By Meghan Hall
For growing technology companies in competitive markets such as Seattle, obtaining — and retaining — the region’s top talent is key to growth. Many companies do this by offering a variety of job perks and office amenities from coffee bars, to game rooms to fitness centers. However, PicMonkey has taken the opposite approach with its expanded space on Fifth Avenue in downtown Seattle. The photo and graphic design firm, in moving and expanding its offices downtown, chose to focus on the fundamentals of creating a modern, comfortable office to inspire its employees.
“PicMonkey is a really great group of people to work with. They’re super enthusiastic, and they have a real passion for what they do, so they’re a really fun client,” said Brian Malady, architect and partner with E. Cobb Architects. “They wanted to create a space that people wanted to be in. Different than some other tenant improvement projects, they were not looking for amenity spaces to entertain people, but they did want an office where employees were comfortable hanging out. And so that went into a lot of our consideration of the space.”
E. Cobb Architects worked to design another one of PicMonkey’s spaces back in 2015, making the team’s most recent endeavor their second time working together. Bellevue, Wash.-based Foushee was the general contractor for the project.
The goal of the new office was to provide and innovative space and creative outlet for PicMonkey’s rapidly growing staff, which had more than doubled in size since 2015. PicMonkey’s newest office is centrally located downtown, and upon arrival, the space was a blank slate.
“It’s in an interesting little spot, right downtown, but the tricky thing was in that it was a space that had not been renovated in a long time,” explained Malady. “It’s a massive open floor plate that the elevators just pop up into, and there was really nothing distinguishing about the space when we got there. To create an environment that created an experience when you walked in was the real challenge.”
The project team and PicMonkey came up with several strategies to make the office not just more interesting, but more efficient and effective for the company’s employees. E. Cobb worked with Foushee to install a series of meeting pods, which are sculptural and artistic in nature, and greet those just coming off of the elevator. The booths can host between one and four people, and can be shut off from the rest of the office to provide additional privacy.
“The idea is when you come off of the elevator, it is like you are moving through a gallery with these pods that filter your experience into the space” said Malady. “You don’t just come off the elevator into the middle of the room or somebody’s desk. The pods are an art installation so they are super vibrant and interesting.”
Additionally, said Malady, PicMonkey’s employees often meet in groups of a variety of sizes, from a couple of people to the entire company. E. Cobb and the project team sought to create a variety of meeting spaces distributed throughout the office, including training rooms, conference rooms and a video and photo editing room. A series of steel and glass screens that travel along trollies can be used to control the flow between office seating and gathering spaces. Employees can also project images onto the screens for presentations or to share information.
“At PicMonkey, the quality of what we are doing depends a lot on getting feedback from our peers,” said Judith McGarry, chief marketing officer at PicMonkey. “Our platform allows people to do both photo editing and graphic design together, so it’s helpful when our engineers understand how our designers work and vice versa.”
The project team also included simple, clean materials. A solid wood stage area was created for company gatherings, and the original existing concrete columns were left as accents. Brightly-colored orange monkeys can be seen hanging from the ceiling in PicMonkey’s lounge area, and other pops of color are found in the furniture throughout the space. Smaller amenities, such as a kitchen, mother’s room and a shuffleboard area were also included.
“I think there is a pretty high premium on amenities spaces that is pretty typical of tenant improvement projects right now,” said Malady. “There are the snack bars, the kitchen areas, the games. I would say we were less on that and more focused on creating a well-rounded space with breaktime amenities. I think for us, the emphasis was creating a comfortable workplace instead of tricking it out with amenities.”