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Studio O+A

Twelve True Tales of Workplace Design


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Studio O+A


Contents

01 The Man Who Never Went Home · 026 Aol, Giant Pixel

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Intro Design Is a Verb · 004

02 Skid Marks on a Tabula Rasa · 044 Facebook, Uber Four

03 Banker in a Tree House · 064 Capital One Labs, 452 Tehama

04 Ghosts of the Lost Invaders · 080 Microsoft, Uber Five

05 Here Today · 102 Bureau, Pretend Store, West Coast East

06 Wallflower · 124 IIDA Pop-Up, IdeaPaint & Happier Camper

Graphic Novel To-Do List For a Fish Crawling Onto Land · 141 07 Pharaoh's Road · 160 Cambridge Associates, Artis Ventures

08 To the Ends of the Earth · 184 Cisco San Francisco, Cisco San Jose

09 The Outlaw's Refuge · 206 Uber Eleven, Ticketfly

10 The Merchant of Tokyo · 224 Yelp HQ, Yelp 55

11 Playspace · 242 Kimball Showroom 2014, 2015, 2016

12 The Art Table · 264 Ephemera, Walls

Closing One Last Thing · 290 Credits, Closing, Colophon

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Design Is a Verb — Intro

When in 2012 Inc. Magazine named the ‘World’s 20 Coolest Offices,’ the world was startled to learn that five of them were in San Francisco— more cool offices in a little city of 825,000 than in New York (one cool office), Amsterdam (two cool offices) or London, Hamburg, Vienna, Geneva, Detroit (one cool office each). Even more remarkable: of the five coolest in San Francisco, two (Square and Quid) were designed by Studio O+A. An interiors firm with about 20 employees at the time was, according to Inc. Magazine, responsible for ten per cent of the coolest offices in the world. Okay. ‘Coolest’ is not a metric subject to independent confirmation. Even so—the fact that a New York-based business magazine (not an interiors magazine) placed the creative center of workplace design in San Francisco was surely an indication of something significant happening in the Bay Area. If nothing else, it was confirmation that after two or three decades of laboring under a cultural inferiority complex—not as smart as New York, not as glamorous as LA— San Francisco had its mojo back, and a key element of that mojo was a booming tech sector. With really cool offices. When Primo Orpilla and Verda Alexander opened Studio O+A in one rented corner of a tire store in Fremont, California in 1991, they were motivated more by a desire to start a business, any business, than by any specific interest in workplace design. At first it was a space plan operation—squeezing more people into growing tech firms, cutting square footage from firms in decline—but their sense of being at the center of something important came early. O+A’s formative years were steeped in the evolving culture of Silicon Valley—not in some abstract conceptual way, but from the ground-level perspective of drawing up test fits, getting desks installed, working out strategies for efficient paths of travel and natural light. By the time the company moved to San Francisco, Orpilla and Alexander had acquired a nuanced perspective on what a successful workplace ought to be. The firm became known as cubicle killers, strong proponents of open plan and ‘democratic design.’ But there was another element to O+A’s evolving sensibility that was more evident in its own home office than in the offices it designed for other people. O+A’s studio was never precious, never showy. The company’s longstanding location on Howard Street went beyond unpretentious to downright raw. The neighborhood was what real estate developers trying to move property in the area termed ‘transitional.’ It remained transitional for the 8 years O+A was there, and which way the transition was headed sometimes seemed in doubt. On the one hand President Obama, when he visited San Francisco, stayed half a block away at the Intercontinental Hotel. On the other, crack pipes and hypodermic needles could be picked up easily (with the substances that fill them) half a block the other way on tenaciously wild Sixth Street. The juxtaposition made for a roughedged image board at Howard Street.


