Leading the Band
A young San Francisco designer directs a diverse array of artists and makers to create an office of uncommon warmth and wit.
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The reception area mixes the old, a vintage tanker desk, with the new—a Roll & Hill Rudi pendant. New Bohemian created the hand-painted Lumosity logo.
All images courtesy Matthew Millman
Lauren Geremia’s brain is working fine. The 32-year-old Oakland, California–based designer is fresh off a big project for Lumosity, the San Francisco–based brain-game company that’s been inserting itself into the space between neuroscience, technology, and games with its memory-, attention-, and association-focused app. It’s a project that could have been a challenge, in the tricky combination of analog materiality and puzzle-centered design that Lumosity was looking for, but Geremia was ready for it. She’s designed a few tech companies, after all, and she didn’t do it alone.
The offices are on the 17th, 18th, and 19th floors of a 1920s office building, recently LEED-renovated by Perkins+Will, and currently home to a roster of San Francisco’s most successful tech companies (Yelp is the anchor tenant). Lumosity approached Geremia because of its familiarity with some of her earlier work—she’d done bars, coffee shops, residences, and offices for tech firms like Dropbox and Instagram—and because the company wanted someone it could work with. “We were drawn to Lauren because of her body of work and the feel of her designs,” says human resources director Missy Coyne, who worked closely with Geremia. “Then, in the course of interviewing her, it was clear that she was more collaborative than some of the other candidates we were interviewing.”
It’s one thing to be collaborative with the client, and most firms do tend to work—or at least talk about working—well with clients. It’s another thing to fully deploy a deep understanding of a vast network of other people’s skills and possibilities. “I know I have all these people who can play all these notes,” says the designer, who sees herself as a conductor working with an ever-changing band of players. “I make the proportions, and pull back or pull forward.” For Lumosity, Geremia knew she needed a composition of design music that was both totally harmonic—people, around 120 of them, would work here, after all—and utterly surprising. “They value design, they like drawings, and they have a lot of rituals,” she says.
To that end, Geremia created a design area furnished with round tables with little pockets filled with pens, markers, and art supplies—materials unusual for a tech company, but not surprising for a place like Lumosity. “They’re a little bit more analog than other companies,” Geremia says, citing processes like weekly design pinups or the fact that many of the designers still draw on paper. She worked (and played) with this ethos by using a lot of physical and direct references to gaming and puzzles—two of the brain-improving methods the company has developed and turned into apps that, it says, not only improve general brain capacity but also reduce the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s.