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The Co-Design Process – Flad Architects

Post by 
Noosha Hodges
June 30, 2020
“The value of a space is not just found in the architecture, but also the objects that occupy the space.”

Studio Other’s relationship with Flad Architects began six years ago while collaborating on a project for Juno Therapeutics in Seattle, Washington. After the conclusion of the product, Mitchel Zelinger, Studio Other Executive Vice President, continued to maintain a steady relationship with Ben de Rubertis and David Black, Flad Principals.

Last June, Ben reached out with a request for us to participate in the co-design of a health kiosk for a new client, which we quickly jumped on and helped develop. Following the success of the supposed one-off project, Westlake Consulting, the Project Manager on the Juno project, reached out on behalf of Adaptive Biotechnologies, a pioneer and leader in immune-driven medicine that aims to improve people’s lives by learning from the wisdom of their adaptive immune systems. Adaptive was planning to move into their new Seattle headquarters and Studio was engaged to help design the new workstations and private offices.

Our team was asked to produce a prototype of the original bid design within 4 weeks. We kicked off this endeavor with a live co-design session with Ben, where we picked his brain about the intricacies of Adaptive core technologies, and the forms and shapes associated with their brand, which Ben was using as the primary inspiration for the architecture.

This kicked off six weeks of weekly live Sketchup brainstorming sessions. Because of our comfortable relationship with Ben, these sessions were free of constraints and formalities, allowing us all to lose ourselves in old-school design session. What we find special about working with the architects and designers at Flad is that they value our role as industrial designers to create a true and safe partnership. They understand that the value of a space is not just found in the architecture, but also the objects that occupy the space. This allowed for a safe space that cultivated true innovative collaboration. During this time, we worked hand-in-hand with Flad, leaving each session with new developments to work through on our own time so that we could then present a polished presentation to the client.

Our initial concept was a typical benching solution that serves the needs of many people. However, Ben was vital in helping us understand who Adaptive Bio is, what makes them unique, and how they work. Through these conversations, we came to understand the company to have an inclusive culture that celebrates all ethnicities, genders and lifestyles, with their mantra being, “Bring your whole self to work.”

Initial Concept

“We were equally intrigued by the cell’s form and used similar inspiration for our workstations by integrating the unique angles into our own design.”

This left us with the question: How do we make a space that lets them do their best work but also makes them feel comfortable to express themselves? This is where we began incorporating identifying characteristics into our design, including nameplates to allow for personal ownership.

Additionally, Adaptive Bio’s technology involves removing T-cells from your body, adding beneficial elements, then reinjecting them to help treat cancer. Ben had been inspired by the angles of T-cells themselves and was incorporating similar traits into the architecture. We were equally intrigued by the cell’s form and used similar inspiration for our workstations by integrating the unique angles into our own design.

Once we all agreed on a design, we built a prototype and shipped it up to Seattle. Adaptive Bio then organized a two-day session with every department head and one or two users from each department. Because of their inherently inclusive culture, they wanted to ensure everyone had a voice and felt the space was theirs, not just the people at the top. In the time spent with them, we would walk through the design and ask them questions about their specific needs and what they hoped to accomplish. We then took their feedback and displayed it on a post-it note board so that their ideas would be equally reflected. This process helped us learn what worked and what didn’t work about our design, so that we could best define what was important to Adaptive.


Eventually, a codesigned prototype was agreed upon by all teams. Additionally, because we thoroughly understand the vision of the project, Adaptive came back with even more product requests to co-design with Flad, including a boardroom table, the reception desk and an all-hands table. These projects began with a significant budget that allowed us to design at our full creative capacity, free from the typical financial constraints. However, we then found out the budget was cut in half, so we had to immediately pivot and come up with an innovative solution to maintain an elevated design that the team had already fallen in love with, while drastically reducing the cost. Studio Other relies on our suppliers to help us reach our design goals and adjust the design to match the budget, and this time was no exception. Because of our 20-year relationship with Valentine Woodworks, they were able to help us get there, and the Adaptive Bio team was thrilled with the result.

Original design for Boardroom concept


Today, Studio Other is in the process of working on shop drawings and final details, using Flad and Adaptive’s vision for the furniture to stand as an ohmage to craft and building. Adaptive is located on Lake Union, which is known for boat building, so the furniture designs speak to the city’s rich history. We look forward to seeing this innovative project to completion and continuing our relationships with our partners and client for years to come.

“Ben had been inspired by the angles of T-cells themselves and was incorporating similar traits into the architecture. We were equally intrigued by the cell’s form and used similar inspiration for our workstations by integrating the unique angles into our own design.”
Value engineered version of Boardroom
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