ActiveCampaign’s Employee-Centric HQ in Chicago

See how this Chicago tech company who quadrupled their staff in less than two years, created a warm, energetic space to support it’s rapid growth. Hint: it involves 57 small conference rooms.

In less than two years, marketing software company ActiveCampaign quadrupled its staff, becoming a buzzworthy name in the tech industry and one of the fastest growing companies in Chicago. CEO & Founder Jason VandeBoom envisioned a new office that was truly employee-centric; with flexible open workspace, social meeting areas, and quiet work rooms; giving employees options on how and where to work.

ActiveCampaign aimed to avoid the monotony of a large corporate office, and worked with Eastlake Studio to visualize a warm, energetic office space that embodies the company culture. The location of the new headquarters, a 52,000-square foot single floor office in the hundred-year-old One North Dearborn building, gave Eastlake Studio the opportunity to bring ActiveCampaign’s unique vision to life. Original crown molding and large windows hint at the history of the building, while new elements revolve around a theme of rustic, industrial materials, along with references to ActiveCampaign’s fantasy and sci-fi loving nerd culture

The reception area’s custom perforated metal desk and wall make for a bold first impression. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

The reception area’s custom perforated metal desk and wall make for a bold first impression. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

When was the project completed?   

2017

How much space?     

52,000 RSF / 43,000 USF

Was this new or renovated space?

Renovated

SF per person?     

148 RSF per person / 123 USF per person

Although there is color throughout the space, the entry is restrained to black and white. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

Although there is color throughout the space, the entry is restrained to black and white. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

How many employees?

150 at move-in; 350 within one year

What is average daily population?

Currently, 250.

Describe work-space types.

Each individual has an assigned height-adjustable workstation in the open office.  They have a variety of work-space choices:  quiet individual phone rooms, meeting rooms of all sizes, relaxed lounge areas.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

Large and small. High tech and low tech. Formal and informal. Open and enclosed. Phone rooms. Flexible town hall / event space.

The office features an open layout with plenty of breakaway spaces. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

The office features an open layout with plenty of breakaway spaces. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

What other kind of support space or amenity spaces are provided? 

The flexible town hall is used in a variety of ways from sharing meals, lounging, working as individuals or groups, all-company events, outside speakers, etc.

A remote, alley-facing, dark area of the office was transformed by Eastlake into a shelf-lined game room and leisure area with the feel of an old-fashioned men’s club. One bookshelf doubles as revolving door, hiding a “speakeasy” style lounge for happy hour strategy sessions.

Colorful LED lights and textured paneling enhance a whopping 57 small conference rooms, named after fictitious locations by employees.

What is the project’s location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities? 

Yes, it is centrally located in the Loop, a few blocks from Millennium Park and many of Chicago’s most iconic spaces. It’s near main train and bus lines, and there is a CTA station directly in front of the building connecting tenants to the entire city. It’s also a close walk to Union Station, connecting people to the surrounding suburbs and Amtrak.

Wall-grazing lights highlight the texture of sculpted wall panels in each of the small meeting rooms. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

Wall-grazing lights highlight the texture of sculpted wall panels in each of the small meeting rooms. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

Was the C-suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?

Yes, very much so. The CEO, CFO and marketing director were the only people we interacted with from a design perspective. They were hands on in every meeting selecting furniture, materials and throughout the construction process.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?

We initially did an all company survey to get input from everyone on their wishes for the space. From there we went through a vision exercise with the team to get a handle on things they liked and narrowed down to three different looks that we thought best represented their culture and brand.

Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?

Yes.

Branding was a key design element for the rapidly growing marketing software company. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

Branding was a key design element for the rapidly growing marketing software company. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

Were there any other kind of employee engagement activities?

The employees internally had a competition to come up with a theme for the conference rooms. They were all named by fictional places in books, movies and other pop culture references. They internally designed graphics for all of the different shared spaces.

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.

A small recording studio.

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?

We created a fully custom, backlit perforated metal reception desk and wall with ActiveCampaign’s logo on it. We also had the bookshelf door made to swivel open, revealing a secret meeting room inside.

Steeped seating in the café area is used as relaxed workspace and for all-staff presentations. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

Steeped seating in the café area is used as relaxed workspace and for all-staff presentations. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

For specific examples, please describe the product, how it was used, and if it solved any specific problem.

We wanted to create a high impact entryway with prominent branding, to help announce the dynamic company culture as a first impression. The perforated metal desk and wall achieved our goals, and added a striking, unique element to the workplace.

What were the major furniture products used?

What was the hard cost PSF/construction?

$100 PSF

Each of the 57 small meeting rooms are named for favorite science fiction and fantasy locations. The list was conceived by the staff. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

Each of the 57 small meeting rooms are named for favorite science fiction and fantasy locations. The list was conceived by the staff. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

We used ActiveCampaign’s logo several places, but most prominently in the perforated metalwork reception area and the company’s name is painted in large, graphic letters in the elevator corridor, visible through the glass entryway.

What is the most unique feature of the new space? 

The 57 small conference rooms named for fantasy and sci-fi locations are unique, as is the hidden speakeasy meeting room, hidden behind a bookshelf door.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?

The Knoll workstations (adjustable-height) promote wellness, and the numerous lounge and amenities spaces support wellbeing.

The large office is divided into four zones of color to assist with wayfinding, and the lights correspond to the colored graphic film labeling each room. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

The large office is divided into four zones of color to assist with wayfinding, and the lights correspond to the colored graphic film labeling each room. Image courtesy of Steve Hall and Kendall McCaugherty with Hall + Merrick Photographers.

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