How the 'pop-up' retail concept can be applied to workplace design

“Pop-up” has rapidly become one of the most pervasive design trends in recent years. It has given us pop-up shops and pop-up restaurants, but can it be applied to the professional work environment?

July 17, 2014 |

“Pop-up” has rapidly become one of the most pervasive design trends in recent years. It’s about engaging customers where they least expect it. It’s about surprise, wit and the freedom of being temporary. At some level it calls back to our childhoods where our imaginations, given a few essentials queues, could transform any space into a place of wonder… at least for a little while. This trend has given us pop-up shops, pop-up restaurants, but can it be applied to the professional work environment?

As Gensler’s London design team recently found out, it certainly can. And for some clients, this type of thinking is a better design solution than more traditional workplace approaches. This is what happened when Techhub met Gensler and pop-up met workplace.

TechHub, a rapidly expanding London co-working space geared towards tech start-ups, approached Gensler’s design team with an exciting challenge. The lease at their original site was expiring, and they had taken a lease on a building overlooking the famous Old Street roundabout. But it needed a little more than just a lick of paint. The budget was small and the time frame tight. They needed it to be operational in just 90 days.

Gensler’s design team responded with a solution that combines pop-up thinking with raw urban character to yield an energetic yet functional montage of exposed concrete, plywood and glass. And our office’s brand design team contributed a bold and playful environmental graphics program throughout the space.

Environmental graphics are critical ingredients in pop-up design; they provide a rich and engaging brand expression that can quickly and affordably be applied through the space.

A visitor’s first experience of TechHub begins at street level. Colourful lighting placed in the second floor windows creates brand identification and impact. It is visible from the nearby Underground station and the Old Street roundabout. This effectively creates a 60 meter wide ‘sign’ using a dozen common fluorescent light fixtures.

Reception signage was realized in exposed yellow neon. Neon was chosen for its energetic feel but also for its wonderful ambiguity: is it a sign for a Kebab shop or is it the work of Tracey Emin?



The main spine of the working space is organized through the use of colorful graphics that are both identification for the team suites and a mode of wayfinding within the space.

Additional graphics reinforced start-up culture through the use of bold key phrases, references to computer programming syntax and icons of “pure joy” (a gigantic cheeseburger for example.)

The program was completed within the project’s deadline and budget. The result is a clear demonstration of how pop-up design thinking dovetails with the energetic and dynamic nature of TechHub’s start-up culture. It is a case study in the how environmental graphics can rapidly and affordably transform a space. In their own words, TechHub is now a “Cocoon of Awesomeness.”

About the Author

Wesley Meyer has more than 10 years of experience as a specialist in wayfinding strategy and environmental graphic design. You can contact him at

GenslerOn | Gensler

Published by Gensler, a global design firm with 5,000 practitioners networked across five continents, GenslerOn features insights and opinions of architects and designers on how design innovation makes cities more livable, work smarter, and leisure more engaging. Our contributors write about projects of every scale, from refreshing a retailer’s brand to planning a new urban district, all the while explaining how great design can optimize business performance and human potential. For more blog posts, visit:

Related Blogs

July 15, 2019 | Healthcare Facilities | GenslerAmy Carter, Bethany Callihan, and James Crispino

Below are five strategies to improve access and patient experience.

How the Internet of Things will transform airport environments

Auckland Airport — Auckland, New Zealand. Photo courtesy Gensler

May 20, 2019 | Airports | GenslerScott Gorenc, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Designer, Gensler

Connected devices and their wealth of data have led to significant improvements in operational efficiency a...

April 30, 2019 | GenslerDiane Hoskins

Our data reveal what is truly going on in the current workplace, with insights on how workplace design can...

It’s time for office amenities to get to work

At Campari Group’s new North American headquarters in New York, four distinct bar-like experiences offer more than just a place for employees and guests to blow off steam. Photo courtesy Gensler

April 08, 2019 | Office Building Design | GenslerAmanda Carroll, IIDA, CID, LEED AP, Workplace Leader, Principal, Gensler

Amenities with the greatest impact on effectiveness and experience are those that directly support the work...

How the built environment can help the climate crisis

Courtesy Pixabay

November 05, 2018 | Sustainability | GenslerAnthony Brower

Our buildings and cities will have to experiment with new climate responsive forms, and in many cases, the...

Leland Federal Building

The G.T. "Mickey" Leland Federal Building in Houston. Image © Joe Aker.

October 03, 2018 | Sustainability | GenslerChris Mundell And Maria Perez

Many companies are influenced by the misconception that only some projects can qualify as sustainable.

Comcast Studio Xfinity

For Comcast Studio Xfinity's new flagship in Washington, D.C., Gensler created an engaging experiential brand program that informed the store's interior design and created a warm, social, and inviting environment. Image © Chris Leonard.

September 17, 2018 | Retail Centers | GenslerRyan Cavanaugh

One way to solve for the future is to disrupt the expected.

August 27, 2018 | Office Building Design | GenslerJanet Pogue McLaurin

The degree of open or enclosed doesn't matter in high-performing work environments. If the space is designe...

The CSU Northridge Sustainability + Recycling Center

The CSU Northridge Sustainability + Recycling Center includes a rooftop photovoltaic system, which offsets the energy required to support the building's administrative functions. Glazed, north-facing overhead windows bring in natural light that enhances the work environment for staff and creates a daylight autonomous environment. The design eliminates the need for artificial light in the building during daylight hours. Ryan Gobuty, Image © Gensler.

August 06, 2018 | Energy | GenslerAnthony Brower

The architecture, engineering, and construction industry will have to make major adjustments in the years a...

A day in the life of an ‘agile worker’

A mix of sit-stand stations and collaboration areas support agile working. Image © Gensler/John Ryan.

July 18, 2018 | Office Building Design | GenslerJane Stull

When our Gensler La Crosse office relocated last year, we leveraged the opportunity to support an agile wor...

Overlay Init