The adjustable standing desk allows you to mix up your posture throughout the day, but top models cost as much as $1,600. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Clearly, it’s time to ditch the office chair, but standing desks can get pricey, especially the adjustable kind, which let you mix sitting and standing throughout the day.
On Kickstarter, StandDesk's basic model costs less than $400. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The company has raised more than 10 times its funding goal since April 2014. (Click Image To Enlarge)
StandDesk, a new standing desk model being launched on Kickstarter (where it has raised more than 10 times its target since April), is a cheaper solution. The basic model, which has a simple automated system to raise and lower the desk at the touch of a button, starts at less than $400. Not quite as cheap as a cardboard desk, but not $1,600 either.
The creators say the lower price comes from designing a custom motor that doesn’t have as much extra lifting power as other standing desks. It’s only designed to lift 225 pounds--enough to hoist your computer and desk gadgets, though maybe don’t put every textbook you own on it. It’s a clean, simple design with no frills, just a smooth tabletop and a small control panel. Considering that I spend my days curled over my desk in a bizarre yoga pose called, “becoming one with the laptop,” I’m on board.
The desk raises and lowers at the touch of a button. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Clearly, it’s time to ditch the office chair. (Click Image To Enlarge)
COMMENTARY: Steven Yu, the founder of StandDesk raised a total of $649,244 from 1,697 donors through Kickstarter. The goal was to raise $50,000, but StandDesk raised over 12 times that. Congrats to Steven Yu. The first batch of pre-orders from the Kickstarter campaign are scheduled for delivery sometime in September 2014.
According to the StandDesk website, you can still pre-order the StandDesk directly from them for $449.00 with FREE shipping. Delivery in the fourth quarter 2014. I assumed that these new pre-orders will be after the Kickstarter project donors receive theirs.
I like what Yu is doing. Let's just hope that he priced the StandDesk properly so they can generate a profit.
GOOGLE IS KNOWN FOR ITS ZANY OFFICE DESIGNS, FROM STROOPWAFEL CEILINGS TO SLIDES TO SCOOTERS. AND YOU THOUGHT YOUR OFFICE'S FOOSBALL TABLE WAS COOL.
While most of us 9-to-5ers hunch over in boxy, fluorescent-lit cubicles, feeling lucky if our office has a snack machine, the Google employees of the world are zooming around on scooters, slipping down tube slides, playing on their indoor putting greens, and gloating about the awesomeness of their offices. If they can even be called offices--the designs of these nerd playgrounds so outclass your average corral of homogenous desks that we had to round them all up in a grand, jealousy (and sometimes eye-roll)-inducing slide show, on the occasion of Google unveiling its new Mexico headquarters. As one Google spokesperson told the New York Times, designers of Google offices have but one goal: “to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world.” Marvel at the most over-the-top workspaces of Google’s big happy techie family and lament not being better at computer science.
NEW YORK CITY
The off-the-wall design of this conference room in Google's New York City office uses cutaways of old iron bathtubs as sofas. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Occupying an entire city block, the New York-themed amusement park of Google’s Chelsea-based headquarters has hallways decorated with subway grates and fire hydrants, graffiti’d conference room doors, and chandeliers made of meat hooks, a nod to the nearby Meatpacking District. One conference room is set up like a tiny Seinfeldian New York apartment--think exposed brick, an electronic drum set, and awkward family photos on the wall. Victorian-style portraits of Star Wars characters decorate the library. Scooters provide its 3,000 employees transportation around the 2.9-million-square-foot building, which welcomes dogs.
GOOGLE NEW YORK -- Google’s Chelsea-based headquarters has hallways decorated with subway grates and fire hydrants, graffiti’d conference room doors, and chandeliers made of meat hooks. (Click Image To Enlarge)
GOOGLE NEW YORK -- Google's New York headquarters features a digital bookshelf. (Click Image To Enlarge)
AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
GOOGLE AMSTERDAM -- Designed by local studio DDOCK, the Amsterdam office designs take inspiration from their location’s cultural history and visual flavor, capturing the playfulness inherent in so much Dutch design. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Designed by local studio D/DOCK, Google’s Amsterdam office designsalso take inspiration from their location’s cultural history and visual flavor, capturing the playfulness inherent in so much Dutch design. The ceiling panels are designed to look like stroopwafels--that quintessentially Dutch gooey waffle-cookie. Maybe Googlers draw inspiration from sugar cravings? 1960s caravans serve as meeting rooms, complete with lawn chairs and fake grills.
GOOGLE AMSTERDAM -- The ceiling panels are designed to look like stroopwafels--that quintessentially Dutch gooey waffle-cookie. Maybe Googlers draw inspiration from sugar cravings. (Click Image To Enlarge)
GOOGLE DUBLIN -- Top that with veritable jungles decorating workspaces, and Google's downright Dr. Seussian Dublin campus is possibly the most playground-like in the whole family. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Office foosball tables are old '90s startup news, but an office putting green? Top that with veritable jungles decorating workspaces, and Google's Dr. Seussian Dublin campus is possibly the most playground-like in the whole family.
GOOGLE DUBLIN -- Google's Dublin office is a spunky, brightly colored playground for nerds. (Click Image To Enlarge)
GOOGLE DUBLIN -- Lounge chairs, pool tables, and interesting light fixtures abound, all of which help create a relaxing, fun-filled work environment. (Click Image To Enlarge)
GOOGLE DUBLIN -- Office foosball tables are old '90s startup news, but an office putting green. (Click Image To Enlarge)
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
GOOGLE TEL AVIV -- And, of course, there are Space-Age egg chairs. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Occupying eight floors of the Electra Tower in Tel Aviv, these offices look like what elves and fairies might build if they held board meetings. Designed by Camenzind Evolution in collaboration with Setter Architects and Studio Yaron Tal, the office features Space-Age egg chairs, ivy and flower-covered walls, shag carpeting, a Lego room, a tube slide between floors, and a view of the Mediterranean sea from the rooftop deck.
