IDEO San Francisco

An Open Office on the Bay

When updating the San Francisco offices of global design giant IDEO, boundaries inevitably get pushed.

Design for Designers

IDEO is known worldwide for applying design thinking to nearly every kind of problem: new technologies, better education systems, streamlined services. When it was time to update their San Francisco offices, IDEO partnered with Jensen Architects to design the next iteration of their flexible, free-address workplace. Located at San Francisco’s Pier 28 Annex, the raw space still feels like a workshop, only here teams workshop design problems and tinker with solutions. Rapid prototyping, often part of IDEO’s process, became an important tool in the design. Concepts were mocked up at full scale so staff could get a feel for how they would work and provide feedback to the Jensen team.

A Flexible Canvas

The office is ringed with various types of open work spaces, from small hives of desks with entire walls serving as whiteboards, to lounge-like areas where couches are gathered around a screen. Dedicated workstations are long gone; staff plug into the setting that best suits their task. Jensen imagined the space as a canvas for creativity; the neutral palette takes cues from the historic pier and lets the activity come into relief. Only the blue hanging partitions call attention. These perforated felt divides slide along rails for easy re-arrangement to contain sound while maintaining open sight lines.

Tune Out

Even in the most collaborative workspaces, there are always times that call for confidentiality. Jensen’s layout creates confidentiality through space — conference rooms and “war rooms” that require privacy from the action. Comfortable “phone booths” with glass doors are nested within the open areas, so staff can pop in to make secure calls whenever needed.

Fostering Ideas

IDEO is a place of ideas and this spirit permeates every aspect of its workplace. The kitchen and café space looks out onto the Embarcadero, taking in the energy of the city and the dramatic location at the base of the Bay Bridge. The café and the office space as a whole provides ample room for informal conversations, so important to the creative endeavor. The space also flexes to accommodate in-house discussions and events engaging IDEO’s community of visionaries.

San Francisco


2013 IIDA Northern California Notable Award for Work Small


Architectural Record, September 2014


Project Leads
Mark Jensen
Gretchen Krebs
Project Team
Andy Pluess
Kyle Belcher


Jeffrey Weber & Associates
Glumac Engineers
Myers Engineering Group


Johnstone McAuliffe Construction


Courtesy of IDEO