In 2016, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that the Windy City is leading the nation in corporate growth. Expanding tech startups and enterprise-level organizations alike are calling the Loop home. They’re taking over multiple levels of downtown highrises and requiring more space with consistent branding and high-tech capabilities. Or they’re moving into the Merchandise Mart where they can occupy tens of thousands of square feet on one floor. Open collaborative workspaces is the hot new trend — minimal interiors offer companies maximum flexibility and possibilities for expansion. The best design firms tasked with building or revamping major corporate spaces are ranked below, highlighted for their ability to turn unique spaces into workable offices for some of the top businesses in the area.

Top Architects

Brininstool + Lynch Architecture Design

David Brininstool
Brad Lynch

AIA Honor Awards,
Residential Architect Design Awards

1144 W. Washington Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60607

About Brininstool + Lynch Architecture Design

Founding Partners David Brininstool and Brad Lynch established their firm 1989 and have since received over 50 major design awards, including 27 Design Excellence Awards from the American Institute of Architects, four Residential Architect Design Awards, and three American Architecture Awards. They were named an Emerging Voice in architecture by the Architectural League of New York. The firm has been featured in two monographs: Building on Modernism (Edizioni Press, 2002), and Brininstool + Lynch (Casas Internacional, 200). In 2014, New City named Brad Lynch in their Design 50: Who Shapes Chicago. The firm concentrates on multi-residential, public, commercial, and office spaces. A project of note was the Racine Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin. They’ve designed the Chicago headquarters of many established and up-and-coming businesses, such as the popular Chicago startup Basecamp.

Featured Projects

The Chicago Tribune covered the luxury office space of the Enova software company, completed in 2012, where “employees work, write on walls, and get manicures.” Covering eight floors of a highrise in the Loop, Brininstool designed a future-thinking space with 130-foot-long workstations and wavy walls that minimize noise. B + L designed a new Streeterville office space for the private equity firm Sterling Partners. Completed in 2013, the design firm incorporated Sterling Partner’s business philosophy of “inspired growth” into the 21k-square-foot design. They used a minimalist approach to maintain inspiring views of Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, the Loop, and Gold Coast throughout much of the space.

Kipnis Architecture and Planning

Nathan Kipnis

Design Evanston Award

1642 Payne Street, Evanston, IL 60201

About Kipnis Architecture and Planning

This Evanston-based firm were early signers of the AIA’s 2030 Challenge, which calls for all new buildings, developments, and major renovations to be carbon-neutral by 2030. Local companies looking for sustainable office solutions turn to Kipnis for eco-friendly designs. Although best known for their exceptional sustainability efforts, Kipnis takes overall excellence in design just as seriously. The firm was founded in 1993 by Nathan Kipnis, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a LEED Advanced Professional certified in Building Design and Construction (FAIA, LEED BD+C), who earned a Master of Architecture with an emphasis in Energy Conscious Design from Arizona State University. He serves as the co-chair of the AIA National 2030 Commitment Working Group, as well as the Citizens Greener Evanston group.

“Near where I grew up, along the North Shore of Chicago, there are amazing homes designed by everyone from David Adler to Frank Lloyd Wright. Many of the homes located right along the lake on Sheridan Road are textbook examples of great European homes mixed in with the very first Prairie homes designed by Wright. In addition, there are also various contemporary designs. My parents would occasionally drive into Chicago and we would occasionally travel along Sheridan Road to get there. I would be glued to the window watching these great homes.
Later, the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and ensuing Middle East oil embargo opened my eyes about America’s dependence on foreign oil. I felt that designing energy-efficient buildings would help decrease our reliance on that volatile energy source.” – Nathan Kipnis

Featured Projects

Core 3 Creative has offered branding, photography, catalog, and interactive solutions for renowned companies such as National Geographic and ESPN Radio. When they relocated into an 80-year-old warehouse that required major renovation, they needed the space to reflect their creative and national-scaled vision. Kipnis not only designed a fully modernized space, including a photography studio and workshop, they also added their signature green features, such as zoned radiant heat flooring and a high-efficiency, gas-fired boiler. Kipnis won a 2015 Design Evanston Award for their work on the offices of CraftJack, Inc., a growing internet startup. The fun design created an entire village, including an outdoor courtyard, within CraftJack’s office building, along with open programming stations, collaborate workspaces, and a spacious conference room.