GOOGLE TEL AVIV -- Occupying eight floors of the Electra Tower in Tel Aviv, these offices look like what elves and fairies might build if they held board meetings. (Click Image To Enlarge)
GOOGLE TEL AVIV -- The office features ivy and flower-covered walls, shag carpeting, a Lego room, a tube slide between floors, and a view of the Mediterranean sea. (Click Image To Enlarge)
GOOGLE LONDON -- Google's London locale is anglophilic dreamhouse fit for Mr. Bean himself. (Click Image To Enlarge)
GOOGLE LONDON -- A conference room at Google London's 'Super HQ' (Click Image To Enlarge)
GOOGLE LONDON -- Google London's cafeteria offers employees a seeting area where they can meet in small groups. (Click Image To Enlarge)
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA
The original global headquarters in Mountain View, California, the heart of Silicon Valley, is a sprawling, sun-drenched campus known as the Googleplex. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The original global headquarters in Mountain View, California, the heart of Silicon Valley, is a sprawling, sun-drenched campus known as the Googleplex. “It’s easy to feel like we’re back in college,” Googlers brag in their career page's description of the campus. Here’s why: hundreds of bikes and scooters provide transportation from the conference rooms to the bowling alley, the climbing wall, beach volleyball, and weekly “TGIF” celebrations. Whether hacky sacks are involved in those celebrations, we don't want to know.
This hanging netting makes the perfect place to hack, come up with new ideas or just relax at Google's Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia office. (Click Image To Enlarge)
GOOGLE PITTSBURGH -- For their Pittsburgh headquarters, Google opted for exposed brick and peeled paint to channel the Steel City's rough-and-tumble vibe. (Click Image To Enlarge)
GOOGLE PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh office fills the penthouse of a 100-year-old Nabisco factory with pool tables and other crucial aids to techie focus. (Click Image To Enlarge)
In this hammock filled room in Google's Zurich, Switzerland office, employees hang from hammocks or slings to hack, read, invent or just relax. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Zurich Google employees are called Zooglers. And they're virtually required to contract Peter Pan Syndrome in this fireman pole, slide, videogame, and hammock-filled workspace.
COMMENTARY: No wonder Google seems to get the most talented software engineers and talent from around the world. Google offices are no ordinary by any means, but represent a sort of fantasy land for hackers.
Drybar Upper East Side, (Opened in December 2012) at 209 East 76th Street, New York, NY 10021 (Click Image To Enlarge)
A BROKEN MIRROR AT ONE OF DRYBAR'S MANHATTAN LOCATIONS SENT FOUNDER ALLI WEBB OVER THE EDGE. BUT THE FALLOUT PROVIDED IMPORTANT LESSONS IN LETTING WORLD-CLASS TEAMS DO WHAT YOU HIRED THEM TO DO.
A few months ago, Alli Webb stepped into a Drybar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan--one of the few dozen blowout-only hair salons that Webb and her brother, Michael Landau, have rapidly built into a small empire. Webb had reason to be happy. Her business, which she’d begun on a lark in 2007, was raking in $22 million in annual sales; her private equity partners in the business were seeing so much growth that they were beginning to recommend that Webb and Landau be realistic about relinquishing some control in their organization, leaving more of the micromanaging to the various teams they had hired. But then, Webb saw the crack.
The brother and sister team of Michael Landau and Alli Webb, co-founders of Drybar. (Click Image To Enlarge)
At the rear of the Upper East Side Drybar, a crack ran through a large, customer-facing mirror. What was infinitely frustrating to Webb was that the last time she had been in this store, the same mirror had been cracked in the same place. How had months elapsed without the mirror being repaired? Was this the image .Drybar was projecting to Manhattan’s Upper East Side? Webb recalls.
“I had a fit. It just kind of goes to the perfectionist in me. I walk in a shop, and I want everything to be perfect.”
She sent out a bunch of emails--to the assistant manager, to the manager, to anyone remotely related to operations at the Upper East Side store. And Webb being the boss, people sprung into action immediately. The maintenance department hastily replaced the mirror, at a cost of approximately $4,000.
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This might seem like a happy ending to the story. But soon Webb’s COO called her to explain something. The crack Webb had just seen in the mirror in fact wasn’t the same crack that she had seen months prior. That original mirror had already been replaced--again, at the cost of thousands of dollars--but the second mirror cracked in the same place. Realizing that there must be some underlying structural reason for an identical crack to spring up a second time, people Webb had hired were already investigating what was going on. As the COO told Landau,
“I know Alli wants it fixed immediately, but we can’t keep spending $4,000 to fix a mirror.”
Instead, the COO said, he'd put a team of people on it to investigate the deeper cause.
What they discovered was a New York problem. A subway train ran directly underneath, sending vibrations up in such a way as to make the mirror particularly vulnerable. The current installation was insufficient--it would require different insulation or bracing to prevent the problem from happening again.
For Webb and Landau, it was a lesson in learning when to let go. Two people can’t possibly run a 2,000-person organization themselves. Landau, almost apologetic for the lingering micromanagerial tendencies of himself and his sister, explains.
“We never meant this to be the big business it is today. One thing Alli and I have had to grapple with as we grow is, ‘How do you manage to scale an organization? How do Alli and I evolve now that we can’t touch every detail and get to know every employee, and have to delegate responsibility?’” (Landau himself recently stepped down as CEO, acknowledging that the company has grown so large that his own entrepreneurial skill set is less relevant.)
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Webb and Landau have had to slowly, painfully train both themselves and their employees on following the new chains of command that fit an increasingly massive business (Drybar opens its 35th location this week). Landau says.
“People still want to come to us [from various departments], and we still want to give advice. But you realize that you’re such a bottleneck if everything has to go through you.”
And bottlenecks are the enemy of scaling.
“You want to give that input because you care so much, it’s your baby--but you have to force yourself to say, ‘Go talk to Dana...’”
Chimes in Webb.
“That’s tough for me. If somebody comes to me with a problem, if I say, ‘Just do this, this, and that,’ then they do it. But it messes up the whole system, so I have to learn to filter my feedback through regional managers to keep the chain of command. It’s a major learning adjustment for me.”
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And yet she’s adjusted--or is beginning to. She says.
