Got Milk? The New Branded Offices of the Dairy Farmers of America Do

The Branded Headquarters of the Dairy Farmers of America Tell the “Story of Milk”

The Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) asked Dimensional Innovations to visually showcase their story throughout their new branded headquarters located in Kansas City, Kansas. Partnering with the building architect, HOK, Dimensional Innovations designed and fabricated multiple unique elements and signage within the visually stunning office space, including a dramatic 29-foot-tall milk sculpture in the lobby that resembles milk being poured from the ceiling to the floor.

All of the custom elements created surround the “Story of Milk” – the central focus of all DFA employees, farmers and partners. With milk tying everything together, white is a key color used throughout the space, but is made incredibly interesting through custom wall textures that feature casts of milk-related tools, such as ice cream scoops on one wall and cheese graters on another. Another wall uses reclaimed wood from a former red barn in nearby Lawson, Missouri, giving authenticity to the colors and textures. There’s also a wall of acrylic bubbles to represent milk foam, and another that recalls grass all in an effort to depict the farm-to-table journey that milk travels and textures that any dairy farmer would easily recognize.

The focal point of DFA's headquarters is a 29-foot-tall milk sculpture in the lobby. Image courtesy of Dimensional Innovations (Alex Grigsby).
The focal point of DFA’s headquarters is a 29-foot-tall milk sculpture in the lobby. Image courtesy of Dimensional Innovations (Alex Grigsby).

When was the project completed?  

May 2017

How much space (SF)?

110,000-square-foot building

Describe workspace types.

There is an open plan for the majority of the office, although there are a limited number of executive offices.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided? 

There are several meeting rooms, and open collaborative spaces. The space as a whole is very open and flexible. They can accommodate large meeting groups, but also have small huddle areas for casual meetings and conversations.

To create the milk sculpture, Dimensional Innovations poured multiple glasses of milk to study how milk flows from a pitcher, took photos, made sketches, and used 3D modeling software to fine-tune the design. Image courtesy of Michael Robinson.
To create the milk sculpture, Dimensional Innovations poured multiple glasses of milk to study how milk flows from a pitcher, took photos, made sketches, and used 3D modeling software to fine-tune the design. Image courtesy of Michael Robinson.

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

A milk bar, which is the DFA version of the water cooler. This gathering space sits along side the cafeteria. There are also open-air conference rooms in the courtyard, a dining area and an onsite gym.

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

It’s got great highway access and access to retail/food options in one of Kansas City’s premier shopping destinations.

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

Yes. DFA came to us to help them create a very special place. Discovering what that meant to them took some time. They were patient enough to join us on a journey that helped define a space that is truly THEM. At some point, trust becomes a big part of the journey. We learned from them and they learned from us, and the vision started to take shape. The milk sculpture was the big idea. Once we had that, everything else kind of fell into place. We engaged with the C-suite throughout the project to verify our direction and to make sure their vision was being met.

DFA's "Eat Good Food" Cafeteria continues the milky theme of the headquarters. Image courtesy of Dimensional Innovations (Alex Grigsby).
DFA’s “Eat Good Food” Cafeteria continues the milky theme of the headquarters. Image courtesy of Dimensional Innovations (Alex Grigsby).

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?

We like to develop sample persona paths to illustrate how the building will be used by different groups and visitors to the client. We then start to overlay the brand story on top of that.

Were there any other kind of employee engagement activities?

No, we had a core group of leadership from the DFA that all items ran through.

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

The physical solution tells the story of milk – on its journey from farm to table. So, as you walk through the space, you follow milk from cow/farm to truck/farmer to maker to table. But, the trick is that this process does not hit you over the head. The installations are intriguing enough on their own that you forget that you are being lead on a journey. You realize it in the end.

DFA's "Milk Bar" is the equivalent of other office's water cooler. Image courtesy of Dimensional Innovations (Alex Grigsby).
DFA’s “Milk Bar” is the equivalent of other office’s water cooler. Image courtesy of Dimensional Innovations (Alex Grigsby).

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

The DFA made it very clear very early that everything needed to be integrated into the architecture. In short, no mechanical fasteners or seams. We worked closely with our fabrication team to develop solutions that achieved this goal. Part of the magic of the final design is that items, especially the casting walls, seem to be coming out of the architecture. It completes the illusion and delivers another level of wow.

One of the wow-moments in the space is the 29-foot-tall milk sculpture in the lobby. The sculpture hides a structural column, and our design team had to work through a number of iterations to get the design of the milk pour to look realistic when expanded to 29-feet. In order to do that, our designers poured more glasses of milk than they care to count to study how milk flows from a pitcher. They took pictures of milk pours, made sketches and then used 3D modeling software to fine-tune the design. DFA also had the caveat that the sculpture could have no seams.

It took six weeks for our fabrication team to craft the sculpture, which is made of sign foam. Another logistical challenge, was getting it inside of the building. It was delivered in three sections, and attaching it to the ceiling was an incredibly tight fit.

Installations like this ice cream scoop casts wall, along with others that feature cheese graters and milk bottle caps further the brand in a tasteful way. Image courtesy of Dimensional Innovations (Alex Grigsby).
Installations like this ice cream scoop casts wall, along with others that feature cheese graters and milk bottle caps, further the brand in a tasteful way. Image courtesy of Dimensional Innovations (Alex Grigsby).

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

The storytelling elements throughout the space support a consistent and clear message to both clients and employees, and set the stage for their company culture. Additions, like the Milk Bar, are natural gathering spaces and contribute to the well-being of their employees, which aids in retention.

What is the most unique feature of the new space? 

The milk sculpture takes center stage as the grand-opening to the story of milk that is poured throughout the space in smaller design elements. Many of the design elements pay homage to life on the farm and the production of milk, including upholsteries like plaid and cow hide for some of the seating areas. Artistic feature walls showcase aspects of DFA’s business, from a barn board and grass wall to milk bottle caps to steel pipes representing the cooperatives’ numerous milk processing plants.

Did anyone else contribute significantly to the project? 

DFA's headquarters feature a mostly open plan layout. Image courtesy of Michael Robinson.
DFA’s headquarters feature a mostly open plan layout. Image courtesy of Michael Robinson.
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