IA Interior Architects' Game Changer—LinkedIn San Francisco

IA Interior Architects brought fun (and games!) to LinkedIn’s new 440,000-square-foot San Francisco office, designing placemaking installations that bring employees together to work, collaborate and play.


The façade of LinkedIn’s new office introduces itself with pulsing blue LED lights. The recently built San Francisco tower is a massive 440,000 square feet and 26 floors of office space located in the SoMa (South of Market) neighborhood—a vibrant section of the city, that houses many of the city’s museums and tech companies. Inside, the tower is composed of 23 floors of workspaces and three amenity floors that include: reception, a full-size gym, small and large event spaces, cafeteria, training room, roof terraces, a maker space, a juice bar and user-experience labs. 

IA Interior Architects was brought in to work on the San Francisco office’s interiors and experiential graphics, as LinkedIn was happy with their past work. IA teams had previously completed full or partial LinkedIn offices in New York, Chicago, Toronto, San Paolo and Mountain View. LinkedIn’s plans for a new office in the city were as a supplement to their Mountain View headquarters; they wanted to have more of a presence in San Francisco proper. IA’s Chicago and San Francisco teams collaborated on the project, with the graphics team led by Julie Maggos, who worked on all the LinkedIn projects, save for San Paolo.

The intimidating scope of work included an ADA-compliant signage and wayfinding scheme, room categorization, color-coded signs and window films, exterior lighting and signage and interactive elements throughout 18 of the 26 floors during “phase one.” The client’s stated target was to create a fun, flexible, fully-immersive brand experience for employees that challenges traditional office ideas of collaboration, well-being and relationship-building—a standout “game changer.” For LinkedIn, the creation of unique community experiences, which include local flavors and textures, was paramount for the project’s success.

For each office location, LinkedIn wanted their workspace to be simultaneously a LinkedIn branded space and an exclusive reflection of the local surroundings. “The Toronto office was very ‘Toronto,’ New York was very ‘New York’ and San Francisco had to be very ‘San Francisco.’ We really had to dive into what that means…It had to be personal—the inside scoop on San Francisco—and enough of it to fill 18 floors worth,” Maggos explains.

To kick-off the design phase, the IA team worked closely with a LinkedIn project team composed from both the Mountain View and San Francisco offices. This combined team  held a three-day, closed-door brain-storming charrette with the goal of determining potential themes. The session was the beginning of the process which spanned 20 months.



The design team set out to answer the challenge by bringing a sense of community in the large space down to an individual level through interactive elements. But first, the scale of the project and the imperative for variety, required the creation of a strategic framework based around experiential graphics that considered installation locations based on the activity of visitors, employees and potential recruits. The client wanted each floor to have a theme, but also for the scheme to be legible, so that there was no risk of the space becoming overwhelming or difficult to navigate.

This translated into the same elements on each floor: interactive wall, staff wall, break room, and art displays. The interactive game wall and staff photo wall are the two anchoring installations on each floor that bring the floor’s employees together in a highly social space, effectively integrating “team-building” into the entire work experience. The interactive game walls also introduce the floor’s theme, yet are changeable so the visual is potentially in a constant state of flux, as employees can take a break, leave notes for co-workers, get to know each other and display their artwork in these staff-centric spaces.

The locations of these elements and even the architectural millwork are consistent on each floor, but the graphic content intentionally varies by way of a theme and color inspired by San Francisco. The themes are not tied to departments or segments of the LinkedIn staff purposefully because departments and employees are meant to move around in the flexible workspace. In fact, management aims to encourage movement between floors, by ensuring that each floor has a specific draw that enhances the user experience and nurtures collaboration.

The floor themes carry through to room names and décor, from the color palette inspired by local neighborhood graffiti art to rooms names for lesser-known San Francisco landmarks, like coffee roasteries and the city’s oldest bars. Colors are layered throughout, through furniture, finishes, signage and graphics.

This multifaceted solution over 18 floors required a herculean organization effort from the IA design teams, which they stored in the cloud. Maggos remembers, “Box.com was our cloud-space, we also used a Microsoft Live Excel sheet that was shared with Moss [the fabricator]. We were constantly making notes to each other in that document between meetings.” They held weekly meetings with both the fabricator and the client throughout the project.



In each of LinkedIn’s offices, there is an intentional “selfie spot” built into the reception area to greet visitors and employees—in Toronto, it was big enough to sit inside; in Chicago, it was made of string and in San Francisco? It had to have a changeable, digital element yet the mark had to be static.

The eight-foot-tall logo accomplishes exactly that in a deceptively simple way using an easily updateable digital screen inside a sign cabinet, forming the rounded square and negative space of the “in” logo mark. “The LinkedIn team updates all the graphics all the time, from rainbows for Pride Week to Golden State Warriors colors during the NBA playoffs,” gushes Maggos, especially proud of the solution.

