With an impending 20-year anniversary, a corporate uncoupling from PayPal, a new CEO and evolving brand guidelines, online retail and resale giant eBay sought the help of ESI Design to help provide a fresh, technology-driven “front door.”
New-York based experience design firm ESI Design recently led an initiative to design a new, centrally-located headquarters building called “Main Street” on eBay’s campus in San Jose, Calif. Main Street provides much-needed flexible work and meeting spaces and serves as the “front door” of the company. The building also is a representation of the company’s digital business, providing a means for employees and customers to interact with the brand in a digital, yet tangible way.
eBay and ESI Design had an existing relationship, having collaborated in the past. So when the eBay team commissioned ESI Design to redesign their lobby, both teams were enthusiastic to work together again. As the consultation and research phases began, the ESI and eBay teams began to define goals, parameters and stakeholders.
It was more complicated than that, though. eBay was undergoing a series of growing pains: a significant 20-year anniversary, separation from longtime partner PayPal, new leadership, as well as shifting values and priorities affecting the brand’s messaging and standards. The initial research and consultation revealed that eBay needed more than a refresh of their lobby and the project took a new direction.
The existing multi-building campus in San Jose was wanting for flexible, sizable meeting and presentation spaces, exacerbating a lack of a critical connectivity between groups, divisions and offices. Most importantly, though, the headquarters was not an accurate reflection of the company’s scale, sophistication, or reach. The necessity and desire for a revision to the brand identity was apparent. “Our primary goal for Main Street was to capture the pulse and vibrancy of eBay,” said eBay SVP Global Operations, Wendy Jones.
Imagining Main Street
ESI took the lead on conceptual, experience and branding design for the Main Street building, envisioning the space and its plan for use as well as the technical platforms and media content experiences to be deployed within. “We wanted to design a dynamic experiential environment which immerses eBay employees and visitors in the excitement of the company,” remarked Edwin Schlossberg, founder and principal designer of ESI Design.
The design team recommended the construction of a new building—a fully immersive, branded environment designed especially for eBay—large enough to function as a town hall space and fully equipped to increase interdepartmental communication and collaboration, dynamically showcasing eBay’s achievements.
The teams identified an under-utilized area on eBay’s San Jose campus on which to place the new facility, adjacent to a historic house that has been there since before eBay purchased the land. This presented one of the most challenging aspects of the Main Street project.
Initially the plan—due to city permitting—was to construct a temporary structure within a limited timeframe (six months). The design team went forward as far as the final design stages before the eBay team determined a permanent structure would provide a more beneficial ROI and thus
ESI worked closely with the Gensler architectural team to interpret the code requirements and accommodate them in the design without negatively impacting the overall experience.
Simple, open structures, such as greenhouses and airplane hangars served as the design inspiration for the Main Street building, which was designed by ESI Design with Gensler as the architect of record. The two-story glass-walled frame structure features sweeping views that make the space feel sunlit, open and airy. So open, in fact, the team took special care when designing the media surfaces to ensure that the content would be readable at all times of the day.
Several eBay teams were intimately involved in the project as well, as developing a physical structure with fully-integrated technology and media throughout, was a first for the company. ESI staff worked closely with various teams, facilitating coordination between multiple internal teams and vendors throughout the project.
The Main Street building showcases media installations at various scales that integrate live data from product transactions, as well as employee and community highlights that demonstrate eBay’s impact on the marketplace and on charitable giving. Telling the eBay story in an engaging, impactful way was key to communicating the company’s place in the global community. Working closely with personnel, the design team distilled vast amounts of user and product data into a bite-size format, employing the branded environment as a communications channel to tell that story.
“As you enter the building you get digital stories and experiences in incremental steps of scale, columns, and then larger touchscreen and then finally inside the biggest space of all this enormous custom iconic display,” remarked Ed Purver, senior designer, creative technology at ESI Design.
The centerpiece for the building’s data visualization is a 15-foot-tall interactive touch wall, constructed of nine separate LCD displays, located in the gallery area. The huge display functions in conjunction with an infrared camera, responding to the presence of guests by inviting up to three at a time to interact. The interactive experience allows visitors to explore the world of eBay commerce in a totally unprecedented way.
In contrast to many data visualizations in corporate environments, the team eschewed readily available data feeds in favor of crafting a signature data narrative with the help of the eBay Data Team. The data was pulled into a single stream, called the Main Street API, powering the multi-touch wall’s real-time visualizations.
The software, custom-built by Float4, Signet and ESI, displays surface data about transactions on eBay.com in real-time. By tapping on an icon, visitors can pull up statistics on how many items have been sold that day or hour, even the day’s most expensive item or top sellers. The interface enables instantaneous data parsing by hour or by category, comparing transactions over multiple days, following trending items and top sellers by genre.
The custom API also allows eBay staff to filter and update content or data in admin mode. The admin mode allows the creation of customized experiences at the multi-touch wall for presentations such as building tours. The columns are enabled to greet visitors with custom content as well.
In the Main Hall, an enormous cluster of LED displays support live presentations and webcasts. Between live events and meetings, the screens show colorful ambient content interspersed with trending data. A kiosk in the reception area allows visitors to browse and purchase eBay-branded merchandise using their mobile devices, thanks to an app developed by eBay's product team.
Jones explained, “[ESI] took eBay’s data and turned it into stories about the people, the products on our site, the vastness that is eBay as a global community, and really brought that to life in a special way.”
The eBay brand language of clean, modern, transparent and sophisticated was translated into every facet of the building and branding, from the windows and material finishes, to the furniture selection to the signage, which was designed by ESI and Gensler. ESI Design developed an “echo” motif for the signage. The type remains highly legible, while transmitting the idea of energy with lighter, "echoed" lines.
A white background was chosen for its clean, fresh feeling and to heighten contrast and legibility. Moving away from the bold, primary eBay colors, focusing solely on eBay blue, white, and black, the palette for the digital experience is sophisticated and professional. The Main Street building now features a notable branding addition: a rooftop logo, visible from the air and, of course, Google Maps, where the Main Street building is now listed as eBay’s official HQ.
Main Street isn’t looked at as just a building by eBay staff, it is seen as an inspirational new way to spotlight the people, products, and impact of the company, bringing teams together. The meeting spaces are still booked out 60 days in advance because of the popularity of the space.
"Main Street has infused so much more energy, so much more pride amongst our employee base; both here in Silicon Valley and around the world—I don’t think I would’ve said before that a building could do that,” concludes Jones.
Project Name: eBay Corporate Campus – Main Street
Client: eBay Inc.
Location: San Jose, CA
Open Date: June 2016
Project Area: 20,000 sq ft
Experiential Graphic Design: ESI Design
Landscape Architect: SSA
Planning: ESI Design
Systems Integration: Diversified Systems
Systems Design: DMG and Diversified Systems
Software Design: Float4 and Signet
Customized CMS: Signet
Structural Engineers: AKF
Fabricator: Blach Construction
Photos: Erynn Patrick and eBay