Yet it was those rough edges that kept the people working here grounded. O+A on Howard never looked like an interior design office—it could have been a tech firm or an independent film production company or a social advocacy organization. If, in a sense, it eventually became all of those things, it was because the keep-it-real aesthetic that was hatched here had applications beyond the company’s humble space-planning origins. What O+A discovered as it ripped out cubicles and pulled down drop ceilings and turned tacky old 80s-era offices into modern, sunlit work environments was what San Francisco’s urban planners discovered when they pulled down the Embarcadero Freeway after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake: that good bones count, that character endures, that the greatest asset of a city—of a company—is its invisible infrastructure: its people. This book looks at what the people of Studio O+A have produced in the 26 years since the company’s founding. That it is organized into stories is not an accident. One of O+A’s guiding principles from the beginning was that every client has a story to tell and that the work environment is a good way to tell it. Making the office a physical narrative reminds people who work in it that they are part of a larger purpose. It gives them a meaningful landscape within which to shape their own stories. In the most practical sense these spaces designed by O+A were all about solving specific problems and finding design solutions for specific needs, but taken together they are a record of how workplace design has become a vehicle for changing entrenched habits and restructuring a century-old framework of work/life balance.

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Making the office a physical narrative reminds people who work in it that they are part of a larger purpose. It gives them a meaningful landscape within which to shape their own stories.

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The word ‘design’ gets tossed around rather broadly—it is the word applied to a nicely-shaped spoon, a room with big windows that let the light in, a handsome page of photographs and text. But in a commercial interiors studio ‘design’ is a verb. It is people working. If you ask an O+A designer what he or she likes best about working at the firm, the answer is almost always some variation of, ‘I get to design projects from start to finish.’ At large corporate firms a staffer can get stuck doing the same thing all day—staircases, for example, all day, every day. At O+A, a designer will do the staircase and the room it leads up to. She will help create the narrative from which the staircase and the room emerge. She will do the programming research and the preliminary schematics. She will line up finish choices and specify furniture. When construction begins, she will slap on a hard hat and go out to the site to make sure the staircase is built as planned. She will do this with a team, she won’t be alone; but she’ll have a hand in all of it. All day, every day, she will practice design as a verb. Two results are assured from this holistic approach: first, that each project will have a conceptual cohesiveness, a traceable through-line across the space; second, that everyone working on a project will have an opportunity to bring his or her full creativity into play. If there is a secret to O+A’s success it may be that—that confidence in the energies and ingenuities of its staff. And those energies extend beyond the usual resume virtues. People who get hired at O+A are chosen as much for their quirks as their skills. ‘We like it that you’re writing a novel,’ Verda Alexander told me on my second job interview—I was applying for a job as Office Manager. O+A currently has three former ballerinas on staff: Tari Pelaez, Jill Gentles and Alex Jurisich. Patrick Bradley and Jon Schramm are sculptors. Olivia Ward is an illustrator. Neil Bartley, Elizabeth Vereker, Amy Kwok, Tari and Jon have all been teachers. The idea is that design, because it draws on influences from all aspects of culture, high and low, profits from as much disparate input as possible—and because every project gets tackled as a new story, a new production to stand up on a new bare stage, there is no predicting what ingenuities might be needed, what quirks might come in handy. O+A, in addition to whatever else it is, has been from the beginning an incubator of talent. It started with Primo and Verda themselves, college sweethearts who decided to build a life together—and a company. Their story is told in slightly cheeky fashion in the comic book that bisects this volume, but plenty of other stories were kicked off at O+A. Soo Emens arrived one day—and never left. Her playfully subversive spirit became O+A’s, ready at the drop of a (colorful) hat to engineer a practical joke or show up in costume or Photoshop an outrageous poster: King Kong holding Primo in his grip, Verda on the balcony as Evita Peron. Eventually Soo’s specialty at O+A—furniture—spun off into a separate company, POD Office, which moved around the corner from the mother ship and thrives to this day with Soo as CFO (Chief Furniture Officer).


