Partners by Design brings vibrant, flexible design to a Chicago tech office

Writing on the Wall

Partners by Design brings vibrant, flexible design to a Chicago tech office

As Chicago-based Partners by Design nears its 23rd year of interior design, the firm has branched out into into architecture, spatial branding, and other building services. Its recent office design for financial tech company Enova brings those years of experience and diverse expertise to the table—producing a workplace in which color, graphics, materials, and varied spaces come together in one unified environment.

When Enova wanted to consolidate its Chicago offices, it hired Partners by Design (PBD) to create a bright, flexible space. “PBD was challenged to enable greater communication, collaboration, and continuity across the organization, no matter the function,” said Cathy Grable, Partners by Design’s project designer for Enova. Coming from offices spread through nine floors of another downtown building with an offsite call center, the new three-floor South Loop office brings everyone under one roof and makes communication among departments simpler.

Working with Enova’s CEO and facilities director, Partners by Design kept the palette refined with splashes of color and graphics. “They expressed that they wanted the place to be playful, yet still techy,” Partners by Design architect Sara Gotschewski told AN. “And they love color.”

As a result, three commissioned graffiti pieces demarcate the center of each floor and the main gathering spaces. Color is also injected into the project in the form of bright lime-green workrooms and elevator banks painted Enova’s trademark blue. The rest of the office is finished in white with warm plywood accents.

It was important to the client to have a variety of workspace configurations to match the variety of tasks performed by different workers. Employees who need to be on the phone require more private and quiet, while software development teams need larger, focused team rooms. Some positions require low-walled workstations, while others need space to sketch, diagram, and collaborate. Partners by Design used material choice, organization, and a mix of open and closed spaces to achieve the diverse spaces requested. Graphic carpet covers much of the workspace, while polished concrete floors are used for common spaces. Meeting and team rooms are separated with glass walls that double as writing surfaces, while keeping the office as transparent as possible.

One of the reasons Enova decided to invest in a newly designed office space was to attract talent in the highly competitive tech industry. “Recognizing Enova’s goals to foster a young dynamic culture that prizes innovation and new ideas, Partners by Design created a hip corporate space that brings a “wow” factor perfect for employee development and recruitment,” explained Grable. Since young workers often judge their workplace by amenities and environment, it is important that the office provides a space that is both efficient for the job at hand, as well as appealing to the intended workforce. Partners by Design was careful to meet the set needs of the established company, while injecting some new functions to bring the space up to the tech world’s expectations. Socially, communal eating areas provide space for worker interaction and informal collaboration (a beer keg fridge helps facilitate the discussion). Central break areas on each of the three floors let workers get away from their desks, while anchoring each of the floors.

As might be expected in any tech company, the entire project is wired to facilitate fast communication among departments. This ability was a major incentive for moving the call center to the same space as the rest of the company.

With the tech industry making up more and more of Chicago’s economy and young workers demanding to live in the city, the city’s office landscape is quickly being rethought. The bright graphics and carefully detailed material palette Partners by Design brought to the Enova project, along with the functional, yet varied work environments, stand as an example of how Chicago does tech.


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