When Victor Ng, Pinterest’s brand designer, was hired by the company about a year ago, he did something unusual. He made a poster with Ryan Gosling and a cartoon speech bubble that said, memelike, "Hey girl—I’ll repin yours if you repin mine," and sent it in, along with his signed offer letter.
It was a cheeky move that might be frowned on at a traditional company, but that’s not what Pinterest is. In fact, Ng’s poster is prominently displayed in the office. And indeed, since Pinterest moved to a new location last summer, the company has slowly, gradually been decorating the office with trinkets, found and commissioned objects, and employee-made tchotchkes. In effect, as you can see from the slideshow above, you might say that Pinterest’s own offices are like a giant, real-life Pinterest board (and no Pinterest fails in sight).
It's immediately striking to visitors. "We have this big atrium when you walk in, and their first words are, ‘This is exactly what Pinterest would look like,’ " he laughs. "They go, ‘Wow, this is a real-life Pinterest!’ " To tour Pinterest offices is like touring Wonka’s factory, only with handmade thread art in place of chocolate rivers (and with smiling, dapper "pinployees" in place of Oompa Loompas).
Ng—who was himself a design student (and early Pinterest user) before joining the company—explains the strategy Pinterest took when moving into its offices. "We intentionally left it barebones," he says. "A lot of walls were left white." Shortly after the company moved in, it held its first "make-a-thon" (an offline twist on the sort of all-night hackathons held at Facebook and other innovative Silicon Valley companies). Ng’s first creation? "I made a life-size Pinterest board on our wall. Each time we ship a major project, we put a big red pin in it." Other make-a-thon projects have included hanging paper lanterns around the office and "turning the men’s bathroom into a crazy lounge," says Ng. "There are no rules for what to do."
He adds: "The office feels much more lived-in. We didn’t want to move into something pre-fab."
Not all Pinterest decorations are necessarily made in-house, but even the items brought in from the outside world have a crafty, flea-market, DIY feel about them. "We try not to buy things that match"—far too corporate and not at all "Pinterest-y," in the company parlance. "We’ll buy one-off things." The front lobby, for instance, features lockers, a world map in the corner, and a functional letterpress; another area features "crazy animal pillows." And the company commissioned a piece of functional art from artist Thomas Wold—an almost Seussian piece of furniture where the pinployees can stash their collections. "A lot of these areas grow organically," says Ng, often driven by a few individuals or a team. "Every team is essentially collaborating on their space. It’s a real-life manifestation of Pinterest, in a lot of ways." (And inevitably, of course, the company has a collaborative Pinterest board devoted to ideas of how to transform the office space.)
At first blush, the cute and ever-shifting digs of Pinterest might seem simply like another perk of working at an innovative company. Design, after all, is "deeply woven into the DNA of the company," points out Ng—so it’s only natural that design-oriented people would take care with their space.
But the handmade feel to Pinterest’s offices is actually the expression of something deeper, says Ng—a core value that is likely key to the company’s success.
"There’s a value in the company called ‘knitting,’ which essentially means collaboration," says Ng, whose own brand design team at the company recently quadrupled (from just Ng to a group of four, each with divergent backgrounds). "Knitting" applies not just to work projects, he explains, but to the crafting of Pinterest’s own physical space. And indeed, beyond that, the spirit of "knitting" applies to any of the various aspects of Pinterest’s culture that are about individuals creating and sharing with the group: the baked goods the recruiting team brings in every Friday; the weekly "Studio Nights" on Thursdays when anyone in the company can share a skill with the others (recent topics have included sushi-making and beeswax craftsmanship).
"It’s all part of the culture of making that we try to encourage," says Ng.
Photos by Victor Ng