Perry Stephney came and went and came back again—a path that more than one O+A alumnus has followed. Perry’s talents were and are of the get-the-job-done variety. As O+A moved into the limelight, he was happier behind the scenes, negotiating contracts, troubleshooting crises (of which there was always a bountiful supply). Today he is a Principal of the company and O+A’s Philosopher King. Perry-isms immortalized in the pavement of the parking lot express succinctly the O+A aesthetic: Tone Down the Pretty; Design Swagger; More Club, Less Country Club; We’re Gonna Win. Even those who no longer work here were in some fashion shaped by their O+A experience. Denise Cherry started working at O+A while she was still in design school. Right away two things became apparent: her gift for design and her almost unbelievable capacity for work. Soon after coming on board full time, she was placed at the disposal of the company’s then most demanding client, Levi Strauss. After putting in a full day at Levi’s corporate headquarters, she would often come back to O+A’s office for another 5 to 6 hours—‘Learning my job,’ she called it. It was the sort of application which brings one of two results: a nervous breakdown or an absolute mastery of your craft. Ten years after joining O+A as an intern, Denise was Design Director and a Principal of the firm. In 2016, she and another O+A veteran Liz Guerrero formed their own company, striking out on their own to continue explorations they had begun at O+A.

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Every team is a kinetic ecosystem of design.


Look at the team credits of the projects in this book and you will see the shape of the days that made the spaces. Every name is a creative resource. Every team is a kinetic ecosystem of design. When a company functions more as a studio than as a business, the makeup of each team is the project’s first creative decision. O+A’s current staff of designers, project managers, studio directors, graphic designers, marketing and administrative professionals functions much like a repertory theater company. The arrival of a new project activates different parts of the operation at different stages of the production, but on opening night—i.e. the day the client moves in—the whole company is on the line. Not surprising, then, that the day-to-day atmosphere at O+A has a backstage feel. Since 2015, the firm has occupied an office on Tehama Street, still in the SOMA district of San Francisco, still in the vicinity of Howard Street’s pageant, but this time designed and planned as thoroughly as the spaces the company creates for other people. This is where the typologies and design strategies on which O+A built its reputation are put to use by the people who invented them. It is also where technology and workshop culture meet. Like every other profession, interior design is practiced digitally, but backstage at O+A, analog lives—work is always being pinned to a board, someone is always sketching with a pen. Glass surfaces tend to get marked up with brainstorms; a champagne toast is never far away. The working environment at this company that specializes in working environments is remarkably close to the target result—informal, creative, sometimes a bit obsessive, quirky, stimulating, exhausting, familial. Students may pass through or visitors from abroad. Documentary filmmakers occasionally check in, as do reporters of all stripes and the vast, peripatetic community of design—carpet reps, lighting reps, furniture consultants, people who trade in wood and stone. In the middle of it all, ordinary life unfolds. Someone may drop by with a baby. Someone may bring a dog to work. Here is as good a place as any for a shoutout to O+A’s four-legged consultants: Boots, Max, Scout, Molly, Spanky, Smoochy, Leo, Foxy, Logan, Basho, Alta—for some reason we have never had a cat. We did, for a while, have a pig (Oskar).

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The Man Who Never Went Home

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01 | The Man Who Never Went Home

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Chapter — 01

He opened his eyes to an angry face. Emerging from dead sleep, he could not at first make out what the person was saying, but the tone was unmistakable. Finally through his grogginess, a few words came together: ‘This isn’t a dorm.’ At that moment, Eric knew his 2-month experiment, his cheeky stunt, his Phantom of the Opera-style squatting adventure was over. It was 6:00 a.m.

The security officer escorted him to the door.

Probably because he was a familiar face, no one called the police. He had been coming here every day for… 6 weeks? 8 weeks? People who saw him working around the office assumed he belonged there. Yes, he kept to himself, but in this world that was not so unusual. Lots of folks buried themselves in their screens. Lots of folks worked until the wee hours. Some of Eric’s friends knew what he was doing, but most of his ‘co-workers’ thought he was just a dedicated guy.

What was he doing?

Every night after pounding away at his laptop in Aol’s West Coast HQ for 12 hours, or sometimes 16, Eric snuck off to one of three couches he had observed were outside the security guard’s rounds. There he went to bed. The couches were comfortable. The lights were low. There was ramen in the kitchen for dinner, cereal in the break room for breakfast. There was a gym downstairs where he could work out and shower in the morning before the others arrived. This office, that was not actually his office, boasted all the necessities and many of the comforts of home.