“What my firm attempts to do with as many projects as possible is to incorporate “green” principles at as many stages as possible. The earlier in the process the better. We try to do this in an integrated way, as opposed to “tacking on” green technologies and materials.
At the beginning of the project, I try to see what design decisions make the most sense in terms of sustainable design and in response to the projects specific goals. If there is a solution that I feel works to satisfy both, I pursue it in detail. There is usually a single overall theme that unifies a design. Finding it is really the challenge. If I can get that one big idea to solve the project’s key problem and make it work sustainably, it usually can be done in an economical way and helps the client support it. To me, designing a sustainable project is an opportunity to make the pure design even better and have more meaning. It should not be a burden to design that way.” – Nathan Kipnis

Collective Office

Jeff Klymson

9 E. 24th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60616

About Collective Office

Originally based in Toronto, Collective moved to Chicago in 2004 but still maintains a wide reach, with projects in Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, and Canada. The practice serves both residential and commercial clients. Collective Office was founded by Principal Jeff Klymson, AIA, to focus on both practice and research. Klymson also teaches at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), where he received his own Master of Architecture degree. Through his practice, Klymson attempts to create “a more intuitive connection for people in the built environment.” Design Principal Carlo Parente, AIA, complements Klymson’s approach by combining performance-based design and new technology. He joined Collective Office from the esteemed Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, where he led award-winning architecture and master projects in North America, Asia, and the Middle East. Parente also teaches at IIT and serves as co-president for the Chicago Architecture Club.

Featured Projects

In 2013, Collective Office designed the first Chicago location for Grind Workspaces, which Inc Magazine recently named one of the best coworking spaces in the U.S. The Loop location offers 10k square feet in two stories of collaborative workspace with a bright industrial feel. Much of the space is open to both floors, offering window-filled walls, balconies, and a feeling that everyone has their own space while still working together. Glen Lerner hired Collective to design the new West Loop office for his growing law practice. The project was completed in 2012. The firm connected all three floors of an existing office building for its single new tenant. Each floor utilizes offices enclosed in glass, while the first floor has a glass conference room — a theme that pulls the floors together.

Ratio Design

Grace Kuklinski Rappe

30 W Monroe Street, Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60603

About Ratio Design

Ratio is an international firm of designers and planners with four studios across the country. Founded in Indianapolis in 1982, the firm originally focused on historic preservation. The robust architecture firm has since branched out to include many multidisciplinary services, such as landscape design, urban design, economic development, and even graphic design. In 2016, Ratio was named one of the Top 50 US-Based Multinational Design Firms by DesignIntelligence. Their Chicago studio, which opened in 2016, is led by Principal Grace Kuklinski Rappe, AIA, LEED AP. Rappe offers more than 30 years of industry experience. Locally, she has served as director of design for the public Building Commission of Chicago and capital architect/design manager for Chicago Public Schools. She has also served as associate director of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), among other leadership positions.

Featured Projects

Ratio designed the new Big Ten Conference Headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois, conveniently located near O’Hare International Airport. The three-story, 50k-square-foot headquarters is used for nearly 200 meetings each year and has offices for 40 full-time employees. Besides office space offering state-of-the-art technology, the headquarters also features a 3,000-square-foot interactive exhibit on the organization’s 120-year history, and a high-end restaurant. The design of the space reflects the organization’s athletic and academic ties, while offering the conveniences of a corporate headquarters. When Ratio opened their Chicago studio in 2016, they renovated the office space located within the historic Inland Steel Building. Their open workplace design reflects the firm’s values of employee retention, productivity, and collaboration. It centers around a “Design lab” that fosters natural interaction among their 30-person team.

