A Welcoming Design for an Unconventional Firm

‘Growth’ was the primary theme for the new home of Acorns, an innovative fintech company that wants to build relationships with young investors.

For Acorns — an unconventional investment services firm that counts Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Lopez and Kevin Durant as investors — the ready-made metaphor found in the firm’s name provided a creative focus and the inspiration for the design of its new headquarters in Irvine, California.

“It’s all about growth,” says LPA Design Director Rick D’Amato. “Grow your oak. Grow your portfolio. Growth comes from personal change. From a building perspective, growth means maximum adaptability.”

Even though the tech-centric, Southern California-based company initially grew out of an app, it wasn’t looking for a bro-ish, Silicon Valley-style office filled with ping-pong tables. They wanted a space that would represent their culture and goals and their desire to help investors grow their savings. The design team spent months getting to know Acorns, its values and its aspirations.

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Wood and organic materials help create a welcoming environment.

“The marching orders were to create something filled with social and collaborative spaces that wasn’t blandly corporate,” D’Amato says. “The design of the space was all about optimism.”

Acorns had outgrown its earlier home — a white, minimalist office in nearby Newport Beach that wasn’t a good fit. Acorns prides itself on exuding personality in the often-staid financial services industry. CEO Noah Kerner has called the firm’s offerings a “financial wellness system,” creating a financial infrastructure for millions of younger clients.

“Acorns wants staff to be intimately involved with their clients, to be conduits for sound financial investing and planning,” D’Amato says. “Part of the way to help make those interactions more successful, from a design perspective, is by creating an office that provides both a comfortable place to interact and room to showcase the individuality and personality of the staff.”

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Open, light-filled spaces reflect the company’s values of transparency and openness.

"They wanted an open and collaborative environment, and they are not office-centric. Instead of providing offices, they wanted to focus on giving the teams comfortable workspaces and many different options.” Jeanie Kim, Managing Director

The new headquarters is in a four-story office building that is part of a large corporate campus in Irvine. The design takes full advantage of the blank canvas to create a new stage for the firm to connect with clients. Wood and organic materials reflect a warmer, sustainable environment. Much of the artwork on display was created by employees. Signature design elements include a two-story, abstract wood sculpture recalling a stout oak tree, which sprouts out of the lobby floor. A moss-covered wall creates another connection to nature.

The final layout is something both comfortable and adaptable, like a piece of wood with grooves worn in, or a favorite shirt, D’Amato says.

The offices and collaboration spaces reflect that sense of comfort and versatility. Spread over four levels, the open workspaces and offices, accented with blocks of green, can be easily expanded or downsized, depending on how and where employees work. The collaborative workspaces and conference rooms offer different furniture and seating choices, including bean bag chairs. Swinging glass doors open to the exterior, a nod to transparency and openness that reflects the company’s values and allows for indoor-outdoor staff meetings.

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An abstract wood sculpture sprouting out of the lobby floor is a play on the company’s name.

“They wanted an open and collaborative environment, and they are not office-centric,” says LPA Managing Director Jeanie Kim. “Instead of providing offices, they wanted to focus on giving the teams comfortable workspaces and many different options.”

While the space allows for diverse styles of work, the interior is designed around a two-story common area that’s more focused on the team. A large stadium stairway rising from the break room is topped by a neon green sign that says “Grow Your Oak.” Behind it, on a dark, chalkboard wall, employees have written their own goals and messages in swirls of colorful chalk. This evolving image, which reinforces the idea of connections and being part of a larger whole, gels with the culture of the firm and the larger vision of its products.

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The new design strives for efficiency in a typical corporate building.

“The chalkboard and neon sign just reinforce that oak and tree metaphor, the idea that something is changeable and adaptable,” D’Amato says. “We hope it gives visitors a personal connection with staff that you just don’t get in traditional offices.”