Since Eric didn’t actually have a home at that moment…

He had come to Palo Alto from Chicago to work with four friends on an education startup. The project had received a $20,000 grant from the talent incubator Imagine K12, a grant that included a building badge to Aol’s West Coast campus where the incubator was housed. $20,000 can’t sustain four people in Silicon Valley for very long, but when the money ran out and Eric’s friends went back home, Eric chose to stay. For him it was an existential decision. ‘I could have packed up and gone home to Chicago,’ he later told a reporter for Inc.com. ‘The easiest thing I could have done was just close up shop.’ But he was passionate about the startup he was building, a tech hub through which teachers could share lesson plans, and he didn’t want to pull the plug. So he pitched camp at Aol. For 2 months. It was not a lark. The endless diet of cereal and ramen proved grueling. Sometimes Imagine K12 catered events and Eric foraged through the leftovers. A visit to McDonald's was a rare treat. He was constantly on guard, constantly sleeping with one eye open; he never got a proper night’s rest. It was, he said later, one of the worst periods of his life. So when that angry face shook Eric awake, he wasn’t entirely unhappy about it. Escorted to the door, he knew he had pulled off his caper far longer than he expected. His company was alive; he had friends who would offer him a couch to crash on (and spread the legend of his stowaway adventure). He had proven to himself his own resourcefulness and determination.

He wouldn’t have to eat ramen any more.

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Design Proverb — 01

Work and rest are sisters who share a room.

Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. • Maya Angelou

Citizens of other developed countries who move to the U.S. almost always express shock at America’s stingy leisure-to-work ratios: alone in not mandating paid leave for new mothers, last in the number of holidays and PTO days granted, left in the dust by Slovenia, Latvia, Romania, Chile (this according to a 2015 report by National Public Radio). Only 35 per cent of U.S. employees almost always take a lunch break according to a 2011 web survey. The lower your wages, the less likely you are to get paid time off. Ours is a culture that puts premium value on work and attaches to leisure a connotation of ‘slacker.’ For a long time this work ethic was built into the design of the office. The old cubicle model may have been devised originally to give each worker a personal nest, but in practice it turned out to be more cell than nest, a regimented structure of nose-to-thegrindstone conformity that came to represent, in pop culture at least, the soullessness of American business. Leisure space in the office was a watercooler where gossip could be exchanged or a sad breakroom with a coffee pot and a bulletin board. The irony of this design was that its bleakness reinforced its righteousness—hard work required character, the Puritan dedication to report each day to one’s cubicle, work longs hours, skip lunch and come in on the weekend. Leisure belonged to the idle, the undisciplined, the profligate, the French. As is often the case, it took technology to crack this centuryold model. The transfer of office work from typewriters and adding machines to computers offered a back door to reclaiming some of that lost leisure. Suddenly it was possible to goof off at work and get away with it. Even before social media opened wide vistas for time wasting, surfing the Internet was a recognized ‘problem’ at the workplace, a problem that cost American business $178 billion in lost productivity according to a 2005 report from Websense. Or maybe it was $544 billion according to a 2006 report from Salary.com. Or was it $134 billion per a 2012 report by BOLT Insurance? The disparity in the figures is a good indication that no one really knows how much money is lost when people take a break from work to email sweetie or check in on the Kardashians, but if we assume that some work time is going down the drain in this way, it’s interesting to contemplate the 21.6 per cent increase in productivity that the Economic Policy Institute reported between 2000 and 2014. All those man hours burned up on Instagram and Google and YouTube and yet, the American worker keeps getting more and more productive? What’s going on here? You’d almost think leisure was a productivity builder. You’d almost think a little play makes Jack a less dull boy—and Jill a productivity rocket.


