From technology to spatial layouts to contemporary philosophies of accommodation and aspiration, the workplace of today bears little resemblance to the one of 60 years ago. And yet, a deep adoration for the midcentury patina has only strengthened the further we move away from the era.
When concepting an office for Rocket Mortgage’s marketing department in Detroit, local studio Pophouse wanted to create an environment that both harkens back to advertising’s golden age and embraces contemporary work ideas. To do that, they integrated retro aesthetic cues—earthy tones, bookmatched wood paneling, fluted glass accents—with flexible programming that promotes communication and neurodiversity. The result is a retro-inspired workspace that takes on the feel of a suave private members club.
Below, we take a closer look at the project.
Project Description: The office for Rocket Mortgage marketing was built on the idea that communication fosters human connection and innovation. An understanding of this team’s culture and mission to deliver world-class marketing solutions for the mortgage-lending giant evolved into a narrative based on three pillars of communication: artisanal craft, language, and the history of marketing. The space effectively expresses cultural ideas and beliefs through written, visual, and tactile forms. Layers of flexible programming, a variety of space that supports neurodiversity, integration of hybrid technology solutions, and a spectrum of both communal and individual space combine to support a powerhouse team.
Project Inspiration: The client desired a true ad-agency aesthetic. We developed a Mad Men–inspired look, creating an environment rich in beautiful textures and materials, but dynamic and flexible enough to grow and adapt with the team.
The team members most desired flexibility, wanting to choose their environment based on the task. Pophouse delivered on this human-centric approach by providing a spectrum of unconventional office spaces: a speakeasy lounge concealed by a hidden pivot door, a sunken conversation pit flanked by hearth-like millwork, a communal cafe with an inviting arched entry, a creative library built for content collaboration, and a wellness suite to provide shelter and solace for individual respite. Together, they contribute to a workplace built on choice and balance.
Project Takeaway: The ideal workspace should be a destination for both productivity and culture, unite an organization, convey a sense of identity, provide a spectrum of diverse work settings, and provide a sense of belonging. A culture-driven space should consider the future potential of hybrid work to increase productivity, yet also provide an equitable experience for all team members. Amenity programming should not be overlooked as health and wellness will continue to be a priority focus within the workplace.
Project Challenges: This project was under construction when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, both halting progress and accelerating our design team’s need to evolve the plans we’d originally set forth. The concept of human communication and connection became even more important. Our team quickly shifted layouts, materiality, paths of travel, and signage and wayfinding in order to accommodate for an unknown future with both safety and wellness top of mind. We were able to integrate a variety of solutions to accommodate different workstyles as well as a hybrid team member presence, allowing the space to transcend now outdated office design standards.
Additional Details: Workplace strategy was the initial step in understanding the client’s needs for their space. By gathering critical information about the existing space and culture we recommended tactics that we believed would allow the business to prosper. This data-driven approach provides the key to building a successful workspace, allowing it to become an incubator for increased productivity, improve the team member experience, attract and retain talent, and optimize business outcomes.
We deployed this data-driven approach on this project through a combination of surveys, interviews, and focus groups. A survey was issued to the team to better understand the organization’s culture and the varying facets of work tasks that needed physical accommodation. Consideration was given to any areas where the team felt their space did not provide the functionality needed to thrive.
To ensure all team members were given a platform to share their feedback, we engaged the team in the process and discussed the results in a town hall format. This created an ongoing dialogue further deepening our understanding of the objectives for the space. We met with leaders of the various sub-teams to discover critical details and walked the space to observe and understand the rituals and behaviors firsthand. These measures guided the programming and schematic phases of our process allowing us to plan for crucial team adjacencies, types of space, and aesthetic choices representative of the team’s culture.