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Feature> Creative Capital
Same floor plate, radical transformation for a Chicago ad agency designed by HOK.
Caff spaces have a residential feel and open out to lounge areas.
Steve Hall/Hederich Blessing

Advertising and branding firm Millward Brown’s Chicago employees moved just a few floors within their Orleans Street office building, but HOK architects wanted the difference to be night and day.

Reclaimed barn wood plays off warm green and magenta tones throughout the 18,200-square-foot office space. Daylight spills in unobstructed by perimeter offices, which instead pepper the interior areas and are typically enclosed only by glass. The overall effect, said HOK vice president for interiors Craig Pierson, is intended to promote collaboration.

“The goal was to give everybody the opportunity to see outside and have an understanding of the weather,” Pierson said. Looking inward, however, employees also enjoy clear sightlines to other workstations and into the higher, wood-framed glass offices throughout the space.

Left to right: Flos Skygarden 2 pendants illuminate a café space; Employees use Herman Miller Canvas workstations; A lounge area with a Kielhauer Doon sofa with Maharam exaggerated plaid fabric and a Herman Miller Eames plywood coffee table.

The firm’s previous office space had raised workstations with boxy separating panels and more visual privacy. Some single desks remain alongside back-to-back workstations with no panel in between. The open-plan concept uses 6-foot-by-6-foot panels, down from Millward Brown’s previous 6-by-8, high-paneled workstation layout. HOK’s aim, Pierson said, was to open up that “heads-down workspace.”

Blue columns emblazoned with company values line the pathways, providing color and wayfinding. An almost subtle plaid motif recurs through wall reliefs and carpet tiling. Pierson said the pattern was meant to invoke the interplay of ideas that typifies Millward Brown’s work.

“It’s not just branding as a cue that leads you through the space, but the architecture as well,” Pierson said. “It breaks up the workstation areas and the enclosed team collaboration areas.”

In one such space, a wood ceiling works in concert with patterned carpeting to draw sightlines outside. On days when the ambient light is stifled by dreary weather, office lighting works with the wood elements and the company’s cheerful color palette to create warmth. It’s a bright environment for incubating innovative ideas.

Christopher Bentley


Conference rooms are trimmed with reclaimed wood.