You’re young. You work in an office. You’re biking to work. You get to the office and what do you expect to find? In the past, employees expected a workplace to be a workplace. But increasingly, offices are a place for employees to “be”. They also work there.
“Something has changed in the way companies are organized and it has fundamentally changed the way we design. Today, office spaces reflect the nature of the company and support the expression of the employees, allowing them to work in different environments, take efficient breaks and develop creativity and interaction..”
Designing for the modern company comes with a new set of challenges: understanding the complexity of a working company and figuring out which physical elements in a space will drive them to maximum
productivity. What set of components – when combined and designed and tweaked just right – can bring into being a place in which a company feels at once comfortable and challenged and propelled to
I recently completed a project for Taboola.com, designing their offices in Tel Aviv, NY and Bangkok which embodied these issues. I’d like to share some of the insights I learned from the project.
1- BE INVISIBLE
Every project has its unique physical ingredients that need to be addressed. (natural faults of the space, company structure, budget and much more). When it all works, you don’t feel the hand of the architect; the space just feels seamless and natural.
Every work space is about people and materials coming in one side and added value being generated at the other. In the case of Taboola, the “production process” doesn’t include machinery or raw materials. Instead, it is about people creating links and promoting content. My questions going in were:
“How can we make this type of machine produce value?” or in other words – “How can the space promote the company to promote?”
So, for example – when I noticed that the space had a very poor natural light to square footage ratio, I knew this could have a devastating effect on the company’s outcome, since the “factory” is based on people interacting and creating. Yet, anyone walking through the completed project wouldn’t be able to tell that we “fixed” a problem, as the space feels lit. It doesn’t feel “well planned”; it just feels natural.
2- BE THE COMPANY
In order to accomplish a successful project, I really need to feel that I am dreaming the future together with the company. It enables me to create a space that can hold it and indeed, take part in drawing it forth. Once I felt I understood what the company is really about, I was able to assimilate those
understandings into every layer of the plan. My design job was to create a space for the company’s dreams to become a reality.
For example, Taboola invests in downtime for their employees because they see this as extremely valuable component in developing powerful work product. They similarly are convinced about the importance of flexible interactions for maximum result. The design enabled employees to work
together and alone; to work in front of a desk, on the floor with a laptop – or while playing ping pong and taking down time.
3. REDEFINE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SPACE
In Taboola’s project, one basic pre-defined objective was to eliminate the need for private offices. I needed to accommodate all the teams – including finance and management – in a system of open spaces, while keeping all employees excited about their individual work space. In approaching this, I looked at the whole space as one big “House of Taboola”. The House of Taboola was then designed as one continuous space gently divided by a set of huddle rooms purposed to accommodate focused interaction between people or to provide privacy for the individual employee when needed. (Or even to let employees be lost for a while.) It enabled a delicate equilibrium between the private space where people produce work and the general space where people interact and “re-fuel”. So, how can a space be “re-fueling”? I created a set of “experiences”, made to spice up the day – and to get the “Taboolars” together. Whereas the personal space is ordered, public space is chaotic. Personal space is “standard”, projecting equality; public space consists of something different altogether. It’s a (+) vs. (-) current that supports individuality and generates interaction, creativity and awareness. Being two poles that generates energy, the greater the contrast between the two, the better the result.
4- TEASE THE SENSES
People inhabit space with all their senses. I felt it important to harness these senses in order to give each employee the best experience when at work and any visitor a pleasant stay. Going back to my first investigation of the company, I learned that they were powerfully connected to music, for example. What can better incorporate talent, creativity and team work than a band jamming? So, we brought elements from the music world into the intrinsic design. We began by actually including musical instruments in the office space – a piano, guitar and drums.
We also re-installed the Taboola’s huge bell – and every time a deal is signed – we ring a bell! It’s fun, whimsical, involves the entire company in
the team’s success and creates a culture. Mindful of sound, we integrated studio-like sound collectors throughout to avoid echo in the space. We also planned a tiny recording studio in one of the conference rooms for employees and company guests.
5- CREATE A BRAND
The final result must actually feel like it is a consistent brand. A specific unique presence. Walking around the new Taboola space visitors experience a story in the layout, the shapes, colors and design. The elements trace back to the company’s past and signal an intriguing, remarkable future. In the final stage of design, for example, I used certain elements from Taboola’s logo and submarine poster, upgraded them and incorporated them in the huddle rooms, in aquarium round windows, in the blue and green colors throughout and much more. One of the first visitors to the offices told me that she felt as if inside a submarine in mid-ocean – and that was before we mounted the 3D submarine or the Taboola’s submarine clip screen at the lobby wall.
These little details are the glue. With a clear brand imbuing the office, employees and visitors can easily identify with the company and take part in its success. I like to use the equation 1+1+1> 3. How can something we create become greater than the sum of its components? It’s not enough that a work space is practical and well used or that there are excellent public spaces, all within the expected budget. When these elements are put together with care, magic happens. The space helps transform the company and generate a vibe.