valley woman works to make sure that client's impressions of a company are the right ones
By Krissy Miskovsky
From Scottsdale Airpark News

Every business owner knows that competition is fierce. If finding customers is difficult, keeping them can be even more difficult It is critical that companies don't miss out on one of the very few opportunities to convey an image that a client, or potential client, will remember.

It is this method of thinking that causes companies to create a corporate image. Whether a company is trying to position itself as honest, secure, creative or luxurious, a consistent message must be communicated. The message needs to be apparent in everything an external audience would see, from the style of employee dress to the look of letterhead and advertising.

As a former marketing practitioner, Greta Gray knows just how important branding an image is to a company's long-term success. It is that knowledge she calls upon everyday in her current position, owner of Gray and Associates Interior Design, to convince business owners not to overlook the opportunity to extend their message through the design and decoration of customer areas.

Southwest Jet Aviation hired Greta Gray to redesign the company's waiting area. The new interior design reflects the company's motto of platinum service — and makes a perfect first impression

"The place where your customer is must be consistent with your corporate image," says Gray. "Because you control what they see, it is a great opportunity to put your best foot forward. In all of my years in marketing and public relations, I have seen so many companies who just don't realize that a good impression could make or break the transaction."

Actually, it makes perfect sense. If a client were to visit a financial planner to get advice on investing his or her life's savings and found the employees playing a game of Nerf basketball in the lobby, would he or she stay? On the other hand, if that client were looking for an advertising agency and walked in on the same scene, would they think twice about signing the company? Probably not. In fact the high-energy level of the staff would most likely come across as a bonus.

"I try to encourage business owners to see things through the customers eyes," Gray explains. "I had one client in the Scottsdale Airpark, Southwest Jet Aviation, who really grasped the concept of what I was saying."

Southwest Jet Aviation sells corporate jet planes and charters private flights. Understandably so, it caters to an upper-income audience. However, the company's lobby was less than posh. Such a room could give clients the wrong first impression about the condition of the planes and the level of service that the company offers.

"When they became a client, I started asking them questions about their business, their clientele and their corporate identity. It turned out that their company motto is 'Platinum Service.' Once I heard that, it all fell into place," says Gray."We went for a sophisticated look that used a lot of platinum, gray and gold. The furniture was chosen for its art-deco style - it reminds you of something you would see in a train station in the '40s — but it is very modem looking, too. It was all done in commercial-grade fabrics, for durability, but it looks very residential and very inviting."

The waiting area at Southwest Jet Corporation is comfortable,
as well as professional
The company was very pleased with its new look and feels it is a much better expression of their identity. Other corporate areas that could benefit from an interior designer include conference rooms, personal office space and even employee break areas.

Gray also implements her creativity and knack for creating the perfect atmosphere to doctors' offices. She explains that creating an area that feels more like a home than a medical facility can alleviate some of the fear patients feel when going to a doctor or a dentist. One doctor in north Scottsdale had Gray design his office in colors that complemented his mountain view. The rich, deep colors exuded a calming quality by enhancing the natural environmental surroundings.

"Colors can play a big role. Some, like red or orange, can be over-stimulating in situations," Gray explains. "Although I try to let the client's personality show through my designs, I will offer suggestions if I feel they are taking too much of a risk."

Not all risk is bad. When designing homes, Gray is passionate about living a little: "Too many homeowners fall into trying to make their homes look just like the developer's model. People need to remember those model homes are designed to attract the masses. Houses in Arizona are open and have a lot of light. They offer the perfect opportunity to use brilliant colors."

Currently, Gray is finalizing a deal with a custom homebuilder which should give her an opportunity to show homeowners that living in the Southwest doesn't have to mean rustic furniture and cowboy art. She is also working with a public athletic facility to negotiate a deal that will allow her to redesign the space so it can better compete with privately owned facilities.

Gray has been in the interior design business for 13 years, and received her degree from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, six years ago. She started her own design company in the Washington, D.C., area and spent the last two years running that office and building the relationships that would allow her to branch into Scottsdale. Last August, Gray permanently closed shop back east and made Arizona home. Although most of her clients are in the north Scottsdale and Paradise Valley areas, she does work Valleywide.

"This region attracted me because of its beautiful weather, its exceptional lifestyle and the professional opportunities that were here," Gray says. "I enjoy what I do very much and I am so pleased to be able to do it in such a great place."

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