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Inside Adobe’s Founders Tower, a space designed for the future of work

The software company opened a new building to commemorate its 40 years of existence, featuring designs for enabling creative work among distributed teams.
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Gensler/Jason O’Rear Photography

· 4 min read

These images aren’t Photoshopped; they’re real pics of Founders Tower, the new building at Adobe’s headquarters, a pre-pandemic project meant to champion a new era for the company and to make a statement in the cityscape of San Jose.

With 1.25m square feet of office space meant to accommodate around 4,000 of the company’s 28,000 employees, the space has been optimized by the company’s internal employee experience research to provide appropriate spaces for every type of way employees may need to work.

“We designed Founders Tower with over 400 environments including team neighborhoods, focus rooms, collaboration zones, drop-in desks, adventure rooms, and community gathering grounds, along with the technology to support them,” Gloria Chen, Adobe’s chief people officer, said in a company blog post.

The HQ includes areas equipped with digital art experiences that employees can interact with for fun. Throughout the building, the walls are adorned with art created by users of the company’s software.

Adobe Founder's Tower collage

Illustration: Francis Scialabba, Photos: Gensler, Morning Brew

A space for dynamic work. When the Founders Tower project started back in 2018, Adobe leadership could not have predicted the upheaval coming to the world of work. The company benefited from research conducted by Lab82, its internal employee-experience research hub, to inform the design both before Covid-19 and for a post-pandemic world that is more hybrid and remote.

Natalie Engels, principal and design director at Gensler, the workplace design firm contracted by Adobe, shared how the process changed over the course of Covid-19. Together, Gensler and Adobe looked at the employees by “individual personas” to determine what their workdays looked like.

“Quickly, we realized…you can do individual work anywhere,” Engels told HR Brew. “What this space is really going to [prioritize] is team dynamics. So, then we did a lot of research with them on team dynamics.”

Team dynamics were an area of specialization for Lab82, Engels said, adding that they tested office furniture, meeting behaviors, and different audiovisual setups, and how those needs may be different for different departments.

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Pandemic-driven enhancements. Though some adjustments were required to the design due to the changes brought on by Covid-19, Adobe was already working on spaces to accommodate distributed teams collaborating on creative projects. It’s a software company for creatives, after all. The main difference was lowering the expectations for the number of people coming into the office on a day-to-day basis, Engels said.

The office also includes an “on-site, off-site” space, where teams and departments can gather distributed employees into a physical space and host hackathons, annual kickoffs, and other forms of large team events in an area reminiscent of the conference accommodations of a hotel, but nicer. The vibes are split between elements of both work and play to accommodate all kinds of thinkers.

“Color psychology is used throughout the building to guide people to the spaces that most naturally fit their need: Blue denotes focus, green promotes collaboration, and orange encourages connection and community,” Chen wrote.

Adobe Office


“We worked with Love Good Color…[which] has this incredible system of language. And we learned a good bit,” Engels said. “Orange [and] reds are really very engaging, they’re exciting. They have a lot of life and energy.”

Beyond the value of color theory, it was important for Adobe to imprint its company culture and character throughout this space.

“Our community of artists from Behance and Adobe Stock are showcased on digital art columns…murals designed by incredible local artists adorn our walls as an homage to the rich diversity of the City of San Jose. And the bridge that will eventually connect Founders Tower to our existing three towers…will be surrounded by unique art installations,” Chen wrote.

“Tying it all together and grounding us in our history is the Adobe Experience Museum, a public showcase of Adobe’s values, mission, products, and community focus.”

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.