Building an IT culture through design

Color, feel and careful interior design came together for an information technology client that places a high value on culture and its employees, Imagine IT.

The Bloomington firm needed a new and larger space to bring several separate offices together, and the owners wanted a design centered on staff and their needs. CNH Architects worked on an accelerated schedule at the end of 2018 to make it happen in the South Loop office complex on the fifth floor.

There’s no sterility here. Visitors enter to see a decorated high coffee shop blackboard and large kitchen. Open ceilings cover a water wall centerpiece surrounded by cultured stone. It separates the reception desk from the kitchen and social area featuring a wall of existing windows.

“We wanted a gathering point that was visually inviting, but did not obstruct the pass-through view,” said Imagine IT CEO Rich Anderson.

Rustic materials such as barn wood, exposed concrete ceilings and galvanized metal set against high-end stone and quartz countertops express the client’s mix of casual social atmosphere and high-tech business operations, said Principal Quinn Hutson with CNH Architects. Luxury vinyl tile with a wood grain transitions to carpet as the space transitions from gathering space to offices and work stations.

Corrugated steel facing materials are seen with high tables and chairs featuring the company’s colors. The 11,000 square foot space houses nearly 40 employees with a focus on style and technology, all of it subtle.

There are random “pops” of green, on carpet squares, high on walls and on lockers used by staff. Most of the firm’s executives have offices on the inside of the space, while service staffers fill the perimeter areas with windows.

Sandwich and salad bars, company-cooked and catered food provide a basis for socializing and spending more time on site, Anderson explains. “They can come, eat and go back to work and do their deal,” said Anderson. “We don’t lose them to the mall for an hour and a half.” Some staff eat two meals a day at work.

A large training room with open, high ceilings is wired with microphones and speakers throughout, for combined on-site and online trainings. Entrance is supplied via authentic barn doors designed to catch the eye of visitors who look down the hall just past the reception desk. The room doubles as a yoga, exercise, meditation and recreation area for staff, as well, and features a large projector and multiple screens. It overlooks the south side of Mall of America.

Small private rooms for staff and guests, with two “phone booth” rooms featuring sliding privacy doors provide added options to get away briefly. “You can walk away from your desk or cube and it feels like you walked away for a while, and yet you’re still here,” said Anderson.

The CEO said the site offers physical support for the company’s “circle of happiness.” Owners asked how the experience of a caller might change, be slightly better, less abrasive, more supportive, more productive and happier. “The best way to do that is to have a happy workforce, one that enjoys working there doesn’t turn over as frequently as the industry,” he said.

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