OVERLAY

Building Boundaries to Break Down Team Barriers

How Overlay helps enable high-performance spaces for Agile teams

The firm's culture is energetic and innovative, but the existing space did not reflect that. “It was an interesting layout—to say the least—it didn’t really have a rhyme or reason to it”, says their Senior Director of Operations. The existing layout was a mashup of mobile, freestanding furniture that lacked visual privacy and spaces for individual teams. “Especially for an organization running Agile, teams are the most important. And, to make each team successful, they really need their own space”, adds their Vice President of Engineering. Freedom from distraction and dedicated team areas would be key to meeting the firm's goal to take its Agile implementation to the next level and scale its teams. The challenge: create a flexible, yet cohesive space.

The firm's culture is energetic and innovative, but the existing space did not reflect that. “It was an interesting layout—to say the least—it didn’t really have a rhyme or reason to it”, says their Senior Director of Operations. The existing layout was a mashup of mobile, freestanding furniture that lacked visual privacy and spaces for individual teams. “Especially for an organization running Agile, teams are the most important. And, to make each team successful, they really need their own space”, adds their Vice President of Engineering. Freedom from distraction and dedicated team areas would be key to meeting the firm's goal to take its Agile implementation to the next level and scale its teams. The challenge: create a flexible, yet cohesive space.

Teamwork

Architecture and Design Firm, Abel Design Group (ADG), was up to this challenge. Beyond space planning, the ADG team engaged in early discovery sessions with the firm to deeply understand its goals. Even with a timeline and budget to consider, ADG took care to capture insights from the firm's team. “I spent hours observing the normal behaviors of engineering department employees in order to address typical routines, wayfinding, light levels, and acoustic ranges. I wanted to be in their environment first and ask them questions later. Not only did I gather information about their daily activities, I was able to find out the why behind using a certain location over the avoidance of spending time in others”, explains Erin O’Brien, one of the ADG senior associates on the project.

These observations informed ADG’s strategy for the entire space solution. One recommendation was the idea of “pods” that could accommodate the 7-9 members on each Agile team. From there, ADG searched potential vendors and product solutions to meet the need. “We found that what the department needed was challenging to find, per the client’s criteria. The right solution needed to consider nimble team sizes, privacy for ‘stand-up meetings’, yet allow managers to oversee multiple teams at once,” continues O’Brien. It was these criteria that led ADG to Herman Miller’s Overlay™ product.

ADG developed spatial allocation studies to illustrate the amount of space certain work activities and settings required. These were used to help the firm envision the possibilities for their teams, and further informed the pod layouts.

In this study
green = circulation
blue = personal space
pink = collaboration

ADG created additional illustrations to highlight the degree of flexibility for freestanding furniture configurations within each Overlay pod.

The firm's final layout which showcases how each pod is provisioned. In conjunction with the Exclave product, exterior Overlay walls also become a functional space for open collaboration.

Product Solution

“Overlay provided us a flexible system that we were able to develop into ‘pods’ within the larger space. Through numerous iterations, we were able to see how Overlay could change depending on the needs of the teams”, says Mei-Ling Krabbe another ADG design associate on the project. The integration of power and data and ability to add Exclave® boards to Overlay, made it a functional choice, while mixed materials allowed aesthetic variety. “Things like the wood slat wall in Overlay, the perforated metal, and ability to integrate color through the wall cladding made it so that the space could be more expressive. And, the ability to maintain flexibility within the pods but to run power and data through Overlay, made it crisp, clean and professional,” commented the client.

Once the product solution was selected, the ADG team, alongside Herman Miller Certified Dealer, Workplace Resource Colorado, began planning with Overlay in the firm’s space. "Working collaboratively with ADG, the dealer and the Herman Miller product team enabled us to think differently about the Overlay product. We were able to utilize the components in a creative way to solve for the pod design to fit the firm's team needs. Together, we accomplished a solution that was unexpected yet successful," shares Katie Cavallo, A+D Representative for Herman Miller.

After several design charettes, the collective team created layout iterations to illustrate minimum pod sizes, and how to best accommodate furniture and circulation needs. The final plan utilized the largest span of Overlay for each pod. This layout maximized the efficiency of the product and accommodated the ebb and flow of the firm’s teams and its growth projections.

Conclusion

ADG and the firm selected Herman Miller and Workplace Resource as furniture partners because of their willingness to creatively meet the design challenge and explore possibilities. Thinking differently about the Overlay product—beyond simply an individual room, allowed for a cohesive floorplate solution that empowers the firm’s high performance teams to do their best work.