Brand Identity & Interiors for a Boutique Coworking Space
Seven Starlings Workloft
An integrated team brings an immersive brand experience to life, anchored by a conceptual exploration of biomimicry and emergence.
Nestled on the ground floor of the Lucille on Roosevelt, Seven Starlings Workloft is a distinctive coworking space uniting a practical amenity with the beauty of natural forms. The space’s unique presence evolved through an intimate design approach: a multidisciplinary team collaborating on brand identity and interior design from concept to project delivery. This integrated design process married not only form and function, but look and feel.
Often, a new business develops its brand identity in advance of designing its brick-and-mortar location. This was a rare opportunity where the business plan and empty space came first, enabling us to develop the entire brand identity (even the name) concurrently with the interior design to create a cohesive, immersive experience.
Board & Vellum’s integrated architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture team was also behind the design of the Lucille on Roosevelt, so we were intimately familiar with the building’s underpinning design concept: an appreciation of the natural beauty and spirit of the Pacific Northwest, celebrating human interaction with natural spaces.
To create a conceptual link between the larger building and the smaller space within, the concept for the coworking space expresses this same appreciation of beauty in nature, in this case, inspired by emergent behavior of organic forms in nature itself.
Early ideation for the brand and interiors centered on an umbrella concept of biomimicry and emergence, later narrowed to an underpinning conceptual idea of “Swarming & Dissipating” forms and organisms in nature.
We examined how this concept intersected with the practical function of the space through curated imagery aligning representations of texture, pattern, and color in the natural world, with complementary corollaries in the built environment. This visually intensive process not only inspired design iteration, but provided interpretive, relatable context for a “heady” conceptual theme.
By exploring how variation in sensory input impacted the overall feel of a space, we projected how the future space would passively impact the mood and behavior of its users through the sensory experience of inhabiting it. Grounding this visualization in reality, we developed keyed plans to help the client imagine concepts applied to specific areas and aspects of the empty space.
Through this exploration, we began to conceptualize the swarming and dissipation of animal groupings as an analogy for the act of coworking. From plankton blooms comprised of creatures numbering in the billions, to mere handfuls of larger animals gathering seasonally — animal groupings are dynamic, supportive, and constantly adapting to changing contexts. In a coworking space, the same is true: users of the space are individuals, but they join together to thrive in a shared location.
We explored this concept in different modules, repeated at varying densities and scales to create complementary patterns and textures. Incarnations of these swarming and dissipating forms — both geometric and organic — appear throughout the finished space, from the statement mural to the tiled kitchen backsplash, to the custom wood slatting wrapping around the mezzanine.
The meticulous regulation of the wood slats transforms the many individual pieces into a single whole, boldly accenting the upper level’s form. However, as the wood slats reach the nook of booth seating, the regulation dissipates. The perforated areas offer privacy paired with a hint of a view, allowing dappled light to grace the sheltered seating area.
A coworking space must meet a diverse set of needs — from quiet spaces for focus to collaborative spaces for chance or intentional engagement. At the street level, the space is designed for activity, while rising into the mezzanine provides increasing levels of privacy, with sound-secured phone booths tucked into the very back corner. Banks of desks (separated by charming strips of live indoor plants) provide a more secluded, heads-down workspace that doesn’t feel completely shut off from the buzz of the livelier lower floor.
On the central floor, another group of desks offers assigned seating with lockable storage. Meanwhile, café tables along the windows please those seeking a shorter dose of a more bustling environment. Diner-style booths, couches, and plush chairs fill out a menu of more laid-back seating options. A shared kitchen with a communal table provides a casual space for conversation. Private meeting rooms and lockers ensure both day-pass guests and regular coworkers have just what they need for a productive day.
Beyond the public-to-private gradation of space within Seven Starlings, the space as a whole serves an interesting role as a connection between the public and private realms within the larger building. A key feature (developed long before we knew it would be a coworking space) is an immense folding glass wall, blending the interior and exterior spaces.
Not only does it link the interior to public spaces, like the sidewalk and street, but to transitional spaces, like the passageway of the Lucille and the popular covered patio and fire pit of Armistice Coffee.
Scattered artfully above the passageway, the light installation of the Lucille — though it came first — is a visual partner to the flowing starlings of the mural rising along Seven Starling’s accent wall.
As the design concept evolved, we paired the conceptual with the analytical, breaking down the functional components of existing coworking spaces’ names, evaluating the business cases for various naming styles in competing markets. We presented several naming concepts paired with early color palette ideas, sketches, and available digital properties.
Of the many examples of swarming and dissipating animal groupings in nature, the smooth dynamism of large flocks of starlings, known as murmurations, delighted and fascinated us. Like a school of fish, the massive collection of individuals moves as a superorganism.
Through computer modeling, research proves these mesmerizing phenomena require only three rules to function. Rule 1: Fly at the same speed (don’t crowd each other). Rule 2: Stay close to your neighbors (if they turn, you turn). Rule 3: Avoid predators (if you see one, turn away).
Each bird in a murmuration must only follow these three simple rules for the murmuration to flow beautifully through the air. To succeed, each bird must keep track of its seven closest neighbors. One bird, three rules, seven neighbors, and the system works — just like a single person joining others in a coworking space, engaging in a community, and finding success in their endeavors. Though coworking spaces are often used by individuals, when those users engage in the work of their peers, the cross-pollination of ideas elevates all. Thus, the Seven Starlings brand identity took flight — a subtle encouragement to coworking space users to open their eyes and minds to those with whom they share the space.
In early logo sketches, we explored how a single bird in flight might form the shape of the number seven. Through iterative sketches, the swooping shape of a starling murmuration evolved into a wing-like “S” form. Repeated at varying scales, the compilation of forms composes the emergent shape of a single starling in flight. The single bird’s upper wing features three feather tips, with the whole taking the shape of the number seven: one bird, three rules, seven neighbors.
A Suite of Logos
The opportunity for brand exposure in the modern world is expansive and diverse, in varied digital and physical contexts. With two full logo lockups — “display” for opportunities with plenty of space, and “compact” for small spaces such as the header in mobile apps — along with a logomark, wordmark, and circular stencil, creative opportunities for Seven Starlings brand exposure abound.
A Lively Graphic Element Hinting at the Idea of Motion
When seven of the starling logomarks are arrayed in a circle, the result becomes an icon itself. The circular icon may be used either digitally or physically. When used in a digital context, it could be animated to spin around the centerpoint, such as for a loading icon on a website. In physical form, it could be a vinyl decal on a window or wall, or a super-sized graphic that may bend over walls or floors, adding an abstract, graphic dynamism to the space.
Just as the interior design of a space requires both abstract and deeply technical phases, the scope of brand identity work shifts from broad concept to intricate detail to create brand assets and guidelines.
The initial asset package for Seven Starlings includes an extensive logo suite, primary and secondary color palettes, a pair of typefaces, and a collection of graphic elements. Supporting the assets, we developed comprehensive Brand Guidelines — the rulebook for how the brand maintains and expresses its identity.
Seven Starlings retains its unique character thanks to the deep intertwinement of brand identity and interiors. This holistic and deeply integrated approach to brand and interior design balances beauty and function in the space, anchored with an authentic brand identity inspiring members to collaborate and support each other in their shared community.
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