Overview

Chicago is a bustling home for expanding tech startups and enterprise-level organizations. They’re taking over multiple levels of downtown highrises and requiring more space with consistent branding and high-tech capabilities. Some are even moving into old forgotten buildings because these are cheaper spaces and it’s more affordable to have them remodeled. Open collaborative workspaces are 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. These are award-winning architects who have works that are known all over the state and overseas.

Top Architects

Brininstool + Lynch Architecture Design

Architects:
David Brininstool
Brad Lynch

Awards:
AIA Honor Awards,
Residential Architect Design Awards

Address:
1144 W. Washington Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60607

About Brininstool + Lynch Architecture Design

In 1989, Partners David Brininstool and Brad Lynch established Brininstool + Lynch Architecture Design. The firm can boast of receiving more than 50 design awards from regional and national organizations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Residential Architect Design Awards, and American Architecture Awards. The firm concentrates on multi-residential, public, commercial, and office spaces. It has designed the Chicago headquarters of many established and up-and-coming businesses, such as the popular Chicago startup Basecamp and the Barack Obama Foundation.

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.

CannonDesign

Address:
225 North Michigan Ave. Ste. #1100, Chicago, IL 60601

About CannonDesign

Integrated Design Firm CannonDesign is nationally recognized for its Living-Centered design principle. This design principle aims to make establishments and clients interdependent with each other. In this way, improving the structure and making it convenient for its occupants will create a systemic change.

The firm has been around since 1945 but it was named by Fast Company magazine as one of the most innovative companies in the world last 2017 and 2019. The firm has 18 locations spread throughout the country and its Chicago branch contributed a number of award-winning projects to the firm’s portfolio.

Featured Projects

Its most recent award-winning work is the Brunswick Headquarters in Mettawa. The firm designed a space that captures Brunswick as a market leader in fitness, marine, and billiard industries. The design encourages employees to be in constant motion. A circulation path that leads to different departments also serves as a walking track for employees. This circular design also makes different offices more accessible and encourages employee teamwork. This modern office is very different from the traditional work environment that the brand started but this brand new headquarters signifies Brunswick’s efforts to elevate its products. This stunning 55,000-square-foot office was recognized with a Citation of Merit from AIA Chicago.

Collective Office

Architects:
Jeff Klymson

Address:
9 E. 24th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60616

About Collective Office

Collective Office was founded by Principal Jeff Klymson, AIA, so he could 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 put an emphasis on detail-oriented design. The goal is to transform every project into a branded space, an environment with a specific identity and purpose for its inhabitants. The design team will ask questions to its clients through every stage of the process to make sure that all of their expectations are met. The firm provides architecture, interior design, and design strategy for commercial and residential clients in Chicago and Toronto.

Featured Projects

The Honor Headquarters is an award-winning office project designed to have a transparent connection between the scenic environment and its modern offices. The large outdoor space was transformed through graded slopes that flow through the rear and north. Collective Office designed the operations office to be accessible by coordinating each individual floor plate with an operational group. To make workflow more efficient, the building has 5,000 square foot neighborhoods that contain different workgroups and are connected by an informal meeting “spine.” The project won the 2017 Brick in Architecture for Commercial Buildings and the 2018 PCI Design Award for Best Office Building.

Eastlake Studio

Architects:
Tom Zurowski
Christina Brown
Jon Salzmann
Kevin Kamien

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

Address:
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. The studio has won several AIA Chicago awards, as well as awards from the International Interior Design Association, Architectural Woodwork Institute, and Antron Design Awards. 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 Zuroski, AIA, has been designing offices for the past 35 years and is the past president of AIA Chicago.

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.

Gensler

Architects:
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

Awards:
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.

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

About Gensler

An integrated architecture, design, planning, and consulting firm with over 6,000 professionals spread across 50 offices, Gensler is one of the most prominent design firms in the world. The firm is consistently named as one of the Top 500 Design Firms in the Country by Engineering News-Record. While the firm is headquartered in San Francisco, Gensler’s Chicago office has a strong influence on the city, from renovating the Children’s Library at the Harold Washington to designing the new student center for Columbia College. Gensler Chicago’s Principal and Design Director Todd Heiser was also named as Designer of the Year by Contract magazine. He is the firm’s first honoree in the last 37 years. The Chicago office won the 2017 Best of Show and Contract Office Large RED awards for their design of the Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, Washington.

Featured Projects

Its most notable project in the city is Linkedin’s Chicago office. This ambitious project doubles the company’s West Loop office and injects some Chicago culture into the professional Linkedin brand. When guests enter the office, they are welcomed by a huge “Chicago” sign that celebrates the city’s vibrant culture. The theme is inspired by Chicago as the city of firsts. From local inventions to cultural phenomena, graphic representation of these first can be seen through the conference rooms and transitional areas.

Harley Ellis Devereaux (HED)

Architects:
J. Peter Devereaux
Michael Sullivan

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

Address:
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. 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. One of its most prestigious recognition is the Trifecta Award from The Zweig Group. This exclusive award is only given to companies that have won Hot Firm, Best Firms to Work For, and Marketing Excellence Awards in the same year.