“I’ve gotten better about sending out those emails. I find out what’s going on before I get upset. Usually people are already on top of things, and it’s gratifying to know we’re building a small team.”
If confronted with a cracked mirror again, says Webb.
"I won’t send emails to 17 people in the company about it."
And what ever became of that Upper East Side mirror? Finally delegating to the proper chain of command led to an enduring fix--and should save the company money in the long run. Webb says.
“It’s fixed now! I was just there and it’s fixed--no more crack!"
[Images courtesy of Drybar]
COMMENTARY: In a blog post dated November 11, 2012, I reviewed Drybar, an up and coming startup which at the time had 16 U.S. salons offering one primary service: washing and blow-drying hair into straight, wavy, "beachy" or other stylish hairdos. Its motto: "No cuts. No color. Just blowouts." Drybar has more than doubled locations, and now has 35 salons throughout the U.S. with revenues of $22 million up from $20 million in 2012. They also increased prices from $35 to $40 per blow dry.
Courtesy of an article dated December 17, 2013 appearing in Fast Company
The Brooklyn Boulders Somerville workspace, planted in the middle of a 40,000-square-foot climbing facility, is located on top of a 120-foot long and 22-foot high climbing wall. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville is redefining the open office concept. Wouldn't the workday be more fun if it occurred on top of a 22-foot-high climbing wall?
The Brooklyn Boulders Somerville co-working space has free Wi-Fi, a lounge area with couches, a communal table, a smattering of standing desks with built-in pull-up bars, seated desks with balance ball chairs, and a few quiet spaces. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Most people hate open offices. They're loud, people sneeze every minute, and there's barely any privacy. But what if your open office was a climbing gym and your coworkers constantly cheered in admiration at people scaling the walls in the background?
At the Brooklyn Boulders Somerville co-working space no special membership is necessary--any member of the climbing facility can work there for free. (Click Image To Enlarge)
At Brooklyn Boulders Somerville, a combination climbing gym and collaborative workspace in Somerville, Massachusetts, people do their work in the middle of utter chaos--and according to Jesse Levin, the facility's "Senior Cultural Chameleon" (he deals with everything that isn't related to rock-climbing), they love it.
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville gives us a whole new definition of open offices including this incredible climbing wall. (Click Image To Enlarge)
"When you're really in touch with your body physically, it affects every facet of your life. I never quite understood why there was such a segregation between your career and working and going to the gym and community interaction. It made a lot of sense to me to bring it all together."
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville's co-working space offers a combination climbing gym and collaborative workspace in Massachusetts. (Click Image To Enlarge)
This belief in the mind-boosting power of physicality touches other areas of Levin's life as well--when he's not working at Brooklyn Boulders, he runs Tactivate, a program aimed at turning military special operations veterans into entrepreneurs (the general manager of the gym is a reserve officer in the Navy).
At Brooklyn Boulders Somerville's co-working space, people do their work in the middle of utter chaos--and according to Jesse Levin, the facility's "Senior Cultural Chameleon," they love it. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville just opened four months ago, but it's the sister facility to the original four-year-old Brooklyn Boulders gym (located in Brooklyn, obviously), which doesn't have a collaborative work component.
At Brooklyn Boulders Somerville's co-working space, "When you're really in touch with your body physically, it affects every facet of your life." (Click Image To Enlarge)
The workspace, planted in the middle of a 40,000-square-foot climbing facility, is located on top of a 120-foot-long and 22-foot-high climbing wall. There's free Wi-Fi, a lounge area with couches, a communal table, a smattering of standing desks with built-in pull-up bars, seated desks with balance ball chairs, and a few quiet spaces. No special membership is necessary--any member of the climbing facility can work there for free.
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville's co-working space is planted in the middle of a 40,000-square-foot climbing facility that is located on top of a 120-foot long and 22-foot high climbing wall. (Click Image To Enlarge)
"It's like the sauna. It's a perk of the facility."
He believes that one of the main benefits to using the co-working space is the proximity it gives to the kinds of people who would want to work in a climbing gym. Levin says.
"Climbing inherently attracts venture capitalists, artists, programmers. It's a very cerebral sport, and they mix naturally. We're giving them a space where they can embody and live this lifestyle."
The collaborative workspace has proven to be popular, in spite of the recent backlash against open workspaces. In addition to accommodating individual workers, the space has also played host to corporate meetings (companies like Puma and Vita-Coco) and a hackathon to develop fitness-related applications, which saw participants doing push-ups and taking turns on the climbing wall in between coding sessions. In 2014, the gym will host a TEDx event.
It's hard to imagine using the gym as a primary workspace, but it's a worthy experiment at the very least. Levin says.
"In no way shape or form is this your traditional sterile, polished workspace."
COMMENTARY: Now that's what I call a truly fantastic co-working office space. It is definitely a cut above other co-working or virtual office spaces in the way it is designed to enhance the physical well-being, not just the financial (lower costs), productivity and intellectual well-being. It's a very big space, with a lot of open, non-revenue generating space, with high startup costs and high monthly fixed operating costs, so my biggest concern is whether the operators can make money off of such a facility. Having said this, it is my belief that in order to be competitive in the collaborative office space market, you must truly standout from the crowd, offer a lot more than just office space, and enhance the workspace experience beyond just a comfortable and productive place to work. Brooklyn Boulder Somerville has succeeded in doing all three.
Stainless steel tubes or half-tubes are being installed in homes and apartments as a fun way to get from a top floor to a lower floor while having a lot of fun doing it. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Take a straight shot between floors or twist up your ride with a spiral. An indoor slide puts the playground right at your feet
For some intrepid homeowners, their home is their playground. Bringing slides indoors is not common enough to call a trend that's sweeping the world, but we're starting to see it here and there, and the idea is spreading. From taking center stage in swanky Manhattan penthouses to providing the fun secret way to get from the laundry room to the basement in Minnesota, these playground pieces are anything but child's play.
We've all got our heads wrapped around an indoor slide like this one, but what about ...
