AOL has brought many changes in the online culture. The company has a new initiative and a new image as well. The headquarters moved from the West coast to Palo Alto. They hired Studio O+A to manage the design of the office. The new headquarters, in general lines, captures the 1980s corporate style: the oblique lines, the cubicles that separate employees into well defined workstations and the dark finishes. While visiting the headquarters you can notice drop ceilings that hang over every office.
AOL as a business has always claimed to be transparent and the designers chose to create a space to match AOL`s brand. The walls were stripped so that the structure can be easily seen, the ceilings were exposed to create the idea of a spacious environment-thus looking like a white canvas. The floors are made of concrete and the pieces of furniture are modern, making the place seem industrial.
The idea of transparency can be easily perceived since every element in the structure of the building shows how it was built. OSB (Oriented strand board) was used, modified, shaped and sanded to add a touch of modernism. OSB is usually used to separate spaces on construction sites.
In the past the offices were secluded. The staff from O+A chose to design open workstations so it would encourage employees to be sociable and the environment created now seems more friendly. The meeting rooms are made of a series of circular pods located in strategic places in the headquarters. They are made of translucent fiberglass and OSB and the circular pods are open for everybody, they cannot be reserved, thus encouraging spontaneity.
The most interesting feature is the collaborative space AOL has dubbed the Town Hall. It’s a huge space that has many functions. It encapsulates a kitchen, it’s also a play space ,a relaxation area and the common area draws its inspiration from San Francisco’s Mission District. A fun fact is that Ariana Huffington spoke in the Town Hall when AOL acquired the Huffington Post.
The Town Hall holds the advantage of reuniting different departments from AOL into one common place, being located in the center .This is a great opportunity, since it is the only time when the staff from different departments mingle. The kitchen is a welcoming sight to see, the designers chose to add benches as elements of décor and due to the transparency of the design the rooms seem spacious and full of light.
All walls are custom designed and vary in colour and motif. AOL`s new logo is very simple-the initials are represented with the help of a plain, white font –but this is the trick. The logo can be placed on every wall without tiring the eye. It fits any colorful background. The headquarters have patterns inspired from pop culture, nature but abstract styles can be found in some rooms,too.