Von Weise Associates

Chip von Weise

AIA Mies van der Rohe Citation of Merit Award
AIA Chicago Design Awards

1049 N Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622

About Von Weise Associates

Founded by Chip von Weise, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, in 1999, Von Weise Associates became an active member of the Chicago design community. The firm’s designs have appeared in House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home, and Green Building & Design, among many others. The founder is a member of the Chicago Architecture Club and the US Green Building Council. His green designs have won awards, such as the 2012 Illinois AIA Mies van der Rohe Citation of Merit Award, AIA Chicago design awards, and the 2000 TKTS Times Square Ticket Booth Design Competition. Among the firm’s office projects detailed below, another recent major project was transforming the Bismarck Hotel into the new luxury Allegro Hotel.

Featured Projects

Von Weise Associates had the very fun task of designing the new headquarters for the Chicago-based game company Cards Against Humanity. The notoriously saucy company needed a similarly branded space which the design firm created out of a 12k-square-foot warehouse in an industrial corridor. The office won a 2015 Judge’s Pick for Crain’s list of Chicago’s Coolest Offices. Also in 2015, the firm designed a 24k-square-foot space in two floors of the historic Holabird and Roche Monroe Building on Michigan Avenue. Their client was Ryan Partnership — a massive merger of four different marketing and media companies. The design mimicked the merger using physical stacking and overlapping materials.

Harley Ellis Devereaux (HED)

J. Peter Devereaux
Michael Sullivan

Engineering News-Record Top Design Firm,
Architectural Record Top Design Firm,
IIDA Recognizing Exemplary Design

1 East Wacker Drive, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60601

About Harley Ellis Devereaux (HED)

HED was named a Top Design Firm in 2016 by both Engineering News-Record and Architectural Record. Founded in 1908 by Alvin Harley and Norman Atcheson, the firm is now led by Principal and CEO J. Peter Devereaux, FAIA, LEED AP. This massive company has offices in Chicago, Detroit, LA, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco. The Chicago branch has snagged office contracts for many big name companies, such as Stryker, Assurance, and Northern Trust, as well as the famous Sky Lounge in the iconic Kemper Building, which offers 360-degree views of the city skyline. Listed among “Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” by the National Association of Business Resources, they’ve made the list 10 years in a row starting in 2005. The studio’s design for the Austin office of the independent media agency Kelly Scott Madison won a 2017 Recognizing Exemplary Design (RED) award from the Illinois Chapter of the International Interior Design Association for small contract office.

Featured Projects

HED designed Kelly Scott Madison’s Chicago-based headquarters using the theme “All the World’s a Stage,” chosen by the company’s CEO. The 30k-square-foot space uses marquee lighting and sheer finishes to accent the office’s bold color palette and well-defined interior spaces. The contemporary design reflects the media company’s mission to be ever-cognizant of media and consumer trends. In 2015, Architect Magazine featured HED’s design of the Garrett Brands headquarters, which covers 22k square feet. This prominent Chicago retailer was growing and moved to a larger space on the Magnificent Mile. HED blended a classic design demonstrating the popcorn retailer’s traditional values with a modern edge for the bright future of the company. Along with traditional spaces such as boardrooms and cubicles, the HED designed a colorful workstation area complete with a ping pong table.


