- Open Office
- Private Office
For e-commerce company Kynetic—one of the largest private technology companies in the United States—setting up a headquarters was as much about creating a brand as it was about moving to a new home.
Founded by entrepreneur Michael G. Rubin, the suburban Philadelphia company operates three consumer Internet businesses: Fanatics, ShopRunner, and Rue La La.
The trio of online brands—the first a retailer of licensed sports merchandise, the second a members-only shopping service, and the third a flash sales site—have been around for a while. They came into the Kynetic fold upon being spun off from another Rubin-founded business after it was acquired by eBay.
As their new holding company, however, Kynetic is something of a blank slate. That’s why the company was eager to build its brand as it built its headquarters.
“We wanted our workplace to help establish who we are,” says Kynetic Vice President Saj Cherian. “There are plenty of ways to build a brand over time, but few can make an impression faster than one look around our offices.”
While they were at it, Kynetic planners believed the outfitting of their new headquarters might also present a good opportunity to further distinguish the company’s e-commerce brands, especially Fanatics and ShopRunner.
THE LOOK OF E-COMMERCE
The exterior of Kynetic’s headquarters has a gritty flavor evocative of the steel manufacturer that once occupied the site. Inside, exposed trusses, ductwork, and brick contribute to the semi-industrial look.
“Kynetic wanted to convey an energetic work style befitting a dynamic Internet company,” says Amy Patricia Gallagher of Environetics, the architecture and design firm that worked on the project. “The idea was to achieve an aesthetic that would elicit an immediate reaction from visitors: This is what an e-commerce environment should look like.”
An admirer of mid-century modern furniture, Kynetic’s Cherian was sure of one thing going into the project: He wanted to incorporate Eames Lounge Chairs from Herman Miller. “Eames screams bold, modern, and American,” he says. “That’s who we are, and that’s the look we were seeking.”
Cherian’s top choice landed in Kynetic’s executive lounge, but ultimately proved to be a fraction of Herman Miller’s presence.
Open areas and private offices for both the Fanatics and ShopRunner brands feature Mirra chairs and Canvas Office Landscape workstations. Kynetic executive offices showcase Eames Executive Chairs and Geiger Tablet desks. Meanwhile, informal collaboration areas throughout rely heavily on Swoop Lounge Furniture.
“The project evolved from Eames Lounge Chairs to a whole lot more,” says Chuck Epstein of Herman Miller dealer Premier Office Solutions. “Kynetic came to the conclusion that Herman Miller offered a number of ways to reflect the aesthetic it wanted.”
THREE BRANDS, ONE SPACE
In outfitting its headquarters, Kynetic sought to create cohesion among its various brands while still establishing a distinct identify for each.
The Kynetic offices, for instance, boast higher-end Geiger desks in a rich walnut finish, whereas Canvas workstations in the Fanatics and ShopRunner areas feature a light maple finish for a more casual look.
As for seating, leather Eames chairs set the tone for Kynetic, while Fanatics and ShopRunner opted for Mirra work chairs, chosen for both their form—the contemporary aesthetic was particularly appealing—and function: “We tried a ton of chairs from both Herman Miller and other manufacturers and found Mirra to be the most comfortable,” Cherian says.
Relying partially on color, Environetics designers also found ways to distinguish between Fanatics and ShopRunner. The characteristic colors of each brand are used on select walls in each space, as well as on Tu cushion-top mobile pedestals in workstations and on Setu chairs in the respective conference rooms.
Even the treatment of Canvas differs slightly between the two areas—Fanatics has overhead storage; ShopRunner doesn’t. In addition, the logo of each brand appears throughout each space—it’s etched onto acrylic glass panes that attach to Canvas frames in certain workstation clusters.
“Canvas offered a distinctive look at a reasonable price,” Cherian says. “The linear lines, the different work surface heights, the elevated credenza—it really reflected the urban aesthetic we were after.”
Though the spaces assigned to each Kynetic brand have their own look, all support employee interaction.
“Given the fast pace of e-commerce, we wanted to make it easy for our people to shift between concentration and collaboration,” Cherian says.
Space planners accomplished this in several ways. Low Canvas frames encourage communication between colleagues. Cushioned Tu pedestals offer short-term seating for impromptu conversations. And all private offices and conference rooms have a wall covered with whiteboard paint to facilitate brainstorms.
Kynetic’s entire mezzanine is also devoted to collaboration, consisting of a quartet of enclosed conference rooms and an expanse of open space for informal interaction. Easy-to-rearrange Swoop Lounge Furniture allows the informal space to adapt quickly to the needs of different groups throughout the day.
Of course, a playful room on the main floor offers the ultimate insight into Kynetic’s brand. Adjacent to founder Michael Rubin’s office is an enchanting place for Rubin’s daughter to hang out after school.
Among the pieces inside are an Eames Desk and a pair of Eames Molded Plywood Chairs—a final nod to the Eames brand that sparked the entire installation.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Totaro