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Maestro

401 East Michigan, Suite 202 Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

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Photo: Miller-Davis

Jennifer Randall received the one thing she wanted for Christmas 2011: Planet Maestro.

Randall is co-founder and president of Maestro, which develops apps; creates training programs; and offers strategic consulting services to clients as diverse as Facebook, Dannon, Twitter, Johnson & Johnson and Netflix. The company’s 29 employees (AKA Maestronauts), 7 of them Dribbblers, affectionately call their office Planet Maestro.

From the start of Randall’s 2011 search for a bigger office for her growing crew, she was drawn to the heart of Kalamazoo, Michigan. “I felt the energy and excitement of … this cute little historic town that has a lot of things going on,” Randall told Dribbble. “I felt that our youthful team would really benefit.”

Her search took her to a cavernous space in a renovated, three-building block on East Michigan Avenue, hard by the train tracks on the edge of downtown. “It looked like a ballroom,” she said. The “ballroom” hadn’t attracted tenants, perhaps scared off by too much possibility and too little structure. Where others saw nothing, Randall saw Maestro.

“I fell in love immediately,” she said. “This is where our company needs to be.”

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Photo: Miller-Davis

Only five years previous, Maestro’s block comprised two neglected buildings, dating from the late 19th/early 20th century. They had housed everything from a grocer to a boarding house and witnessed the birth of the Stryker medical device company, still headquartered in Kalamazoo. After an $11 million renovation in 2007, the block’s duo became a trio with the addition of a 1930s-influenced building with an aluminum façade. The result garnered attention from up-and-comers such as chef Julie Stanley and her popular eatery Food Dance, and entrepreneur Jennifer Randall and Maestro.

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Photo: Miller-Davis

At the time Randall was looking for Maestro space, the company was shifting identities, from an elearning-focused company to its current iteration. Randall wanted the physical space to embody the company’s new core values. Collaboration sat at the heart of Maestro’s redefinition and guided Randall in transforming the “ballroom” into an “extension of who we are.”

Explaining the process she and caterer-turned-office-admin Annette Pikaart took to designing, Randall said, “I didn’t want to overcomplicate it. I didn’t want to destroy how gorgeous it was all by itself. I had been to Facebook’s East and West coast offices and felt like everything we were doing was similar to the types of things they were doing.” And so Maestro features a centerpiece kitchen, a cooperative space for chowing and chatting, as well as an open, conversation-friendly layout: no cubes, glass internal walls.

“The company is built on collaboration,” said Zach DeYoung, Maestro creative director. “We’ve always had this sense that none of us is as good as all of us. This space being open really makes people accessible. It also mimics our company structures. … We try to keep it as flat as possible. We try to reflect that with the space.”

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Photo: Maestro

The morphing company’s focus on collaboration might explain its success with new team-friendly apps such as Rally. The software grew out of Maestro’s event work with big corporations, and helps individual conference attendees connect with one another and with information from speakers and conference organizers. Current Maestro efforts include custom development for existing clients, new builds such as Rally, ongoing work with Facebook, and a role-playing app tailored for sales teams.

As Randall envisioned, Planet Maestro is about more than work. In the names of community service and team building, Maestro partnered with local nonprofits to provide local children with bikes built by Maestro staff. Another team-building activity featured chair Olympics, in which staffers raced around the office in desk chairs. (DeYoung took the gold.)

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Photo: Maestro

Randall has opened the offices for a Dribbble meetup, Kzoo Hack, regular CocoaHeads meetups, and Pitch Zoo, a monthly competition affiliated with Western Michigan University. Additionally, Randall has invited the staff’s personal lives into the office, which has hosted two baby showers, one bridal shower, a high school graduation party, and Randall’s 35-person Thanksgiving dinner.

“I wanted it to be fun, I wanted it to be hip,” she said. “People come to our office and they go crazy over this space they didn’t know was in downtown Kalamazoo. It’s a separate entity. It’s a personality at Maestro.”

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Photo: Maestro

*Go visit Maestro’s Dribbblers: Zach De Young, Doug Eklund, John Furrow, Adam Girton, Amy O’Donnell, Andy Peninger, and Pete Rix

Thank you for your help: Zach De Young, creative director, Maestro; Sharon Ferraro, historic preservation officer, City of Kalamazoo; Nicole Marques, business development manager, Miller-Davis; Jennifer Randall, president, Maestro; Beth Timmerman, local history specialist, Kalamazoo Public Library

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