The content management system for the large logo is tied to a digital wayfinding system found in the elevator lobbies of each floor—a tactic employed by the team to help direct employees to the various amenities and available conference rooms on each floor. The elevator lobbies are special for another reason though: Murals on the ceilings of each lobby were created by local artists using the color palette of the given floor. 

“We gave them the overall theme of LinkedIn connections and the global economy; each artist took a wide interpretation of what that means and there’s a little plaque outside each elevator with information about the artist and their statement,” says Maggos. Another notable feature in that space recalls a bit of the city’s architectural history: floor numbers constructed from stacks of crown molding.

That’s just the beginning of each floor’s special experience, though. The fourth floor features a park theme for posting photos on artificial turf, the seventh a maze that leads players to a relaxing local destination and the eleventh floor, with a “San Francisco Authors” theme, showcases a giant magnetic Hunter S. Thompson Mad Libs interactive. The “San Francisco Artists” themed floor is complete with mini-canvases, where employees can draw a picture.

The eighth floor’s theme, “video games set in San Francisco,” is beset with an interactive “pixel wall” that invites users to rotate tri-colored rod-mounted pieces to create their own art. The piece was custom designed and built by Moss Environments after receiving parameters from IA. Moss hired a resin artist to help complete the work. “Moss really took it to the next level—it’s fun—it’s really fun to interact with, you can’t help but go up and flip them,” says Maggos.

LinkedIn’s global brand messaging still finds its place within the local storylines of the building and nowhere is this more apparent than in the corridor outside the “All Hands Auditorium” where they hold weekly full-staff meetings, presentations or host inspirational talks. The space also is sometimes used for guests, so it’s important, both internal and external-facing and well-traveled.

An anamorphic graphic in the hall reads “Focus on what matters,” which is a core tenant of LinkedIn. “The long hallway allowed us to do the anamorphic graphic, which of course worked perfectly for what the message is,” remarks Maggos “you have to be in one particular spot to get the message but it’s still an interesting effect throughout the corridor.”

The effect was achieved through using the existing modeling in Revit to overlay the graphic, then splice and morph it to test how it would work. They then made it into elevations and gave them to the fabricator, Moss,  who created full-size templates that were used in the space to align and trace the graphic. Then a painter came in and painted it onsite. Maggos admits “We solicited advice from the SEGDtalk community on how to do this, which was very helpful.”

Another outstanding piece of branding signage sits atop a terrace on the seventeenth floor, crafted larger-than-life in perforated steel, transparent enough to allow the stunning city views through. The team knew the deck would be getting a lot of use because of the amazing views, so they decided to use it for a backdrop for LinkedIn’s video content. The design team was loathe to ruin the view, so they figured out what the placement of the camera would be for the video shoots and placed the logo accordingly.



The bar for the design team had been set high with this project, from the concept, to the scope to the short timeframe. As Maggos says, they had to “continuously push to do things we’d never done before.” The client wanted a lot of the project to be changeable and interactive for the employees, finding ways to keep the installations fresh.

Says Maggos of the process: “On day one it should be fun, but it should still be fun on day 600. The challenge was ‘how do we make things that are continuously interactive?’” They went for solutions like LEGOs, Mad Libs, maze and photo-driven installations because they encourage play, collaboration and interaction between coworkers, but also because they can easily be changed again and again.

Moss Environments was an integral partner to the design team in this project. The massive scope of custom work was something that the IA team knew Moss’ team could handle, even sending a specialist from Chicago to ensure that every day of the months-long install went without a hitch.

The strategy and technique employed by all teams has decidedly paid off. From the opening, social media channels were alight with photos of employees and the space. “It was amazing—the number of people posting selfies in front of the logos [and installations]. Immediately that was a win-win,” remarks Maggos. LinkedIn created hashtags to help track the buzz and the result was the sort of splash desirable in tech-heavy San Francisco. A year later, the client is still happy with the space.

By focusing on employees, LinkedIn’s new workplace celebrates personalization, energy, and most of all—inspired connections.

Project Name: LinkedIn San Francisco

Client: LinkedIn

Location: San Francisco, CA

Open Date: July 2016

Project Area: 440,000 sq ft


Experiential Graphic Design: IA Interior Architects— Julie Maggos, Meghan O'Donnell, Christine Lai, Amanda Eggleston, Rachel Alpert, Kevin Funkhouser, Haden Miller

Interior Design: IA Interior Architects—Neil Schneider, Adrienne Harbarger, Michelle Hoffman, Ruben Gonzalez, Kevin Lieberman, Amy Ehara

Lighting Design: IA Interior Architects—Gary Bouthillette, Meghan Howell.

Project Management: IA Interior Architects—Carolyn Tucker, Colin O'Malley


Fabrication: Moss Environments (environmental graphic fabricators), Jason Hawk & Trevor O'Neill (resin artists), Artisan Moss (botanical wall art), Mission Bell (woodwork), Swinerton Builders (general contractor)


Photos: Eric Laignel

























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