They talk of the dignity of work. The dignity is in leisure. • Herman Melville

Eric was not the first person to pitch camp in his office. Hapless drudge kicked out of the house by his wife and washing his socks in the men’s room sink is a stock figure of Mad Men-era comedy. More recent examples of workplace homesteading have carried distinctly political overtones. LA’s Office Hobo, who lived in his cubicle for 250 days and wrote about it in LA Weekly, styled the exercise ‘an act of defiance from the institution of rent.’ The young employees of Enplug, a tech start-up that plugged its core team into a 6-bedroom home in Bel Air, made live/work part of its business plan. ‘We don’t try to separate work life from our personal life,’ Nanxi Liu, Enplug’s CEO told The Wall Street Journal in 2013. ‘It’s a little bit cultish.’ These offbeat arrangements may say more about the housing crisis in American cities than they do about the evolution of workplace, but it was in response to such changes in social habits that workplace designers began to build leisure spaces into every site with room to accommodate them. In their simplest forms they were lounge areas with unusually comfortable furniture, but in a broader context they included fully-equipped coffee bars with rotating baristas, game rooms both digital and analog, even sleeping areas: at Capital One Labs in San Francisco, O+A designed an elevated meditation space perfect for a nap. (In case you’re comfortable sacked out, midday, in front of your co-workers). ‘We take a lot of cues from the way universities and campuses are built,’ Co-founder Primo Orpilla explained to journalist Gerald Taylor in 2015. The idea was that young tech workers coming straight out of school were going to work more productively in environments they were used to—collegial environments with ‘lots of places to meet, hang out, do the things that you do during your normal day to come up with ideas and do inspired work.’ Doing inspired work is the bottom line here. In the determinedly aspirational culture of design, new workplaces always take shape as expressions of optimism—this is what your company can be, this is where your people can go. Alan Braverman, one of the founders of Giant Pixel described the thinking behind his office’s design this way: ‘If we’re gonna spend every day here and if we expect our employees to want to be here then it makes sense to have an awesome office.’ The three floors that O+A designed for his software development company in San Francisco’s Mint Plaza includes such amenities as a suspended, stove-pipe fireplace, a fully-stocked basement bar and lounge and Star Wars-themed video games. ‘Everyone on the team wants to invite their friends over,’ Braverman said. ‘Maybe they’re having dinner in the neighborhood and maybe their friends want to stop by here first because the office is such an inviting and visually stimulating place.’ Braverman

thinks a hospitable, beautifully designed office has a positive impact on his employees’ work: ‘If we expect the products that we build to be well-designed and look great, then having an office that conveys the same message is a way to add consistency to everything we do.’ What then is the purpose of these offices? Are they, as Andrew Blum wrote in Metropolis Magazine in 2011, ‘honey traps designed to encourage employees to never go home?’ Or are they a belated recognition in the American workplace of the value of leisure? If a collection of comfy and creative spaces becomes a workaholic’s refuge, is it abetting labor exploitation or providing inspired people a place to achieve their dreams? No one forced Eric to camp out for 8 weeks at Aol. He was seduced into it by ambition, yes, and chutzpa and amenities— sofas to sleep on, food in the kitchens, a place to wash his socks— but also, in the larger sense, by design. It was a welcoming environment. It took him in. It was comfortable and warm. It felt like home.

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01 | The Man Who Never Went Home

Aol

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Aol When Aol hired O+A to remake its West Coast headquarters in 2010, the Internet pioneer had been in business for 25 years. Part of the design brief for the project was to build into the space values that Aol was promoting in its company-wide refresh: transparency, creativity, energy, playfulness. To do so, O+A ripped the 1980s heart out of an office complex in Palo Alto and replaced its cubicles and drop ceilings with light, glass, comfortable furniture and what must have seemed to Aol’s employees a limitless selection of meeting spaces. Coming soon after O+A’s groundbreaking design at Facebook, Aol pushed the envelope in making internal leisure amenities a part of the work environment. It was also the clearest demonstration to date of the typologies strategy O+A was using to attack large spaces. At 180,000 square feet, Aol’s West Coast HQ offered a huge stage on which to activate a variety of space types each geared to a particular style of working: a generous Town Hall for all hands meetings; Library spaces (minus the books) for quiet, contemplative work; Shelter spaces for impromptu team huddles or quick dips into privacy; Living Rooms (Eric’s favorite) for informal talks (or naps). O+A’s typologies did not substitute for design—they were simply a vocabulary from which designers articulated custom spaces, but because of its size and openness to innovation, Aol provided an opportunity to stretch that vocabulary and sharpen its precision for future use.