This slide in New York City's East Village, originally in the pad of a bachelor professional poker player, received a ton of press online, in magazines and on TV. I saw it on one of those high-end real estate shows, and the slide's projected effect on resale value caused some entertaining manufactured-for-TV drama. When square footage is at a premium, taking up a lot of room with a slide is a very specific homeowner choice, but wow, it really dazzles, and I bet it gets the endorphins going if you slide downstairs to get the first coffee in the morning.
The slide was conceived by the creative minds at Turett Collaborative Architects. It connects an upstairs office to the middle of the open floor plan below; it's a half-tube design in stainless steel.
However you feel about its function and the room it takes up, the slide certainly stands up to the 18-foot-high ceilings in the large, open space.
This image shows what the apartment looked like afterJoyce Elizabeth staged it for resale.
This slide is for recreation and art; its beautiful form is a huge presence in Skyhouse, an artful Manhattan penthouse, connecting the attic to the guest room hallway, then continuing down in a second leg to the living room below. This place is like something out of a movie, perhaps a remake of Sleeper.
Inspired by German artist Carsten Höller, architect David Hotson's slide design has a futuristic form and serves as a sculpture in this unique space. It was fabricated in Germany and put together onsite, before many of the walls inside the penthouse went up.
Rather than serving as a sculpture or major design statement, some slides are surprises hidden in the walls. The basement rec-room fun begins with the trip down a level in this Minnesota home. This one's entry point is tucked away in a first-floor closet.
The round opening does not give away what the slide experience will be, which builder Steve Kuhl describes as "severe tubular craziness." He estimates that installing a slide like this somewhere else would run from $2,500 to $5,000.
Two New York City penthouses were combined into a single two-story unit, prompting the owner to request a slide connecting the two. How great is that? I've seen people put fire poles in their homes, too.
COMMENTARY: Adding stainless steel tubes or half-tubes to slide from an upper floor to a lower floor is the coolest idea I have seen in quite a while. Kudos to the architects and interior designers who incorporated slides into the interior design of their houses and apartments. The slides definitely takeup a lot of room, and I would be concerned that very small children might use them, so parents will need to take extra precautions to prevent terrible accidents from occurring.
Little rugrats take the plunge down a stainless steel tube slide installed in their house. (Click Images To Enlarge)
Having said this, if you have a very large home or apartment with two or more floors, and can afford the cost of adding stainless steel slides, go for it. It is obvious that if you are going to hire an interior designer to add slides to your home, that you have already decided to make the necessary financial investment for such an endeavor.
Courtesy of an article dated October 30, 2013 appearing in Houzz.com
Located in San Francisco's SoMA neighborhood, Pinterest's new 45,000-square-foot headquarters feature four "houses," architectural volumes where employees can collaborate in groups. (Click Image To Enlarge)
TO MATCH THE UNCERTAIN NATURE OF STARTUPS, COMPANY FOUNDER EVAN SHARP STEERED AWAY OF SLEEK DECADENCE IN FAVOR OF CLEAN SPACES THAT FOSTER CREATIVE COLLABORATION.
When talking about workplace design, the buzzword “collaboration” flies around the tech world faster than a speeding foosball. From startups working out of garages to sprawling corporate campuses, everyone is looking to harness the creative energy of people working together. Pinterest is no exception. The design-driven company is using its new 45,000-square-foot headquarters in San Francisco’s SoMA neighborhood as a test site for collaboration.
The hubs within the office are meant to foster community. But perhaps, in the spirit of Pinterest, they are more like fun houses, with something a little strange or unique in each one to bond people together. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The “war room” is designed for power-working sessions on deadline. Desks allow designers and engineers to work shoulder-to-shoulder on their laptops and then feverishly cover the whiteboard and glass walls with their brainstorming notes. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Employees moved into the space in April, filling a brick warehouse on 7th Street that had been stripped down to basics: large industrial windows, wood beams, steel structure. But into that raw space, concept designers Janette Kim, of All of the Above, and Anna Neimark and Andrew Atwood, from First Office, along with executive architect Neal Schwartz, inserted a grid of four white volumes. Each 20-by-20-foot cube-like “house” functions as a different kind of meeting, working, or gathering area. Almost totemic, these architectural interventions answer the challenge of how to have 150+ people working in an open-floor plan and still have places for quiet, creative intensity--and yes, collaboration.
Another meeting area. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The office is left intentionally unfinished. Says Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp: “The one certain thing about a startup is that the future is highly uncertain, and so like an information system, we wanted the design of the office to be flexible enough that the design would be able to adapt as the company changes over time. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp explained.
“The one certain thing about a startup is that the future is highly uncertain, and so like an information system, we wanted the design of the office to be flexible enough that the design would be able to adapt as the company changes over time. Like Pinterest (the service), we wanted our space to accommodate the most heterogeneous set of occupations possible. That's architect speak for, the space should enable you to work in many different ways. Whether you're comfortable working at a dedicated desk, on your laptop at a communal table, or in a dark corner in the basement, it's likely that you'll find a place that works for the way you like to work.”
“Like Pinterest (the service)," Sharp continues, "we wanted our space to accommodate the most heterogeneous set of occupations possible. That's architect speak for, the space should enable you to work in many different ways. Whether you're comfortable working at a dedicated desk, on your laptop at a communal table, or in a dark corner in the basement, it's likely that you'll find a place that works for the way you like to work.” (Click Image To Enlarge)
“We didn't want the space to give the impression of success or complacency or decadence, the way a lot of studio and agency spaces feel to me," Sharp says. (Click Image To Enlarge)
That doesn’t mean that emphasis is placed solely on efficiency or productivity. Like literal houses, the hubs within the office are meant to foster community. But perhaps, in the spirit of Pinterest, they are more like fun houses, with something a little strange or unique in each one to bond people together. For instance, an oversized circular table is intentionally too big for a single meeting or group lunch. Kim explains.
“We wanted to design a table that would be so large it would welcome anyone to work on it. If your table holds 20 people and five people are sitting at it, anyone can feel invited.”
By contrast, the “war room” is designed for power-working sessions on deadline. Desks allow designers and engineers to work shoulder-to-shoulder on their laptops and then feverishly cover the whiteboard and glass walls with their brainstorming notes.
