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The Office Where HBO Is Incubating Its Next Big Idea

HBO Digital Products–the network’s innovation arm–has a new office in Seattle that’s purpose-designed to spark new projects like HBO Go.

When HBO was founded in 1974, home entertainment involved network television and renting movies. Cable was an exciting novelty. How things would change in the coming decades. In the on-demand world of today, we can tune into the ol’ boob tube, subscribe to any number of streaming services, access premium channels à la carte, and watch shows and movies on our phones, tablets, and computers. To keep pace, entertainment companies have had to innovate, and the pressure is more intense than ever to keep audiences engaged and happy.

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In 2012, HBO announced the formation of HBO Code Labs, now named Digital Products, a software-engineering arm based in Seattle–a strategic move to tap into the Pacific Northwest’s tech scene–to help the company stay fresh. Since then, HBO Digital Products has created new experiences for the brand, including its HBO Go and HBO Now streaming services, both major boons for the network.

To help spark the next big idea, the company worked with Rapt Studio–a multidisciplinary design firm with offices in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles–to design a workspace that would fuel collaboration and creative thinking.

It’s normal for Digital Products to switch up the composition of its teams–which could include designers, programmers, and engineers–on a per-project basis. It’s also par for the course to iterate with a rapid clip. That meant the new 120,000-square-foot office had to be flexible, easy to adapt, and support different work modes.

Much of the furniture, including tables, desks, and storage carts, is movable so employees can modify reconfigure arrangements at-will. The designers mounted white boards to walls along the space’s hallways for brainstorming, and included tall tables for daily stand-up meetings, along with lounge seating for informal conversations. To keep the office from reading as cold, the designers also picked pieces often found in hotel settings–caramel-brown leather lounge chairs, reclaimed-wood tables, and Edison bulbs. A tactile rope ceiling nods to Seattle’s history as a maritime hub.

The focus in the Digital Products’ office is set squarely on new software; a screening room and demo lab let the designers test new ideas. However, not every detail is set to barreling toward the future; there are also a few nostalgic touches, like retro arcade games, to recall the past. Spy the space in the slide show above.

Correction: HBO renamed its Code Labs division “Digital Products.” The post has been updated to reflect the change.

About the author

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

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