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Design at Work> Millward Brown
HOK Chicago imparts a sense of speed to highway-straddling office with cues from car culture
Millward Brown's community meeting room.
Courtesy HOK

Located in Chicago’s western suburbs, the design of the new offices of Millward Brown, a market research and branding consultant, draws on the iconography of its highway-straddling location. “We wanted to convey a sense of speed and movement, but also a sense of connection to the firm’s downtown offices,” said Tom Polucci, director of interior design for HOK Chicago. The design takes elements of car culture and creates abstract allusions to automobiles, roads, and movement through the materials, color palette, and sense of circulation.

Millward Brown by HOK Chicago   Millward Brown by HOK Chicago.   Millward Brown by HOK Chicago.
Left to right: A conference room, a hallway off the lobby, and the reception area. [Click to enlarge.]

Visitors enter the space through a black-walled, rubber-floored elevator lobby with large black pendant lamps overhead. Opposite walls are on one side branded, the other glazed with the reception area visible through glass doors. A custom reception desk with white high-gloss paint, wood finish surfaces, and leather-like trim recalls an auto interior. A small reception area with Bernhardt lounge chairs feels “like a cockpit,” according to Polucci. White walls with reflective strips draw down the hallways with white glossy flooring. Inside, open offices with Herman-Miller Ethospace workstations in white and matte metallic finishes line exterior walls to offer the most natural light to the greatest number of employees. The 71,000-square-foot office, which fills one and two-thirds floors, can accommodate over 350 employees. Five conference rooms are clustered around pantries, making entertaining clients or lunchtime presentations easy to carry off. They feature graphic Wolf Gordon wall coverings with a running line pattern. A handful of private offices and 12 small meeting rooms line the core.

Millward Brown by HOK Chicago.   Millward Brown by HOK Chicago.   Millward Brown by HOK Chicago.
Left to right: A kitchen and break room, a typical work space, and a private office. [Click to enlarge.]

Lees Carpet
Focal Point
Herman Miller
Herman Miller

Informal gathering spaces are also an important aspect of firm culture. “It’s a young staff. It’s critical to the way they work,” Polucci said. The Community Meeting room, or Town Hall, which overlooks one of the large open office areas, is the most eye-catching of these spaces, with strips of light racing across the ceiling, and pops of color from red Panton chairs. The space also features small Nelson sofas from Herman Miller with Paul Smith striped fabric from Maharam. A carpet tile called Places and Spaces, designed by HOK for Lees Carpets, covers the floor.

HOK has designed other spaces for Millward Brown, and is beginning work on a new project. In each project, the firm repeats functional elements and spatial relationships, but alters the design to suit the culture of each office and reflect the nature of the site. “They’re a fantastic client. They have their ducks in a row. You work with a core group throughout the process, so everyone has a sense of buy-in,” Polucci said. “The project really benefited.”

Alan G. Brake