Office Leaders: Sarah Bader, IIDA, LEED AP; Todd Heiser; Grant Uhlir, AIA, LEED AP BD+C; Brian Vitale, AIA, LEED AP
Regional Managing Principal: Nila R. Leiserowitz, FASID, IIDA

Architectural Record 2017 Top 300, #1 Architecture Firm; Architectural Record and Interior Design 2017: Most Admired Firm; Business Insider ranks Gensler #25 on “Top 100 Creators” List in 2016; Building Design 2018 World Architecture 100 Rankings, #1 Overall Firm, #1 Most Admired U.S.Firm, #3 Most Admired Global Firm; Building Design + Construction 2017 Giants 300, #1 Architecture Firm; AIA Institute Honor Awards for Architecture in 2014 and 2012; and, for the 35th consecutive year, Gensler tops Interior Design Magazine’s “Top 100 Giants” List.

11 E. Madison Street, Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60602

About Gensler

Gensler is a global architecture, design, and planning firm with 44 locations and more than 5,000 professionals networked across Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and the Americas. Founded in 1965, the firm serves more than 3,500 active clients in virtually every industry. Gensler designers strive to make the places people live, work, and play more inspiring, more resilient, and more impactful.
This year, Gensler’s Chicago office is celebrating 20 years of influence in the city. From renovating the Children’s Library at the Harold Washington to repositioning the iconic Willis Tower and the 2.5 million square feet at The Post Office … to completing the award-winning Shirley Ryan AbilityLab … the Chicago office has recently won awards through AIA Chicago, Contract Magazine, ENR Midwest, IIDA, and Interior Design. Based in Chicago, Regional Managing Principal Nila R. Leiserowitz, fellow of the American Society of Interior Designers (FASID) and member of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), oversees more than 400 professionals in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, and La Crosse, while serving on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors of Chicago’s International Women’s Forum.

Featured Projects

Over the past two decades in Chicago, Gensler has provided architecture, design, and planning services for hundreds of clients in and around the great city of Chicago. In 2017, in collaboration with HDR and in association with CWa and EGG Office, Gensler completed the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab – formerly Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The 27-story, 1.2-million-square-foot facility is the first-ever “translational” research hospital in which clinicians, scientists, innovators, and technologists work together in the same space – surrounding patients, discovering new approaches and applying (or “translating”) research real time. The firm also broke ground on a new, five-story, 114,000-square-foot Student Center for Columbia College Chicago – the first on the expansive urban campus since the school’s founding in 1890. And, LinkedIn Chicago, Wilson Sporting Goods, Radio Flyer, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL), Dentons, Banfield Pet Hospital, Motorola Mobility, 1871, MATTER, and DLA Piper have entrusted the Chicago team with new, moved, or renewed corporate and global headquarters and incubator spaces in neighborhoods and buildings across the entire city. www.gensler.com/offices/chicago/projects

Partners by Design

Principal: Ron Carlson

#3 Coolest Office in Chicago in 2017; Crain’s Chicago Business, Architect of the Year in 2013; Crain’s Chicago Business Real Estate Awards, Interior Design Firm of the Year in 2015, 2014, 2011, 2010 and 2006; Crain’s Chicago Business Real Estate Awards, Interior Design Magazine’s “Top 100 Giants” List.

363 W Erie St, Suite 600, Chicago, IL 60654

About Partners by Design

Partners by Design has spent the past 25 years creating some of the most innovative and aesthetically-informed spaces, meeting a multitude of client needs both across the country and around the world. Established in 1993 with a specific focus on corporate and commercial architecture, interiors, environmental branding and architectural visualization, the fast-growing firm ranks as the 90th largest design firm in the country.

Featured Projects

Partners by Design and Braintree have been working together since building their space in 2012 at 111 Canal Street. In 2014, Braintree moved to a larger space in the Merchandise Mart and once again approached Partners by Design to help design their new space with one-third of nearly 60k square feet devoted to collaborating and meeting spaces. Named one of Chicago’s coolest offices by Crain’s Chicago Business in 2012 and one of The 10 coolest Chicago Tech offices in 2018 by Built In Chicago, Braintree continues to be one of the world’s fastest-growing online merchants. Also featured in Crain’s Chicago Business was Centro, the digital advertising software company. Named one of the 10 coolest Chicago Tech offices in 2018 by Built In Chicago, this 70k-square-foot space in the heart of the Loop is a merger of several buildings. Partners by Design created an elegant design that is perfect for Central’s exponential growth.

