How to Design your Space for Zoom Meetings: Quick Tips from Designers

Before 2020, we didn’t really care to prepare for video meetings so much (except of course, the content and meeting agenda). Because it only happened once a week, maybe, or less. 

But the pandemic changed all that. 

Now, it’s back to back (to back) ‘zoom’ meetings almost everyday! It’s become an integral part of our daily lives. With work from home situations and quarantines, these zoom meetings give us a more intimate glimpse into people’s lives and homes like never before. 

We’ll have to think of creative ways to make our own zoom meeting vignettes and backgrounds – to either show a bit of our personality, make it look more presentable on video, warm up the ambience of boring video meetings, or simply, to make it look pretty. 

And this – interior design for zoom calls does not come naturally for everyone. 

So, we’ve compiled a short list of quick tips from designers on how to elevate your overall video conferencing stage and backdrop.

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Photo source: Elite Daily

1. Lighting from where and how to position them

No matter how prepared you are for your meeting or presentation or how much effort you’ve placed in designing your virtual background, poor lighting can ruin all of it. 

Experts at TechCrunch say:

It can mean the difference between looking like someone who knows what they talk about, and someone who might not inspire too much confidence.

Photo source: Unsplash | Roberto Nickson

When talking about lighting, you need to consider your surroundings, camera placement and light sources – natural or otherwise. With just a little work, you can make big improvements to your lighting. Here’s how:

  • Light source: The source of your brightest light should be in front of you (ideally, behind or above your camera), and never behind you. Bright light behind you will impede viewers from seeing your face clearly and blow out the background
  • Natural light: If you have a window that pours in a generous amount of light, sit in front or near it (remember, direct sunlight can be too harsh) – ambient light may work best so your face is clearly seen, not too dark, nor too bright
  • Diffused light: Diffused light in front can evenly illuminate your face – a ring light works perfectly for this that’s why influencers look so good all the time and an excellent investment if you have limited or weirdly-angled natural light. Another option is to have 2-3 other light sources (lamps) angled to face you. 

Cinematographer Will Dorrien-Smith tells The Strategist that “the best place to sit is facing a window so that your whole face is lit and with a simple background to add depth behind you.”

Lighting doesn’t stop for your face. You can also use decorative or colored lights that can warm up the ambience of your space to add that depth to your virtual image. 

Photo Source: TechCrunch

2. Camera position – finding that flattering angle on screen

The most common work from home setup is to sit at a desk and have a laptop on top of it. This way, the people you’re having a video meeting with will be forced to look up to you (either to your chin, or worse, to your nose!), while you have to look down. 

“Being able to position your laptop or desktop at the right height in order to achieve the proper video angle could make a big difference,” Catherine Baticulon, staff designer at Wingate Hughes Architects told Apartment Therapy. “I have noticed that working on a bar stool or anything counter-height has been a good alternative to standing desks.”

To avoid this unflattering look, two things you must do to position your camera correctly:

  • HEIGHT: head-on and at eye-level or just very slightly higher so it can be angled down at you. The camera can be positioned at your hairline and pointed down to your eyes. Give your computer a little boost either by using books, a stool, wood planks or anything hard and stable to elevate and put it up to eye-level
  • DISTANCE: do not be too close, or too far from the camera. Ideally, you’re seen from your shoulders up so the focus is still on your face. Sitting at arm’s length from the camera is around the right distance depending on your camera lens

Photo Source: Unsplash | Luke Peters

3. Backdrop decor – design through the camera

Bright light behind you isn’t the only thing you need to pay attention to.

As people get a little glimpse of our homes during these video calls, we need to be more intentional about the spaces behind us. Keep in mind: video stage designing is different compared to in-person look and feel.

“Indeed, vibrant color, great lighting, and plants often do wonders for interiors, and in the time of constant video conferencing, those features can be helpful shortcuts for creating an impressive virtual interior,” says architecture critic, Alexandra Lange.

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Photo source: Gypsy Tan

Try to make these backgrounds as interesting as possible but not too much that it takes the focus away from you or is too distracting. Here are some tips you can follow:

  • Solid background adds depth while being clean; subtle neutrals are the common choice but you can also make it colored and more dynamic, after all, it reflects your style at home
  • Bookshelves is a backdrop design that can add coziness and texture without being cluttered and also allows you to showcase your own style through the titles and small decors
  • Aim for texture over patterns because too much graphic pattern may be overwhelming and confusing on camera
  • Adds some personal touches like photographs, travel memorabilia, small, subtle artwork (nothing too bright or distracting) that shows a small side of who you are
  • Indoor plants bring your space to life and add warmth

Photo Source: Unsplash | Collov Home Design

4. Mind your look – touch up your appearance

In this virtual world, taking good care of your skin is more important than ever. 

“The camera can make bad (skin) habits look ten times worse,” says Nyma Tang, a beauty YouTuber who has over a million subscribers, “as the computer screen tends to highlight things like oil on your face.”

Experts recommend putting on some tinted moisturizer and some lip balm to be able to show that clean, ‘ready for primetime’ look. If you don’t have time for these, there is a ‘touch up my appearance’ setting on Zoom as an easy option.

Not stopping there, make sure you get dressed and ready like you normally would for a day at the office (but this time, business on top and sleepwear on the bottom is all good!). Wear shirts with bright solid colors that show up great on camera and complement your skin tone well. 

Avoid clothes that are really dark or are filled with patterns – like stripes, florals – they will look unflattering on screen and may have that moiré effect. 

Photo Source: BBC. A former TV reporter and now a popular YouTuber who runs a digital production company, Susan Yara emphasizes using natural light and minimizing distractions

5. Foot traffic and acoustics – find a quiet place

The way you look is important but how you sound, equally so. 

First, you’ll need that secluded, comfortable spot at home to limit the chances that other family members will be caught on video while you’re on a call. This way, you’ll be able to concentrate, look more professional and sound better by eliminating other distracting noises. 

Photo source: Unsplash | Michael Soledad

Next, it is already hard to hear people clearly, especially if it’s a virtual conference with a dozen people online. Don’t add to this stress and delay with lousy acoustics. Invest in a headphone and microphone, it need not be an expensive one, because this will still give you better sound than the built-in microphone in your laptop. 

Lastly, as a courtesy to all your virtual meeting mates, use the mute button. Unless you’re doing the talking, of course, to avoid unwanted noise that can distract from the meeting’s content. 

Photo source: Unsplash | Nathana Rebouças

And most importantly, get comfortable and stay professional. 

Baticulon of Wingate Hughes Architects also adds:

“Be cognizant of over-clutter. You should still be the focus so less is more and make sure there is a balance of negative and positive space within the frame. Your background will reflect a lot about you, even without you knowing. Best to know your audience and remember to keep up the professionalism.”

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