Still, there's an element of fun, with vintage signs and tchotchkes brought in by employees. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The office is housed in a renovated brick warehouse on 7th Street. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The conversation of how to work collaboratively began for Kim long before she sketched a plan. Sharp was her student in 2008, when he was a graduate student studying architecture at Columbia University in New York City. Kim and Sharp remained in touch after he founded Pinterest in a garage and would discuss the connections between architecture, startup culture, and information design, contemplating how meaning is generated for spaces, objects, and photographs. Recalls Kim.
“We talked about a square, a circle, a cross--really basic things--but it was also a way to talk about the collaborative culture of the office, of relationships between people.”
The four "houses." (Click Image To Enlarge)
That dynamic culture expresses itself in the architecture and in the ever-changing displays of vintage signage and funky objects brought in by the staff. DIY art projects made by crafty “Pinployees” hang from the rafters, evidence of after-hours creativity.
“The office feels intentionally unfinished. We didn't want the space to give the impression of success or complacency or decadence, the way a lot of studio and agency spaces feel to me. We wanted it to feel like one stepping stone on a larger journey. This helps remind us how far we are from our ultimate aspirations for what Pinterest will become.”
COMMENTARY: I have always preferred the simplicity of open space plans over the confinement of office cubicles. Pinterest's new headquarters are quite typical of today's high technology startups: fast growing, team-oriented, highly social, creative and innovative. You almost have to do away with the cubicles in favor of just a few private places where peope can gather for collaborative brainstorming and private meetings. It means less investment in office furniture and sacrificing some privacy, in favor of clear lines of communication and social interaction and collaboration. When done properly, the architecture and interior space plan can, as in the case of Pinterest, appear very impressive and appealing to the eye.
I love the interior space plan concept of the "four houses," because the office spaces are purposely designed to foster a sense of community and belonging. Pinterest's HQ is probably a very noisey place, especially the lunch room area. It gives one the feeling of a community, a corporate family, if you will. Everything is out in the "open." Even the conference rooms have glass walls, so there is no attempt to hide anything. I didn't see any curtains, so I wonder how they handle confidential information. Just the same, Pinterest's new HQ came out quite impressive.
Not all homes have the luxury of abundant space to grow and spread out in, especially when residing in a major city. But even with space lacking, there are ways you can design and layout your living space that makes it appear larger and increases functionality. You can include major furniture pieces and still add extra storage. You don't have to compromise on whether or not you can have an office space because if you use the space well, you can have both a full bedroom and office. This home in Taiwan designed by Folk Design, shows an excellent use of a small living space.
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This modern office space quickly becomes a bedroom retreat with a Murphy bed hiding in the wall. It is a smart use of the space as even when the bed is set up, you're still able to function in the office without interference.
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The space is used so well, there is even room for a small pet.
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What really helps keep this space open and efficient is the use of minimal design and clean lines. The furniture chosen also opens the space because instead of a clunky, enclosed desk, they opted for a fully functional table desk. The built-in shelving also provides ample storage without taking away square footage.
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The table desk design is impressive with hidden storage areas that can be used to provide extra shelves and a place to keep tissues without having a bulky box sitting on top. It keeps the desk top clean and clutter free which again only helps to make the space appear bigger than what it really is.
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Because the layout and design of the bedroom/office space was done so resourcefully, they were able to add a black piano to the room, which even though is quite large, still doesn't take away from the space or make it appear too small.
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What always helps in a small space is of course the use of great windows which give the illusion of a bigger space. It also adds a nice amount of natural light and brightens things up. This home has a quaint patio which is open to the inside space with large glass sliding doors.
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The minimalist kitchen design gives full functionality for cooking, yet doesn't take up too much of the home. And again, with the patio right outside the large glass doors, this smaller kitchen space appears much larger.
A home doesn't have to be large to have multiple uses. It also doesn't have to be clutter some or closed off. You can keep a space open and bright if you give it the right design.
COMMENTARY: Just love the utter simplicity and optimal use of space driven by minimalist design and beds hidden into the walls.
Colleagues can easily collaborate in small groups in this quiet location in Vodafone’s Amsterdam office. (Click Image To Enlarge)
COULD A “PALETTE OF PLACE” GIVE WORKERS CONTROL AND CHOICE OVER WHERE AND HOW THEY WORK? ONE COMPANY GOES DEEP INTO WORK SPACE.
Ask workers what bugs them most about the office, and chances are they’ll tell you they can’t concentrate or focus on their work.
At Steelcase, we regularly survey workers from diverse industries, job types, locations and age groups about their workplace satisfaction, and for years the number one issue has stayed the same: 95.3% of workers say having “access to quiet, private places for concentrated work” is important, but over 41% say they don’t have them. That’s a big problem for all workers, but especially for introverts (estimated at one-third to half of the population), who recharge their batteries by being alone. It’s an even bigger issue for organizations that employ both introverts and extroverts and who need to leverage the strengths of all workers as they strive to be more innovative and nimble in a competitive climate.
Steelcase workers take advantage of quiet spots for focused work. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Several factors contribute to this lack of quiet and privacy, regardless of whether we’re wired more toward intro- or extroversion. The shift toward mobile work has left tribes of nomads with limited options for concentrated work. Sometimes the local coffee shop is a great option, at least for anonymity, but even the best ear buds can’t tune out those toddlers at the next table. And our technology devices are a constant source of interruption, constantly tugging at us for attention. Places that used to be our last refuge for privacy, like our homes, and even our bedrooms, have become extensions of our workplaces, where interruptions can barge in with a single alert or silly ringtone. Perhaps the biggest culprit is actually our quest for interaction and collaboration--both of which are critical components of innovation and essential to high-performance companies. The pitfall for some organizations is the assumption that group work is the exclusive means to an innovative end. Design some cool-looking collaboration areas in the middle of an open office plan, with lots of traffic from nearby workers, throw in some beanbag chairs or fake grass floor covering and brilliant ideas will spontaneously erupt . . . right?
