Office Design

Companies With Cool Office Designs

David Spence
June 27th, 2014

Effective Office Design

Office design can have a tremendous effect on an small__14235105332employee. It can either help them enjoy work and make them more productive, or it can make them feel demoralized and unhappy.

Was there ever a memo that offices have to be housed in the typical high-rise and decorated with the usual neutral color scheme? If so, these companies obviously didn’t read it.

Place a picture of a colorful, interesting office beside one of a gray cubicle farm, and it’s obvious which reactions each of these would draw.

Below is a list of companies who achieve the better effect with a creative design.

Microsoft

This tech giant’s Vienna office has rooms that are decorated according to theme. One room makes you feel like you’re underwater; another simulates a hunting lodge. And the reception area? It’s a light and playful place, decorated with yellow and gray furniture that greets workers when they descend the building’s two-story slide.

Red Frog Events

An event production company, Red Frog Events has an office that appeals to the inner child in all of us.

Hanging lightbulbs encased in glass jars illuminate a picnic table, and red frog design elements can be found throughout the space.

There are red door handles sporting frog’s heads, and a red frog sculpture holding the office mailbox.

A dry erase board calendar, where projects and deadlines can be written, takes up an entire wall, and employees can climb a rock wall when they need to take a break from work.

Nothing

An ad agency that has worked with Comedy Central and MTV, this Amsterdam company sits in a building not unique for its design, but for its building material: cardboard. The desks, bookshelves, and office partitions are all made out of the same stuff that normal furniture is packaged in. All of the light brown tones give the office a surprisingly stylish and earthy look.

AirBnB

This home rental company contains several rooms that copy some of the site’s most stylish  listings down to the detail. The conference room is based off a sleek Hong Kong apartment with black and white décor. Another room is enclosed in a wooden cabin with a geometric dome of a roof, making it a building within a building.

Birkenstock Australia

The shoe company’s Australia office encompasses the same earthiness associated with the Birkenstock brand.

Light wooden floors and desks are paired with stark white walls, which are in turn complemented by  plants placed throughout the office.

The plants sprout between desks and serve a dual purpose: In addition to being natural air filters, they give workers the privacy they need, without barring conversation altogether like privacy screens would.

The office is simple yet elegant, with a design incorporating both an open-office layout and a separate quiet room.

van der Architects

Instead of cubicles, this Japan-based design and project management firm designed its building so that each worker would have his or her own small cabin. Each workspace is similar to a child’s play home; it gives every employee a chance to escape into their own little world. The only difference is that instead of having pretend furniture, it has the real kind—desks, chairs, and computers.

Mule Design

Mule Design is a web design company who’s left its imprint on companies ranging from The Wall Street Journal to CNET.

Since it specializes in design and works with such big names, one might think that its office is clean and streamlined.

That thought would be wrong. Mule Design’s office looks more like an apartment than an office. It has shelves filled with books, couches and offbeat decorations, like a toy robot action figure and ceramic monkeys sporting fez hats. With all of this occupying the space, Mule Design’s environment borders on the slightly cluttered side. Which just goes to show that there are many different ways to reinvent the traditional office.

Rackspace

This Web hosting company resides in an old mall, giving its 3,200 employees plenty of room to work and play. To get to the food court from the upper level of the building, workers can go down the two-story slide. But in addition to being fun and unusual, Rackspace is also a LEED certified building, with showers so that workers feel freer to bike or walk to the building, and an irrigation system that uses water from a cistern nearby. Enjoy a 5 minute video tour of this unique workplace.

Birchbox

Customers who sign up with Birchbox’s services receive a box filled with makeup or grooming products tailored to their skin type and personal preferences.

A painting of Birchbox products hang on the walls.

Pink, the color of the boxes sent to female customers, can be found throughout the space: on the walls of the employee’s cubicles, on the sneakers found around the office (they’re an anniversary gift for employees who have worked there for a year), and even on the hat of a garden gnome a worker receives as an award for being employee of the month.

In addition to these branding touches, the office also isn’t afraid to show its creativity in other ways, such as giving its rooms names like “Shaken” and “On Tap.”

Google

Google’s New York offices boast a room where employees can sit and drink coffee right in front of a mural depicting New York taxis, waiting at a stoplight. The floor has been painted to resemble a crosswalk, so workers can feel like they’re sipping their drinks right in front of traffic. Besides that, there’s also a soundproof and windowless room with drums and electric guitars for employees to experiment with. We can wait to share with you what their new $1.5 billion dollar London office will be like when it’s completed in 2016.

Bahnof

This Swedish Internet provider calls a former WWII bomb shelter its home. A mix of the technological, industrial, and historical, Bahnof’s offices cannot be described as anything but cool. And as Jose Ramirez of Office Snapshots quips,  “…in the event of nuclear holocaust, it looks like Sweden will still have Internet.”

Foursquare

Social app Foursquare once allowed users to earn badges by checking in at certain places or under certain circumstances.

It has since changed its rewards from badges to stickers, but that doesn’t make its office design any less interesting.

Conference rooms were named after certain badges, which also inspired the rooms’ individual designs.

The swarm room features walls with a yellow, geometric design that suggests a beehive. The walls of the vinyl room is decorated vinyl records. The socialite room offers posh furniture that wouldn’t look out of place at a nightclub.

Grupo Gallegos

Sometimes the simplest decoration can make a big difference in the office. Take the Hispanic advertising company Grupo Gallegos. It has all the fittings of a fun workplace—bright colors, a modern design, and a spacious common room with comfy couches and a ping pong table. But what sets it apart from other fun offices is the hundreds of white umbrellas that hang from a ceiling that would be exposed without them.

Twitter

The social media company resides in an Art Deco building in San Francisco, lured there by the city’s offering a $22 million dollar tax break.  Workers can sunbathe on the rooftop deck or enjoy the vegetable garden right outside the building. Inside it, they can enjoy a yoga room, mod furniture, and a sleek design with lots of glass details.

What lessons can you draw from these offices, when you have other concerns that demand a portion of your budget?

Look at what each of these companies has done, and think of a small way to recreate it. Maybe you could place more plants in the office, like Birkenstock Australia, or hang up customized art, like Birchbox.

You don’t need a big budget to spice up your office; all you need is a little creative thinking.

photo credit: K2 Space via photopin cc