Team — Primo Orpilla Verda Alexander Denise Cherry Perry Stephney Liz Guerrero David Hunter Albert Claxton Emily Ellis Alfred Socias Justin Ackerman Alex Ng Will Chu Jeorge Jordan

Sqft — 180,000

Location — Palo Alto California


The Man Who Never Went Home | 01

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→ ↘ ‘Honest materiality’ is the phrase used by O+A designers to describe their practice of turning a basic construction product—say, the Oriented Strand Board that builders use to separate spaces—into an elevated design feature, in this case, platform seating. Deployed in Aol’s spacious reception area, the sanded and finished OSB platforms turned a wood product that usually stays hidden into an expression of transparency and redefinition.

Aol


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← ↓ At Aol, the scale of the project offered opportunities for a range of mostly informal meeting spaces: enclosed phone rooms, huddle booths, kitchen and studio spaces—and at the entrance to the building, a swooping parabola lounge commemorating the skateboard culture that was prominent in the year of Aol’s birth: 1983.

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↑ → Two ways to tackle a wall. Give it a writeable surface and turn it into a tool. Or use color and form to make it ‘a campfire,’ an environmental magnet in front of which people can warm their spirits and stoke ideas.

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Capital One Labs

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Date — 2013

Capital One is the financial services company known for its antic television commercials (‘What’s in your wallet?’) and an innovative approach to consumer banking. No surprise then that when the company wanted to develop an unused floor of its downtown San Francisco office it brought in a specialist from Stanford D School to run the project and hired O+A to design it. Their goal was a state-of-the-art prototyping lab that would host visiting teams of Capital One product developers in a space shaped to incite unorthodox thinking. Working with Capital One’s design team, O+A built a working environment that made ‘unorthodox’ an underlying theme. From its bright, un-bank-like color scheme to its meeting room clad in recycled denim to its movable walls, ‘treehouse’ and company logo projected in light on the concrete floor, everything about Capital One’s design lab spoke to the goal of liberating thought. ‘I don’t want Capital One to be known as a bank,’ said Evelyn Huang, Capital One’s Director of Design Thinking and Strategy. ‘I want it to be known as a tech company that works in banking. So what does a tech company look like?’ Perhaps more than any other design influence, it was that embrace of Silicon Valley’s let’s-do-it-differently spirit that made this bank on the edge of San Francisco’s traditional Financial District so colorful and emphatically non-traditional.

Team — Denise Cherry Primo Orpilla Verda Alexander Perry Stephney Clem Soga Chris Lindes Kroeun Dav Liz Guerrero Justin Ackerman Alma Lopez Alfred Socias Sarah Dziuba Chase Lunt Jeorge Jordan Oren Aks Holly Hursley

Sqft — 3500

Location — San Francisco California


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Wallflower

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Chapter — 06

Design can be an intense experience, but it’s the build that turns a designer’s hair gray. When the vinyl arrived it was not the right size. Olivia had ordered it larger than necessary with a generous border to give the installers plenty to work with. The wallpaper that arrived was barely large enough to cover the space. It was like trying to wrap a present with not quite enough wrapping paper, like trying to squeeze into jeans three sizes too small. The simple job of oversight became a nerve-wracking exercise in micro-management—sweating every inch, second-guessing every wrinkle. While Olivia looked over the workmen’s shoulders, a woman came up and whispered in her ear:

‘May I talk to you for a moment?’

They stepped away from the install and bowed their heads.

‘Where did you get those guys?’ the woman asked.

‘The printer sent them. Why?’

‘Are they union?’

Olivia felt a spike of alarm. ‘They’re supposed to be. We requested union.’

The rules at the Chicago Merchandise Mart where the NeoCon trade show was held every summer were that all installers working on the premises had to be union. Today the Mart was full of men (and a few women) dressed in white coveralls and installers caps. These two guys were in shorts and t-shirts, hairy shins and bare ankles in open contravention of showroom rules. Alarm now morphing into dismay, Olivia watched as the woman sent the non-union workers packing—leaving wallpaper that didn’t fit only half-installed. Olivia phoned the printer. They were sorry about the mix-up, but there were no union crews available for the rest of the day. She phoned O+A in San Francisco. One of her partners on the project talked her off the ledge and promised to recruit help from one of the other crews working on O+A installs at the Mart. Soon after, a big fellow in white coveralls walked up. ‘We’re going to take care of you, little lady,’ he said. At the end of the day Olivia sat exhausted on the floor finally eating the lunch she had deferred until sundown. The wallpaper was up, the crisis past. As if in a dream, she watched a workman bump a panel with his elbow, the panel collide with a 10-foot ladder and the high, heavy ladder come down in slow motion to slam with the impact of a shotgun blast directly in front of the pizza on her knees. A few inches more and it would have landed, catastrophically, on her head. The workman turned in horror. Onlookers gasped. Olivia paused to see if she was still alive, and finding that she was, continued to chew.

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One Last Thing

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Photography & Art Credits Opening & Intro Design Is a Verb Endsheets 001 002-003 004-005 006-007 008 009 010 011 012 013 014 015 016-017 018 019 020 021 022-023 024-025

Jasper Sanidad Aubrie Pick Jasper Sanidad Aubrie Pick Elizabeth Vereker Aubrie Pick (color), Olivia Ward (b&w) Aubrie Pick (color), Olivia Ward (b&w) Elizabeth Vereker Aubrie Pick (color), Olivia Ward (b&w) Aubrie Pick (color), Mina Azarnoosh (b&w) Aubrie Pick (color), Patrick Bradley (b&w) Aubrie Pick (color), Amy Young (b&w) Aubrie Pick (color), Patrick Bradley (b&w) Mina Azarnoosh Aubrie Pick (color), Olivia Ward (b&w) Aubrie Pick (color), Amy Young (b&w & color) Amy Young Holly Hursley Patrick Bradley, Mina Azarnoosh, Amy Young Jasper Sanidad

01 The Man Who Never Went Home Aol, Giant Pixel 026 030-037 038-043

Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad

02 Skid Marks on a Tabula Rasa Facebook, Uber Four 044 048-053 054-063

Jasper Sanidad Cesar Rubio Jasper Sanidad

03 Banker in a Tree House Capital One Labs, 452 Tehama 064 068-073 074-079

Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad

04 Ghosts of the Lost Invaders Microsoft, Uber Five 080-081 084-089 090-101

Phillippe Miqnot Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad

05 Here Today Bureau, Pretend Store, West Coast East 102 106-109 110 111 112-117 118-123

Becca Barnet Sakae Beers Sakae Beers, Holly Hursley Sakae Beers, Neil Bartley Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad

06 Wallflower IIDA Pop-Up, IdeaPaint & Happier Camper 124-125 128-132 133 134-137

Mina Azarnoosh Jasper Sanidad Elizabeth Vereker Jasper Sanidad

Graphic Novel To-Do List For a Fish Crawling Onto Land 138-139 140-157 158-159

Elizabeth Vereker Olivia Ward Elizabeth Vereker


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07 Pharaoh’s Road

11 Playspace

Cambridge Associates, Artis Ventures

Kimball Showroom 2014, 2015, & 2016

160-161 164-175 176-183

242-243 246-249 250-255 256-263

eFesenko Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad

08 To the Ends of the Earth Cisco San Francisco, Cisco San Jose 184-185 188-195 196-201 202-205

Verda Alexander Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad Bruce Damonte