Steelcase’s new Innovation Center at its Grand Rapids, Michigan, headquarters offers plenty of collaborative zones, but there are also spaces like these for quiet, focused work to let ideas develop. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Sometimes. For some people. Take my colleague Katie, for instance, who draws energy and motivation from groups of people and lots of stimuli. Testing as an extrovert on quizzes from both authors Susan Cain (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking) and Daniel Pink (To Sell is Human), she is happiest among a big group of boisterous creative types, with lots of sensory stimulation. You’ll often find her working in the café, interacting with a variety of people as she works on a new idea. But even Katie has moments when she needs to get away and focus, either alone or with a small group.
Conversely, another colleague, Uli, thrives when she has access to areas where she can control the sensory stimulation, eliminate noise disruptions, and engage in deep, focused work. When it’s time for the team to come together, she’s ready to contribute new ideas and participate in a group session to iterate and create. As for me, I’m a confirmed ambivert. It depends on a variety of factors: the type of work I’m doing, the tools I need, or the mood I’m in. Some days, I get my best thinking done when surrounded by people and activity. Other times, I need walls with full acoustical seals that shield me from disruptions (plus ear buds, for good measure).
Check out Drake Baer’s recent look at how organizations can benefit from embracing qualities of both introverts and extroverts. And recall that Cain struck a nerve within the corporate world by drawing attention to the needs of introverts and challenging the notion that creativity and innovation come exclusively from boisterous socialization. Cain makes the case that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption and notes that even extroverts need time for contemplation and focused, individual work. Our research at Steelcase corroborates this point--we all need time to ourselves. To read. To think. To reflect.
Some workers choose to retreat from the structure of their day and relocate for a few hours to these comfortable spaces in Steelcase’s WorkCafé that create a “palette of place” throughout their workday. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The point is, whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, we can’t expect workplaces designed with a cookie-cutter approach to help us do our best work. We need a range of spaces that are created for both group and individual work, some that are assigned and others shared. Some in the middle of activity, and others tucked out of the way. At Steelcase, we call it a “palette of place” that offers workers control and choice over where and how they work. It is organized in zones for different kinds of work that allow people to amp up or down the degree of sensory stimulation they want, and to signal their level of availability for interaction. It doesn’t require any more space than a conventional office and can actually use real estate more efficiently.
Providing sensory control is critical to employee well-being, especially for introverts who are more sensitive to stimuli. It’s important to integrate spaces that encourage people to retreat from the structure of the day, to renew and rest or gain fresh perspective. Employees should be able to control lighting, sound, and temperature, work in relaxed lounge or resting postures, and be free of interruptions. It’s equally important to provide spaces that allow workers to feel a physical connection with others, even when working alone.
One of our clients, Vodafone, created a space called Club 11 in their Amsterdam office that offers food, an outdoor terrace, and upbeat music. It’s fun and functional, but you wouldn’t mistake it for a library or choose it when you need quiet focus. The space for that is actually called the library, located in another zone, and one of the few places with rules about how people work: talking and phone calls are not allowed.
At Vodafone in Amsterdam, workers can quickly move into small rooms such as this one for solo, focused work or small group collaboration at Vodafone. (Click Image To Enlarge)
At Skype’s Palo Alto offices, collaboration is nurtured, and workers sit at benches that allow for an easy exchange of ideas. Yet, headphones are the respected way of signaling “leave me alone, I’m thinking,” and the company also offers a variety of small, private places for individuals who need quiet and less stimulation.
Steelcase’s WorkCafé at the company’s Grand Rapids, MI HQ is a space designed with a coffee shop vibe that’s a popular spot for both collaboration and solo, focused work, in addition to eating and socializing. (Click Image To Enlarge)
We recently opened a new WorkCafé in our Grand Rapids, Michigan, headquarters, a space designed with a coffee shop vibe that is a great spot not only for eating but for all kinds of work--social, learning, collaboration, as well as focused. We found that 80% of our employees choose it for individual work at least some of the time. They know they might be interrupted, but they prefer to be near others.
Extroverts and introverts have plenty in common: They both need to feel like they’re connected to other people and to the organization. They also need quiet places where they can focus, reflect or recharge--it just might be in different degrees. Ultimately, they need workplaces with a range of spaces that allow them to choose what works best for them.
COMMENTARY: I have posted a number of articles about trends in the workplace and office furniture. Checkout my posts dated April 3, 2013 about Knoll's "Activity Spaces" office furniture line, my post dated September 26, 2011 about Steelcase's "cafe-like" Media:Space office furniture designed for social collaboration, my post dated March 30, 2012 about Herman Miller's Aeron chairs and the plant where they are manufactured, my post dated February 10, 2012 about Lego PMD's (Lego toys) corporate offices in Billud Denmark and how Lego toys are incorporated into their workplace, my post dated December 17, 2011 about how Plantronics, the famous headset maker, has designed offices for their telecommuting staffers, my post dated December 7, 2011 about the new office digs for the IT department of Switzerland's ATG, my post dated November 2, 2011 about the interior design of Twister's Restaurant that incorporates the look of tornados and rain in Kiev, Ukraine, and my post dated September 30, 2011 about Herman Miller's ergonomic "Envelop Desk."
Courtesy of an article dated August 30, 2013 appearing in Fast Company
ANTENNA’S NEW LINE FOR KNOLL IS PURPOSE-BUILT FOR THE SPONTANEOUS WORK ENCOUNTERS THAT OFTEN SPARK INNOVATION.
By now, the concept of “spontaneous collaboration space” in the office is starting to fray around the edges. Despite the proliferation of zany themed meeting rooms, sofas, and bars in the workplace, there’s still no recipe for engineering the random encounters and unplanned work that can lead to breakthroughs. Sigi Moeslinger, one half of Antenna Design, says.
“Architects will often specify residential furniture like coffee tables and couches. But spontaneous work still requires work space.”
Moeslinger and her partner, Masamichi Udagawa, have designed Bloomberg terminals, MTA New York City subway cars, and JetBluecheck-in kiosks. But for their latest project, the Japanese-Austrian duo bypassed screens and addressed the people who use them.
Activity Spaces, a line of furniture Antenna designed for Knoll, is designed for mobile employees who are no longer tied to a desktop, relying on tablets or phones instead. Udagawa says.
“Many people don’t have a main computer anymore. But generally, we still need a place to sit and put something.”
A desk or chair hybrid named Toboggan, designed for use with tablets or laptops, is the centerpiece of a new line of Knoll furniture by Antenna Design (Click Image To Enlarge)
The steel tube and bent plywood of the Toboggan looks like a mutated public school desk--it supports a variety of sitting positions plus a place to rest a tablet or notebook (Click Image To Enlarge)
Activity Spaces is built around a desk/chair hybrid named Toboggan. The steel tube and bent plywood contraption looks like a mutated public school desk--its legs wrap in a C from the desk to the ground up to the integrated stool, creating a lightweight structure that supports a variety of sitting positions plus a place to rest a tablet or notebook. Moeslinger says.
“It’s a kind of strange object, and we weren’t sure how people would interact with it.”
But an introduction at NeoCon last year left Antenna pleasantly surprised:
“People would just intuitively take breaks to check their phones.”
“They got into it right away.”
Knoll Activity Spaces include a number of casual workspaces, including semi-secluded seating for open office plans. This image shows other pieces from the collection, which weren’t designed by Antenna (Click Image To Enlarge)
To assuage the constant lack of power outlets, they designed a stainless steel power block that supplies a charge (Click Image To Enlarge)
The lightweight Toboggans are designed to be moved and rearranged throughout the office, which introduced another problem: the inevitable lack of power outlets. So they designed a stainless steel pole dotted with outlets that supplies a charge wherever it’s wheeled.
Here's, the charging pole (Click Image To Enlarge)
There are also small tables and objects that provide a charge for laptops and tablets (Click Imaage To Enlarge)
Other pieces, like a rolling whiteboard and small tables that also provide a charge for laptops, also promote mobility within the office. The idea is to create a spectrum of spaces within the office, rather than the conventional binary of being at your desk or in a meeting.
A whiteboard on wheels is another lo-fi accessory (Click Image To Enlarge)
A view of the toboggan chair with the power pole
In an unexpected way, Antenna’s expertise in interaction design is what makes these plywood-and-plastic objects so intelligent. It’s not so much about the screen, but rather how and where it’s being used. Udagawa told me.
“We approach furniture as an interface. It can modify behavior, and help people make the transition into more open space.”
COMMENTARY: Office workers no longer lay claim to just a small square of real estate but share ownership of all the spaces that support the multiple tasks they are called upon to perform. In the emerging workplace the whole office is my office.
Today’s office contains individual assigned workspaces that Knoll calls primary workspaces, and non-assigned spaces that are held in common and occupied with others as needed, called activity spaces. Primary and activity spaces may be individual or shared, open or enclosed, depending on their intended function. Both primary and activity spaces require broad connectivity with ready access to power and data, and wifi capability.
Primary spaces, which are typically assigned open plan workstations or private offices, are “home base” spaces. Often configured to support heads-down, focus work as well as short interactions with others, primary spaces may be designed explicitly to support shared work as in a two-person workstation with a table between; or to support team work, as in a large table configuration.
Activity spaces are “go to” spaces, that is, destinations for temporary group and individual work. They include:
Refuge for focus work among one or two. dddddddddddddddddddd
Enclave for small group interactions among three or four
Team Meeting for teams of five to eight dddddddddddddddddd
Assembly spaces for conferences, lectures or training
Community areas for informal socializing, eating or collaborating.
While layout, furnishings and technology will differ depending on the intended function of a given space, the sizes of activity spaces by type are relatively constant. Whether spaces support individual work, collaboration or more structured group activities, all must have qualities that make them places where people want to go.
Successful activity spaces attract, adapt and engage. They are appealing and comfortable, offer appropriate furnishings and technology, and provide multiple communication tools. Activity spaces permit individuals and group members to shape their work experience by adjusting and reconfiguring elements in the space, and provide opportunities to express organizational culture.
Activity Spaces Defined (Click Image To Enlarge)
If you would like to learn more about Knoll's Activity Spaces line of communual and collaborative furniture designed for today's mobile workforce, you can download Knoll's Activity Spaces whitepaper by clicking HERE.
San Francico's Mission Social -- A Unique Coworking Space in San Francisco for Social Enterprises, Small Businesses, and Entrepreneurs (Click Image To Enlarge)
Here are the numbers that support the case for coworking--and why it's not just for startups or freelancers anymore.
Fun. Friendly. Inspiring. Collaborative. Productive. If you wouldn't define your workplace with any or all of those terms, you may have to ditch your own desk and take a seat at a coworking space near you. Even if you aren’t an entrepreneur or freelancer, the benefits of coworking, according to Deskmag’s annual Global Coworking Survey, are pretty hard to ignore: 71 percent of participants reported a boost in creativity since joining a coworking space, while 62 percent said their standard of work had improved.
“The future of work should not be dictated by space or place, but by the individual and the tasks that he or she has to deliver. Many employees are now measured by output and productivity, and not just 40 hours spent sitting at a desk. Workers and the companies for which they work are increasingly realizing that they need to provide and utilize a wide range of workplaces to accommodate an increasingly diverse workforce with very different expectations of what work is, and where and when it should happen.”
There are a number of very good reasons why companies should consider coworking facilities besides the potential cost savings:
Click Image To Enlarge
That’s why Dixon says, companies such as Google, Amazon, Twitter, and half of the Fortune 500 offer their staff temporary spaces at Regus to hold meetings or to get work done on the road. Regus offers flex space to more than a million people a day worldwide.
Regus's new street-level business lounge, set to open at 747 3rd Avenue in New York in April 2012 (Click Image To Enlarge)
Dixon notes that coworking allows for businesses to test new markets relatively risk-free. Dixon explains.
“Our research tells us that today anywhere between a third and half of all workers are flexible and mobile. Four years ago flexible working was the reserve of quirky marketing agencies and IT shops. Today, it’s a way of life influenced by the growth of the freelance economy and the need to expand the top-line by market expansion.”
Regus's business lounge in New York (Click Image To Enlarge)
For example, Regus plays host to real estate agencies that ironically don’t have their own real estate. Instead, they give all the agents cards to check into a nearby coworking center when they need to print materials or get paperwork done.
