It was Open House New York last weekend, that most wonderful time of the year when the doors open to an amazing array of the city’s spaces, including many that are not typically open to the public.I was lucky enough to book a tour of the new offices of frog design, a global design and strategy firm with roots in industrial design. Work for its first U.S. client, Apple, was named Design of the Year by Time and is in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum. It since has designed for leading brands in industries spanning entertainment, technology, fashion and travel.
Our small group was fortunate enough to have our tour led by frog creative director Jonas Damon and architect Corie Sharples, a partner at SHoP Architects who led the design team. Recipients of Fast Company’s most innovative architecture firm in 2014 and Smithsonian/Cooper Hewitt’s “National Design Award for Architecture” in 2009, SHoP has completed high profile projects such as the Barclays Center here in Brooklyn to Google’s Mountain View offices and many more worldwide.
It’s been barely a month since frog settled into its new digs, which span the entire seventh floor of one of the Watchtower buildings, former home to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn (this particular floor was formerly used for their dry-cleaning!). Located just off the Brooklyn Bridge, the former warehouse district is now a hotbed of technology and innovation. It’s also home to Etsy, West Elm, the creative agency Huge and numerous incubator spaces.
Following a period of shadowing the frog team to get a sense of how they work, designers set out to create a space that would foster maximum collaboration with its clients, one of frog’s primary goals, as well as allow them to create multidisciplinary projects at varying scale.
The net result is a combination of highly flexible spaces divided into sections: private, public and permeable, encompassing exhibition space, open plan work stations and private team rooms.
The nature of frog’s collaborative work and the equipment and logistics make it preferable for clients to come to them, rather than the more typical scenario of consultants moving in to their client’s space for an extended period.
So the remote worker in this case is more often the client, though Jonas explained that on any given day, about 20% of the frog’s NYC team is either traveling or working at home.
It was very apparent that frog treasures its clients and wants them to feel relaxed and comfortable at all times, beginning with their arrival to the office. “We know they might be stressed because they got delayed on the bridge and are late to the meeting,” Jonas explained, acknowledging that the commute over the Brooklyn Bridge is perceived as more complex than a cab ride to their former offices in Soho.
So the entryway is intentionally designed to ease them into the space. Soft gray walls, lowered ceiling, minimal exposure and soft seating allow visitors to decompress before they get down to the business of the day.
From the quiet entry, they are ushered into the spacious and open double-height common area, where huge windows let in light and views from two sides.
In one corner, near the requisite foos ball table, is a small gallery area that currently features frog’s recent works, with plans to display work of neighboring studios.
“Our plan is to show some work from other studios in the area,” explained Jonas, “and send the message that this is the center of innovation here in DUMBO.”
In order to serve multiple purposes, the open space is designed in a modular format. It’s where teams and clients relax or even informally collaborate. “Sometimes when I need to meet with my team,” explained architect Corie, “I won’t book a conference room. I’ll just say let’s grab a coffee and we’ll gather round.”
At 4 pm, the common area hosts coffee time, a company-wide daily ritual.
The best views are from the glass-walled conference rooms that line the north side, each larger than the next. Spaces are planned to accommodate not just team meetings, but clients who need to run their businesses for an extended period of time while they’re away from their home office.`
Three small breakout rooms are across from the conference room can also function as private phone booths or meeting areas.
On the other side of the common area is the private workspace which is designed to inspire innovative design in a secure environment, and consequently, we were not allowed to photograph it or share any details.
Suffice it to say, every aspect of frog’s space works. It allows designers to design. Engineers to engineer. Strategists to strategize. Managers to manage. And everyone can take a break and enjoy the views.
Sadly Open House New York is just one weekend a year, happening annually in Archtober, one of the busiest design months in New York. If you’re in the city, I highly recommend it. Just know you need to book many of the tours in advance.