San Francisco

Imaginative Environments and surface patterning are essential for the offices of 'ber-hip high-tech companies where youthful, creative employees work long hours. This is just the type of client Studio O+A has been engaging for about 20 years. And whether creating a workplace for an iconic firm like Facebook or Microsoft or a start-up with budget limitations, principals Primo Orpilla and Verda Alexander love to push boundaries when it comes to materials'especially the common variety.

The selection is never random, however. According to Alexander, 'First we try to understand the client to glean something unique for design direction.' In the case of Quid, a young analytics company specializing in software for investors in emerging technologies, the San Francisco'based interior designers took their cues from the intellectual Oxford pedigree of the founding partners as well as the graphic potential of their algorithms.

Making the most of the bunkerlike feel of the company's 4,719-square-foot space, Orpilla and Alexander devised an open office plan with exposed concrete, columns, and ceiling ductwork, painting most everything white to provide the illusion of height and space. Then they began to play, defining individual areas with eclectic elements that establish visual barriers within the room.

An accomplished artist, Alexander worked with her graphic design team to develop a wallcovering for the long entry hall and reception area. The resulting pattern is an abstract interpretation of Quid's mapping studies, and a whimsical introduction to the corporate offering and philosophy. Maintaining this sleight of hand, she and Orpilla crafted a small transparent conference room (below) out of vinyl welding strips (the kind you find on loading docks and in meat lockers), which simply hang from a suspended ceiling track'no doors required. And for the mostly paperless library, the designers achieved an authentic university feel with tromp l'oeil wallpaper dubbed Books and wing chairs upholstered with genuine British route signs.

Such wit and wisdom clearly work for the client. The Quid website includes photos of its new office to tout the company culture.