Another look at the New York office of Regus, which offers flex space to more than a million people a day worldwide (Click Image To Enlarge)
Compared to a traditional office, Deskmag found that an overwhelming majority (90 percent) of coworkers said they got a self-confidence boost, likely due to the fact that many spaces are filled with supportive communities that enable creative collaboration.
“We're a pretty curated coworking space, so even though we're made up of different companies, we're all fairly kindred spirits. By running his small businesses in a curated coworking space. I get the advantages of the culture of a medium-size business without having to deal with most of the downsides that come with it, like bureaucracy.”
One of the main advantages to coworking, Caldwell says, is the ease of collaborating with other companies sharing the space, many of which don’t have more than three people.
“Sometimes that's just tapping someone outside of your team on the shoulder and asking their opinion. Other times, it may be a 15-minute whiteboarding session with a developer on another startup.”
The ability to approach problems from a variety of angles is the undercurrent running through coworking spaces like Secret Clubhouse. Originally established by Rick Webb (cofounder of The Barbarian Group) in September, the Secret Clubhouse addresses a simple, but critical, need for entrepreneurs in the already crowded coworking scene in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn: it gives them a place to sit every day and take advantage of being elbow-to-elbow with other startup impresarios.
Inside Brooklyn's Secret Clubhouse, which hosted staff from Gawker, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Vimeo, whose offices were without power post-Hurricane Sandy (Click Image To Enlarge)
In thedisastrous aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, those seats were filled with staff from Gawker, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Vimeo, whose offices didn’t have power. Now that things have settled down, manager Alison Vingiano says Secret Clubhouse isn’t quite filled to capacity of 35 desks, but those who are working from there can work alone or plug into the local tech community through hosted events or just from hanging out in the basement lounge, which is appointed with a pool table, musical instruments for impromptu jam sessions, as well as food, drinks, and cushy seating.
Another look at Secret Clubhouse (Click Image To Enlarge)
Vingiano says that while collaboration is now a main focus of Secret Clubhouse, “a lot of it happens naturally.” Between hosted meetups and skill-sharing events, Vingiano says Secret Clubhouse members are encouraged to announce positions for hire or talk about what they are working on.
Contrary to popular opinion that an open environment like the Secret Clubhouse is just as distracting as a coffee shop, 68 percent of those polled by Deskmag said they were able to focus better, and almost as many (64 percent) reported they were better able to complete tasks on time.
Scott Hinson, lab director at Pecan Street Inc.’s newPike Powers Commercialization Lab, is going to be in the unique position of fostering collaboration in the space, while also helping the companies working there to stay focused and retain privacy.
The Pecan Street Inc. Lab, opening in May 2012 (Click Image To Enlarge)
The $1.5 million lab, located in northeast Austin, will be officially opening in May to promote research, commercialization, and education tied to smart energy grids, advanced information technology, clean energy, and health care applications. As the nation’s first nonprofit smart-grid research lab, it’s going to give smaller businesses the ability to use equipment like a spectrum analyzer that would cost roughly an engineer’s annual salary, without the huge investment.
Chicago's Onward Coworking space, in the West Loop (Click Image To Enlarge)
The challenge, according to Hinson, will be to keep proprietary projects a secret. But he’s not overly concerned. he says.
“We just have to be conscious of who can’t be around whom [when scheduling work].”
In addition, the facility has security controls such as thumbprint readers and secure Internet access. If need be, says Hinson, they can wipe all data from computer terminals every time someone new sits down to use it.
The 20,000-square foot CoCo in Minneapolis-St. Paul operates out of the historic trading floor of the Minneapolis Grain Exchange (Click Image To Enlarge)
“As long as we set the right expectation we can minimize challenges. If you set the expectation you get a place to do really cool stuff and there might be some other folks that are doing that too, so we can avoid it from the get-go.”
Dixon believes that the flexibility to “work your way” is leading to greater productivity and job satisfaction. He points out a recent survey conducted by MindMetre in which 64 percent of U.S. employees are happier with their jobs today than they were two years ago because of the increased flexibility and shift towards a clearer work/life balance. Dixon adds.
“In addition, there is a plethora of research that shows flexible workers experience lower levels of work-related stress and higher levels of work satisfaction. The healthiest option for employers and employees is to continue to work together to redefine the parameters of work, and how it is conducted and rewarded.”
COMMENTARY: Coworking or shared office facilities really began to take root during the Great Reession which began in 2007, when many companies were forced to downsize by laying-off workers and reducing office space in order to reduce their operating expenses. As a result, millions of square feet of office, retail and manufacturing space became available, and rents dropped dramatically. Many commercial real estate brokers and developers were forced to rent out their surplus space to individuals and companies on an as needed basis. The effects of the Great Recession, the internet, social media and need for collaboration has created a huge pool of mobile workers who either work out of their home or work in coworking or shared office facilities as the need arises. Today hundreds of coworking or shared office faclities rent out office, retail and even manufacturing space on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis to meet the needs of corporations and the mobile workforce.
There are several advantages for renting coworking or shared office space:
Elimination of fixed monthly lease rent.
Ability to pay for space on an as needed and affordable basis.
Shared office facilities are available just about everywhere now, even at airports, convention facilities and hotels.
Elimination of facilities costs (utilities, janitorial, insurance, security, maintennce and repairs, phone, fax, copier and miscellaneous supplies).
A professional facility for conducting staff and client meetings and collaborative efforts.
Provides a place for direct social interaction between broadly dispersed workers.
If you believe your company could benefit from coworking or shared office space, conduct a feasibility study comparing the pro's ad con's and differences in costs between a shared office space and a lease. If you are a startup, I highly recommend that you maintain a mobile workforce and only rent space on an as needed basis. If you have a longterm lease, it may often be advantageous to sublease the space to a third party (if the lease allows subleasing), and rent coworking or shared office space on an as neede basis, thus eliminating a lot of needless overhead in the process. This gives workers an opportunity to interact directly, collaborate and share ideas.
Courtesy of an article dated Jauary 15, 2013 appearing in Fast Company