Featured Projects

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 a small contract office. The company’s Chicago headquarters also hired HED to design its interiors with the theme “All the World’s a Stage”. 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 advertising company’s mission to be ever-cognizant of media and consumer trends.

HKS

Address:
125 S. Clark St. #1100, Chicago, IL 60603

About HKS

World-renowned HKS is an architectural firm that has projects all over the globe. It is one of the most recognized firms in the country and it was founded by Illinois native Harwood K. Smith. He did not start the firm in his hometown but when he brought it to Chicago in 2011, it became one of the most successful branches of the firm. HKS Chicago specializes in commercial, health, mixed-use, and education projects. Notable organizations like the Chicago Public Schools and Illinois Green Alliance have worked with the firm to design more sustainable establishments in the city. The firm’s most well-known sustainable project is its own headquarters which was also the first gold-certified design firm in Chicago.

Featured Projects

The HKS headquarters decided to relocate into the historic building, The National. It is an iconic figure in the Chicago architecture industry because it was designed by renowned architect Daniel Burnham. HKS wanted its offices to be inspired by timeless architecture and the city’s unique culture. Many parts of the office are patterned after The National. For example, a multipurpose room was named “The Park” because it serves as the recreational area for many employees. Biophilic design strategies were used for the office: graphics, in other words, mimic the ambiance of the outdoors to give employees a peaceful atmosphere for work. The office also acts as a living lab where employees constantly test environmental conditions through sensors and employee surveys.

Kipnis Architecture and Planning

Architects:
Nathan Kipnis

Awards:
Design Evanston Award

Address:
1642 Payne St., 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 Architecture and Planning (KAP) for eco-friendly designs. Although best known for its exceptional sustainability efforts, KAP 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). Mr. Kipnis earned a Master of Architecture with an emphasis in Energy Conscious Design from Arizona State University. He serves on 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

NELSON Studio

Architects:
John Nelson Sr
John Nelson Jr

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

Address:
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 more than a thousand employees operating out of 25 locations. The firm was founded by John Nelson Sr., who 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 in 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 design award-winning, tech-friendly flexible designs for fast-growing companies.

Featured Projects

International non-profit organization Habitat for Humanity teamed up with NELSON Studio to design its new Atlanta office. NELSON designed an office that reflected the organization’s global brand and put an emphasis on its collaborative work environment. The firm spread strategic messaging throughout the space. There are graphics that show homeowner narratives and unique construction methods from around the world. The goal of these graphics is to educate guests and employees while navigating around the office. There is also an in-house cafe that is connected by the refurbished interconnecting stairs.

Partners by Design

Architects:
Principal: Ron Carlson

Awards:
#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.

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

About Partners by Design

Partners by Design has been named as Interior Design Firm of the Year by Crain’s Chicago Business Commercial Real Estate Awards. The firm has won this award seven times since 2006. Established in 1993 with a specific focus on corporate and commercial architecture, interiors, and image design, the fast-growing firm ranks as the 90th largest design firm in the country. The firm was founded by Ron Carlson, who has over 30 years of experience in shell building and corporate interior design. Carlson has been the firm’s principal architect since its inception and has personally overseen the company’s strategic growth throughout the years. Partners by Design is also part of ONE Global Design, a network of international architectural firms that are all principal-led. It is one of the largest design collectives with more than 1500 professionals in its register.

Featured Projects

The digital advertising software company Centro was placed on Crain’s 2015 and 2016 list of Best Places to Work. The 70,000-square-foot space in the heart of the Loop is a merger of several buildings. PbD created interior “parks” to split up the space and create identities for the company’s departments. It has an open-seating floor plan that is very navigable and encourages collaboration. The office lobby has a contemporary waiting area that displays the company’s name on a backdrop of lush plants.

RATIO|SMDP, LLC

Architects:
Grace Kuklinski Rappe

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

About RATIO|SMDP, LLC

Ratio Design used to be an Indianapolis-based architecture firm that specialized in historic preservation. It was an international firm of designers and planners with four studios across the country. The firm decided to branch out in 2012 and operate as a partnership with SMDP Studio. Now known as RATIO|SMDP, LLC, it has rebranded into a global design studio with works found in Southeast Asia. The firm has designed state-of-the-art headquarters for Samsung, USG Corporation, and Bank of Communications Suzhou.

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

Architects:
Chip von Weise

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

Address:
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 Archello, 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, an honor given to architects who continually innovate the overall concept and design of a project. The firm’s projects include a diverse mix of residential and commercial establishments. Its office projects are the current stand-outs in its portfolio because of its modern aesthetic.

Featured Projects

Von Weise Associates had the fun task of designing the new headquarters for the Chicago-based game company Cards Against Humanity. The firm designed a whimsical office space that perfectly reflects the company’s creativity. The office was created out of a 12k-square-foot warehouse in an industrial corridor. Crain’s List named it as one of Chicago’s Coolest Offices and Office Lovin’, a website that features some of the country’s best offices, made a feature on the unique space.