09 The Outlaw's Refuge Uber Eleven, Ticketfly 206-207 201-219 220-223

Donald Koide Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad

10 The Merchantof Tokyo Yelp HQ, Yelp 55 224-225 228-233 234-241

Glowonconcept Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad

Chanan Greenblatt Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad

12 The Art Table Ephemera, Walls 264-265 268-269 270 270-271 272-273 274-275 276-277 278 279 280 281 282-283 284 285 286-287

Khara Woods Sakae Beers Olivia Ward Sakae Beers Donald Koide, Amy Young Sakae Beers, Olivia Ward, Elizabeth Vereker Jasper Sanidad Bruce Damonte Jasper Sanidad Bruce Damonte Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad Jasper Sanidad Bruce Damonte Jasper Sanidad

Closing One Last Thing Credits, Closing, Colophon 288-291 293 294-295 Endsheets

Aubrie Pick Amy Young Aubrie Pick Aubrie Pick

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… — One Last Thing

Design takes space and turns it into place.

On rainy days in San Francisco the skylights at Studio O+A become glass drum skins on which the weather taps paradiddles. Outside the arched windows at the back of the office heavy squalls roll over a suddenly deserted Howard Street. Daylight fades. Impossible to know, but this is very likely a time of peak creativity at the studio. If, as O+A has long claimed, where we work has a significant impact on how we work, intangibles such as the way a space interfaces with the weather pack as much design punch as the efficiencies of workstation and conference room placement. Increasingly in the working world value comes from things that can’t be quantified—from imagination and initiative, from persistence and vision, from the unity of a motivated team. All of those things are subject to the variables of mood—and mood is something that emerges from a space organically. The skylights at O+A were a happy accident. Originally imagined as portals of light, they turned out to be, even more evocatively, portals of sound. This is what makes the practice of design so seductive. This is why designers come to work every day. You might think of it as this book’s final proverb: Design takes space and turns it into place.


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Closing | One Last Thing

Studio O+A

Studio O+A Twelve True Tales of Workplace Design Publisher Frame Publishers Art Direction & Graphic Design Elizabeth Vereker Author Al McKee Production Elizabeth Vereker

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Graphic Novel Olivia Ward Research Al McKee Emi Katagiri Tari Pelaez Brianna Bernstein Editorial Assistant Morgan Weatherford Prepress Edward de Nijs Trade distribution USA and Canada Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, LLC. 34 Thirteenth Avenue NE, Suite 101, Minneapolis, MN 55413-1007 United States T +1 612 746 2600 T +1 800 283 3572 (orders) F +1 612 746 2606 Trade distribution Benelux Frame Publishers Laan der Hesperiden 68 1076 DX Amsterdam the Netherlands distribution@frameweb.com frameweb.com Trade distribution rest of world Thames & Hudson Ltd 181A High Holborn London WC1V 7QX United Kingdom T +44 20 7845 5000 F +44 20 7845 5050 ISBN: 978-94-92311-16-0 Š 2017 Frame Publishers, Amsterdam, 2017 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy or any storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, Frame Publishers does not under any circumstances accept responsibility for errors or omissions. Any mistakes or inaccuracies will be corrected in case of subsequent editions upon notification to the publisher. Printed on acid-free paper produced from chlorine-free pulp. TCF ∞ Printed in Slovenia. 987654321


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‘In the most practical sense these spaces designed by O+A were all about solving specific problems and finding design solutions for specific needs, but taken together they are a record of how workplace design has become a vehicle for changing entrenched habits and restructuring a century-old framework of work/ life balance.’

Profile for Frame Publishers

PREVIEW Studio O+A – Twelve True Tales of Workplace Design  

An exclusive look at the inner-workings of Studio O+A, the San Francisco-based studio led by Primo Orpilla and Verda Alexander. An artfully-...

PREVIEW Studio O+A – Twelve True Tales of Workplace Design  

An exclusive look at the inner-workings of Studio O+A, the San Francisco-based studio led by Primo Orpilla and Verda Alexander. An artfully-...