Designer Forum: ID Studios delivers WD-40’s dream of an inspirational work environment - Jul 18
By Deborah Elliott
WD-40 Company is a global marketing organization headquartered in San Diego, California, where the original WD-40 Multi-Use Product was invented nearly 65 years ago. Above and beyond that signature blue and yellow can with the little red top instantly recognized worldwide, WD-40 Company encompasses a group of brands featuring a range of high-performance maintenance, specialty and cleaning products.
When the company decided to consolidate its outdated former offices and an ad-hoc array of satellite offices under one purpose-driven roof, Garry Ridge, president and CEO of WD-40 Company, set about to find a design firm to accept the challenge. Ridge describes the aspirations for the project through a quote from a friend, Simon Sinek: “Imagine a world in which the vast majority of people wake up every single day inspired to go to work, feel safe when they’re there and return home at the end of the day fulfilled by the work that they do.” It was WD-40 Company’s intention to bring that dream to life, and it selected ID Studios to deliver it.
A CULTURE BASED ON VALUE
During the initial research, ID Studios found that WD-40 Company cultivates a uniquely collaborative culture based on a set of strong value statements, starting with, “We value doing the right thing.” The company was committed to making the design process equally collaborative, while ID Studios was determined to provide solutions to help its employees “succeed as a tribe while excelling as individuals.” As a result of that initial research, the focus became the company’s culture, history, international presence and the markets served, while “sustaining the WD-40 Company economy” and refraining from opulent solutions.
Finding innovative and unique ways to express company culture became the design team’s passion. Although WD-40 Company markets a wide variety of products, they are all bound by the nature of hands-on work. To creatively express the everyday nature of the company, the design team invented imaginative uses for commonplace items. From the ceiling to the floors, the unassuming but often complex nature of common materials was at play. The result is an immersive experience that begins upon arrival at the front door.
DESIGN STARTS HERE
Since WD-40 is such an iconic product, using the red, blue and yellow of the can would be an obvious choice, but the design team didn’t want the can to be omnipresent in the office when it’s only one of a multitude of products. On the other hand, by painting the exposed structural steel red, it gives a subtle nod to the straw included with their most recognizable product without it being an overwhelming statement.
A series of intersecting pipes installed in the lobby reminds visitors where the company’s products are commonly stored-under the sink. An eclectic collection of multiple time-zone clocks gives a nod to its international offices.
The raw polished concrete flooring running through the high-use common space on the ground floor is no accident. However, what started as a seemingly simple task of revealing the foundation of the building required just as much work-if not more work-than covering it up with a flooring product. The end result is a beautiful and functional flooring that is also reminiscent of garages everywhere.
A monument stair is the starting point for a series of “trails” leading through the office. Mannington Commercial’s ColorScape rubber treads in Night Black and New Geranium were selected to reflect a more industrial look. Custom graphics placed on the risers as well as historical pictures on the walls guide visitors through the humble beginnings of a small, fledgling lab in 1953 San Diego called the Rocket Chemical Company and the 40 tries it took to perfect its Water Displacement formula, subsequently named WD-40.
Within the space, three unique, casual and fun central gathering hubs were created to enhance the tone for the office and help fulfill another company value by giving employees space to “create positive lasting memories.” These collaborative meeting spaces are referred to as the Garage, the Cantina and the Living Room.
The Garage is a gathering space that includes tool-chest-red cabinets, polished concrete floors and a wall full of collected license plates. The Cantina suggests an Australian Homestead with wood-look floors and a double-pitch roof structure to help provide a front-porch experience along with games such as shuffleboard and ping pong. Comfortable seating, entertainment and connection to the outdoors complete the homestead feel. The Living Room includes homey furniture, a coffee bar and a mock-fireplace for a lake-house vibe. While the Garage flooring reflects its industrial roots, the flooring in the Australian Outback Cantina and Living Room utilize a warmer, wood-look LVT from Mohawk Group called Select Step in Barnwood Chestnut. Not only does LVT give a softer look, it also adds acoustical value while maintaining long-term wear and low maintenance benefits.
These gathering hubs were designed for collaboration and accidental interactions between employees of various departments who don’t typically meet. Interacting with people outside of one’s silo can lead to previously unconceived insight and solutions. These are a jumping-off point to promote creativity where employees can “own it and passionately act on it” as declared in another one of the company’s value statements.
In the heads-down workspaces, the goal was to make the layout highly functional. It started with an extensive strategic plan where employees were interviewed to understand work-related connections and adjacencies. The team designed the spaces to address the employees’ desire for a more cohesive and collaborative environment with multiple furniture solutions. In the closed and open office spaces, Bentley Mills’ Troubadour carpet tile in Rover from the New Bohemian collection was used for added comfort and to help maintain acoustical privacy. Bentley’s Wanderlust in Firefly from the same collection was used in the conference rooms.
Specialty flooring also has a place. Zandur’s Sustain cork rubber flooring in the fitness center provides injury-preventing cushion and shock absorption properties as well as sound dampening properties.
Emser porcelain tile products were specified for the locker room. Vogue tile in Biscuit was used on the wall to complement Velocity tile in Pulse on the floor, which provides more slip resistance than polished concrete. Cosmopolitan in Timber small format tile was used in the shower for additional safety. Both Velocity and Cosmopolitan are highly functional, while also having the benefit of contributing to the overall look and feel of the space.
Employee satisfaction surveys were used as an important follow-up to keep the channels of communication open at WD-40 Company. They show that 94.2% of employees are excited about the WD-40 Company’s future direction and 93.6% of employees agree that WD-40 Company encourages employees to continually improve in their job to make it “better than it is today.”
The owner and design team were relentless in ensuring the project’s success and collaborated to fulfill WD-40 Company’s objectives for this space. Employees are proud to work there, to tell the story showcased in their space, and to operate in an environment that enhances their culture-a success by any design standard.
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