Eastlake Studio

Tom Zurowski
Christina Brown
Jon Salzmann
Kevin Kamien

Antron Design Awards,
Contract Magazine Inspiration Award for Socially Responsible Design,
AIA Design Excellence Award

333 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

About Eastlake Studio

Check out the coolest new office spaces in Chicago, and you’ll keep coming across Eastlake’s name. The studio designs corporate, residential, and retail environments using two core principles: the management of information and the communication of ideas. In fact, they designed their own custom information management software that they sell on the side. The studio has won several AIA Chicago awards, most recently a AIA Design Excellence Award on November 2017, as well as awards from the International Interior Design Association, Architecture Woodwork Institute, and Antron Design Awards, and they won an Inspiration Award for Socially Responsible Design from Contract Magazine. Many of the studio’s designs are LEED certified. Offices designed by Eastlake can be found throughout the city and have been featured in publications like Trends Magazine, Interior Designs Magazine, Interiors & Sources Magazine. Founding Principal Tom Zurowski, AIA, is a past president of AIA Chicago and is a member of River Forest’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Featured Projects

Eastlake’s architect Kevin Kamien and designer Steph Geronimo Smothers designed the 33k-square-foot Pandora office in Prudential Plaza with a John Hughes theme. Two Hughes films with influential soundtracks were set in Chicago suburbs, and the theme connects music and Chicago pride in a fun, nostalgic way. To invoke a ‘80s pop-punk feel, the Eastlake team used era-appropriate textual and graphic components over a post-industrial (punk-like) aesthetic, with exposed ductwork and polished concrete floors. The office topped Crain’s list of 2016 Chicago’s Coolest Offices and won the People’s Choice for the 2017 RED awards. The office was also featured on the cover of AIA Chicago Architect Magazine in 2013. Office Revolution, a leading furniture dealership in Chicago, commissioned Eastlake Studio to design their office space located in the Loop. Office Revolution wanted a design that emphasized their commitment to excellent design while providing comfortable, ergonomic workspaces for their staff. Eastlake used reclaimed wood wall finishes and a custom live edge harvest table to create a truly distinctive space.


John Nelson Sr
John Nelson Jr

Chicago Food Depository Interior Design Firm of the Year,
Association of Licensed Architects Silver Award,
RED Award

30 West Monroe Street, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60603

About NELSON Studio

NELSON is a global design, architecture, engineering, space planning, and space management firm with 700 employees operating out of 22 locations. The firm was founded by John Nelson Sr., who is still acting principal of design. He has designed a number of high-profile projects, including the headquarters for Sun Oil and SmithKline Beecham, both in Philadelphia. The Chicago branch of the NELSON company was founded in 2003, with a concentration the financial sector. After two mergers, the firm has expanded into various markets, including law firm and media marking. NELSON Chicago was named the 2016-2017 Interior Design Firm of the Year by the Chicago Food Depository at the Annual Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards. The firm continues to pump out award-winning, tech-friendly flexible designs for fast-growing companies.

Featured Projects

When the Tie Bar, a men’s accessory retailer based in Chicago, relocated their office to the Fulton Market in 2015, NELSON created an open work office space that catered to the company’s strong branded aesthetic. The design utilized salvaged construction items and large wooden columns for a rustic feel. The project won a RED award for small contract office and was named one of the coolest offices in Chicago by Crain’s Chicago Business. The firm’s design of the Infinite Peripherals office in Elk Grove received a Silver Award from the Association of Licensed Architects for Interior Architecture. The design’s use of reds, blacks, and greys mimics lasers emitted by the company’s products, which scan barcodes. The design also won a RED Award in 2014 for best small office contract.