37signals is a web based software company located in Chicago, which maintains over six million users. The company’s philosophy of relying on usefulness over gadgetry has made the credo of “less is more” a design approach to their software as much as a business objective which is integral to their growth.
37signals sought to create a unique work environment that not only reflected their business philosophy, but that also allowed their space to work effectively for their needs in the same way their software works for their customers. This shared set of values resulted in a 10,000 square foot loft workplace that, on the one hand, strives to be free of clutter and distractions but, on the other, is filled with tactile materials that counterbalance the virtual nature of the company’s online products. In response to their new workspace, the company’s founder says, “Our own work is all about paying attention to the small stuff and the design brings a thoughtful response to that.”
The primary design feature is a rectangular volume of team rooms intended for project specific collaboration inserted into an open plan carved from the existing loft structure. The volume is wrapped in a custom configuration of sound absorbing material: stacked industrial felt strips reminiscent of chalkboard erasers. The felt material frames large magnetic chalkboard and glass panels that are inset into the central volume. To provide contrast to the neutral grays and blacks and increase sound absorption, custom cork panels line the interior of the team rooms and a red carpet tile was designed for the floors. Two smaller volumes of millwork finished in a dark wood veneer form the enclosure for a media presentation room with full audio and visual capabilities and auditorium seating for 37.