Design Forward with Newell Rubbermaid

A new design center accelerates the company's focus on innovation.

For Newell Rubbermaid, creating a global design center accelerates its quest to use great design and innovation as a competitive advantage. Its new 40,000-square-foot design center in Kalamazoo, Mich., was purpose-built to centralize its brand design talent, who work on products as wide-ranging as plastic storage, baby strollers, tools, and Sharpies.

Commissioned to create clean, contemporary interiors for the new center, Perkins + Will was inspired by the rich design heritage of Southwestern Michigan (home of Herman Miller, Steelcase, and other design-focused companies), as well as the natural beauty of the region and the products made there. The team created a clean palette of materials native to western Michigan, keeping the interiors neutral as a backdrop for the creation of diverse new products.

The P+W team chose patterns, textures, and sculptural approaches to express creativity and offer rhythms of inspiration. The most striking features are wall treatments made of Michigan ash, including a 200-foot-long latticework canopy that starts in the reception area and extends most of the building’s length, and a reception area feature wall made of end-grain Michigan ash, covered in a black stain that allows the grain to show through. P+W and Xibitz(Grand Rapids, Mich.) collaborated to create mock-ups and prototypes to confirm the design direction, and Xibitz fabricated and installed the interior elements.  

P+W’s objectives were to make sure the center was an attractive, inspiring space that would help the company recruit and retain designers, as well as appeal to partners in marketing and manufacturing. The space also introduces a new approach to design collaboration, with areas that house cross-functional work and maximize the sharing of ideas. Teaming hubs, private incubators, and lounges facilitate collaboration.

Immersion labs, where products are designed, made, and tested, are the focus of the center. So they’re called out by super-scaled numbers situated along an axis wall, cut from the slatted-ash wall treatments.

The overall result is a space where about 100 multidisciplinary design professionals work together toward a common goal: systematically improving the company’s products and product experience. 


Client: Newell Rubbermaid

Location: Kalamazoo, Mich.

Project Area: 9,100 sq. ft.

Open Date: 2014

Interior and Environmental Graphic Design: Perkins + Will

Design Team: Eva Maddox, David Sheehan, Ellen Anderson, Stephen Mai, Kim Rosseau

Fabrication: Xibitz Inc.

Photos: Steve Hall, Tom Harris

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