Fancy art and rooftop decks: Peek inside 6 of Chicago's coolest tech offices

by Andreas Rekdal
April 19, 2017

Gone are the days of cubicles and generic corporate furniture. In a typical workweek, even nine-to-fivers spend more of their waking hours at work than they do in their apartments. So for companies that want to keep their employees happy, it's important to create a space where people feel at home.

We asked six Chicago tech companies about what makes their offices special. Their answers ranged from artwork to comfy couches and rooftops.



Location: The Loop

Square footage: 29,000 square feet

Favorite design feature: “My favorite place to work is a somewhat hidden open area of our office that has comfy chairs and whiteboards to write on, making it easy to hang out and collaborate with my co-workers,” said Civis Analytics operations manager Miriam Chan. “From a true design perspective, my absolute favorite feature is the mural in our elevator, painted by Stephen Monkemeier. The abstract mural is an homage to the evolution of data science — from data visualizations to the machines used to store and process data — yet also a nod to our company history; that is, if you can find the easter eggs!”

Biggest design priority: “We wanted to design a space where our employees feel like they're at home,” said Chan. “Whether with our stand or sit desks, bleachers in the cafe, booths, or cozy couches and chairs in various corners of the office, our employees can choose to sit (or stand!) and work however they are most comfortable.”




Location: Merchandise Mart, San Francisco, London, Singapore and Sydney

Square footage: 80,000 square feet in Chicago

Favorite design feature: “Our entire office has a lot of personality, but our office bar in particular is beautiful,” said Braintree facilities manager Curt Swank. “Called ‘The Last Word,’ the bar overlooks the Chicago River and is a great space for teams to relax and unwind after a productive day at work.”

Biggest design priority: “Providing a collaborative yet fun work place was important to us, so we weaved it through our entire office design,” said Swank.




Location: River North

Square footage: A wee bit over 10,000 square feet

Favorite design feature: "I would say the best feature we have is the one we created. It's what we like to call our 'candidate corner' — an area in our office that we've set up to accommodate new candidates coming in for interviews,” said ReviewTrackers founder and CEO Chris Campbell. “In it, you'll find snacks, drinks, a relaxing couch and a place where you can immerse yourself in our culture. From pictures, to light-up signs highlighting one of our team quotes (‘seize the day’) or awards we've won — it's a place where newcomers to our space can experience our culture without even having met anyone yet."

Biggest design priority: "To have a space that we could grow in, feel at home in and, most importantly, exude our personalities in,” said Campbell. “We had outgrown our offices every year for the past four years, and this time we wanted a place that would hold us for a bit longer. The design of the space accommodates each team in their own ways, while providing a warm atmosphere for new candidates when they visit our office for the first time."




Locations: Ravenswood / Lincoln Square and River North

Square footage: 90,000 square feet including its recently added space for the Liftoff training program

Favorite design feature: “The artwork that fills the walls of our corporate office is one of our favorite features,” said Guaranteed Rate founder and CEO Victor Ciardelli. “Custom pieces are placed throughout Guaranteed Rate’s hallways and rock ‘n’ roll and sports-themed conference rooms. Not only does artwork make our space fun and unique, it facilitates creativity in the workplace.”

Biggest design priority: “When designing the space, we created an open floor plan that fosters collaboration and fast communication,” Ciardelli said. “Since most managers sit in the open space, they’re always accessible and approachable to their teams. We also want the space to cater around one of our core values of being healthy, balanced and fun, and our roof deck truly exemplifies that. It’s complete with Wi-Fi, two bars, grills, music, a foosball table, darts and a ping pong table. Employees enjoy the roof deck for team meetings, but also for company events, such as happy hours.”




Square footage: 23,500 square feet

Location: The Loop

Favorite design feature: “I appreciate the openness of the space; it has the look and feel of a loft despite being in a high-rise,” said Yello CFO Brian Burke. “Even with over 135 employees, we are able to have company meetings with everyone in one room. It definitely helps with team building and contributes to our collaborative culture.”

Biggest design priority: “When we decided to consolidate our team from three floors into a combined space, the number one priority was to increase communication,” said Burke. “This office provides multiple informal meeting areas — lounge areas with couches and plenty of tables — for impromptu gatherings between members of different departments.”




Location: West Loop

Square footage: 5,000 square feet

Favorite design feature: “I love the wide-openness of the space,” said Bucketfeet co-founder and chief artist Aaron Firestein. “It allows for people to interact with each other in a very fluid way and it keeps everyone on an even playing field, regardless of title or seniority.”

Biggest design priority: “We wanted to make sure it was a good place for people to collaborate in small or large groups,” said Firestein. “We also wanted to make sure there was ample room to showcase artwork — obviously a very important part of our company's DNA.”



Images via listed companies.

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