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Office Design Strategies From the Guy Who Dreamed Up Twitter's Headquarters


Architect Olle Lundberg remembers Twitter’s founding days, when the just-hatched company boasted a mere 40 employees, and Sara Williams -- then-girlfriend of co-founder Evan -- was at the helm of the startup’s aesthetic vision.

Tapped early on after Williams saw Lundberg’s work at another office space the company considered leasing, Lundberg had no idea what that vision would ultimately yield, or how enormous the company would eventually become.

Today, for instance, not unlike a trending topic on Twitter itself, some of Lundberg’s designs are going viral -- including two log cabins from the 19th century that the company is currently repurposing into a dining facility. (Lundberg’s firm continues to craft Twitter headquarters in conjunction with the global architectural design company IA.)

But it was initially Williams’ idea, Lundberg says, to take the company’s bird-themed moniker and logo, and spin that concept into forest-themed design elements prizing sustainability and reclaimed wood.

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And ever since moving into a gritty San Francisco neighborhood called the Tenderloin in 2012, Twitter has made waves for reimagining the former furniture mart into a vast, natural paradise. (Check out a tour of the company’s headquarters -- which includes a birdhouse-themed guest login station, kombucha teas on tap and talon-printed carpeting -- here.)

In an exclusive interview, Lundberg said developing an optimal seating arrangement for employees was the primary challenge in determining the office layout. They had to consider the means by which employees preferred to communicate, as well as the rate at which the company was growing.

At Twitter, long rows of picnic table-style desks are used almost exclusively, he said, to emphasize the democratic nature of the company. While even top execs work at bench stations, there are conference rooms close by for confidential meetings.

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In this vein, Lundberg says he despises cubicles -- and believes they will become an antiquated design feature in coming years. “It’s that 1984 nightmare,” he said, “where people feel like they’re toiling away in an anonymous box.”

To warm up any space, Lundberg has two go-to’s: the oft-forsaken luxury of natural light, and local touches. “Windows ground people with a sense of where they are,” he said, while homespun design elements not only support a local community of craftsmen but also help forge an authentic, singular identity.

Above all, Lundberg lives by the motto that “you find yourself through what you surround yourself with. We live in a world of great design,” he added -- noting the ways in which Apple products, for instance, have streamlined and beautified daily objects.

Similarly, by carefully curating the things in our own lives, Lundberg says, we can attain more productive habits and harmonious interactions.

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Geoff Weiss

Written By

Geoff Weiss is a former staff writer at