3M’s Forthcoming Design Center Riffs On The Archetypal Minnesota Cabin

“The creative cabins are a hint to the Minnesota lifestyle,” says 3M’s chief design officer.

3M is the poster child for successfully forging a culture of innovation, but what about nurturing a culture of design? Well, the brand’s Minnesota HQ is about to overhaul one of its buildings to house a new design center.


“If you think about ‘science applied to life,’ there was a story that was missing,” Eric Quint, chief design officer at 3M says of the brand’s mantra. “We have a great R&D center and numerous customer innovation centers. We have ‘science,’ we have ‘life,’ and ‘applied.’ The role of design is very much about applying the science and innovation to everyday life and we need to have the design center to do so.”

The company has done a remarkable job of finding ways to apply science to life. The most classic examples are Post-Its, Scotch-Brite, and a slew of adhesives, window films, and surfacing materials. But there’s certainly more opportunity considering the company’s deep well of knowledge.

The new design center is slated to be come a hub of creativity for the brand and the company designed the space, in tandem with the mega firm MSR, to make it easier to accomplish. The scheme hinges on an open-plan space with zones for meetings, quiet rooms, communal dining areas, an amphitheater—the usual suspects in modern creative offices. The idea is that the new center will foster collaborative creativity.

“I think of the Design Hive, or D-Hive as a little village in Italy where people come together under a tree and talk about politics, sports, and life,” Quint says. “It’s where the creatives will have discussions about new ideas, what’s happening in new society—a great place for cross-pollination of new ideas.”

Inside the space, enclosed areas mimic the look of cabins, an archetypal structure in Minnesota, and offer room for workshops or just quiet time. The flexible spaces are a natural fit for the work styles and 3M’s designers worked with the architects to find just the right balance. “The creative cabins are a hint to the Minnesota lifestyle,” Quint says.

3M plans to use the space as a showcase for its innovations so expect to see architectural films, adhesives, light reflecting technologies, sealants, and coatings. Moreover, it’s repping green creds too: a chilled-beam HVAC system is expected to slash energy use by 60%, as compared to a traditional HVAC, and LED lights will further reduce electricity consumption.


The 40,000-square-foot design center will become the hub for 150 employees and opens its doors in Spring 2016.

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.