Alumna’s passion for design enlivens Dropbox’s stunning new space

Posted on Nov 15, 2016 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

Dropbox library | www.kualumni.orgAfter graduating from KU with a degree in design and visual communications, Claire Pedersen threw her energy into finding a job. She reached out to professional designers whose work she admired and asked if they could spare a few minutes for coffee or a phone call. She struck gold when a designer at Dropbox, the software developer, was impressed by Pedersen’s portfolio and arranged an interview.

“It started out as an internship for two months,” says Pedersen, a’14, who won several awards at KU and was honored as Outstanding Graduate in Visual Communication Design at Commencement. “They liked my work and they hired me full time.”

Now, just two years out of school, Pedersen can add another accolade to her already impressive résumé: She helped lead the redesign of Dropbox’s headquarters in the heart of San Francisco’s bustling South Beach area.

Dropbox lobby | www.kualumni.orgPedersen explains that Dropbox’s offices were originally housed in two separate buildings, a layout that wasn’t conducive to the pace at which the company was growing. “When I started, I think we were about 500 people, and we got all the way up to 1,300,” she says. “We were expanding into different floors and we outgrew it.” In addition, the open-office floorplan, a trend embraced by many companies in the tech industry, led to unfortunate distractions among employees.

Dropbox purchased a new five-story, 300,000-square-foot building just a few blocks away—a blank canvas, according to Pedersen. “The whole exterior of the office was finished, but the interior was completely empty,” she says. “We basically had an empty box and we filled it with whatever we wanted.”

It was a designer’s dream.

After defining the challenges Dropbox employees faced in their current workspaces and figuring out which features would improve their productivity, Pedersen and a team of more than 30 designers, builders and project managers enlisted architecture firms AvroKO and Rapt Studio to help create a floorplan that would foster a culture of community.

“There are so many different types of people at Dropbox, and there are so many different teams,” she explains. “There’s finance, engineering, design, user-experience; it just goes on and on. We wanted to create a home where we could all come together.”

Dropbox music room | www.kualumni.orgPedersen is confident they accomplished that mission. At the heart of the building is Dropbox’s “tuck shop,” a full-service cafeteria that creates chef-inspired cuisine for employees to enjoy at no charge. Other amenities, including a workout center, a library, a music room and a deep-focus space, are distributed throughout the building so employees can easily visit at least one of those spaces from their workstations.

Pedersen’s favorite space is the library, which features pink carpet, cozy lounge chairs and warm natural light, in addition to architecturally stunning archways, built-in bookshelves and a sleek, rounded wood table that runs the length of the room. A small outdoor terrace with lush greenery completes the sense of calm in the room. “We wanted to design a space that, naturally, when you walked in you will be quiet,” she says. “It’s a really inspiring space to work; people are always in there.”

Response to the revamped headquarters has been overwhelmingly positive, and employees are still raving about its perks. “We went for something a little different in this office,” Pedersen says. “There’s a lot of color and personality. If we would’ve gone toward the whole minimal, modern look, I think people would have forgotten about it. But we really tried to infuse Dropbox’s unique, quirky culture into the space. I really don’t think the excitement has worn off.”

–Heather Biele

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