United Way of Metropolitan Chicago

Presenting a Practical Design to a Caring Community

United Way previously occupied multiple floors in a loft building owned by the organization in downtown Chicago’s West Loop area. Leaders of the not-for-profit believed they could continue to own that building, lease it out, and move to a smaller, more efficient space that, for the first time, could accommodate all employees on a single floor. Partners by Design was engaged to design the new space, located on the 30th floor of 333 South Wabash Avenue in the Loop. The design is clean, drawing the eye to panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago cityscape. When United Way welcomes community leaders into its offices, the message is clear: United Way is an open, transparent supporter of the entire community.

Striking the Right Note, While Staying Within Budget

Budget conformance was critical, and United Way’s not-for-profit status helped. All members of the team, vendors included, were gracious with their donations and time. Partners assisted United Way in securing special considerations and in keeping our client focused on making the smartest design decisions. For example:

  • Simple, unadorned finishes are paired with bold colors in key punch areas
  • The United Way brand—the accent color appearing throughout the offices—is both subtly and overtly used, depending on the type of space
  • Warm wood is a welcoming feature; reclaimed wood paneling and a beam salvaged from a another Chicago building serve as a reference to United Way’s former loft space
  • A round reception desk includes an engraved mission statement for a sense of permanence
  • Video messaging loops through recessed screens within the reception area
  • The open office workstations’ low landscape design promotes collaboration and quick decisions
  • Glass-front private offices concentrated at the core minimize view obstruction and maximize visibility to teams
  • Private offices, doubling as conference space, have both a freestanding table seating six and a private work wall
  • “Conversation hubs,” created as alternatives to scheduled meeting rooms, are destination places, featuring the very best views and distinctive seating styles
  • Lightweight, printed-fabric screens define the hub locations and infuse color into the spaces
  • Benching workstations provide temporary seating for visiting fundraisers and other guests
  • A workroom is incorporated for United Way’s design and marketing group
  • A smaller interior pantry is included in the design because a full cafeteria is available and the office building is surrounded by an array of restaurants
  • Carefully selected furniture, made possible in part through the generosity of furniture vendors, put the finishing touches on a beautiful, highly functional space

Environmental Branding by Spark / Photography by Tom Harris

  • Square Feet: 27,000

  • Location: Chicago, IL

  • Industry: Non-Profit

  • Key People: