When you say that Dynamit, a growing Web-design and development company, mixes fun and games with work, it's more than a tech-company cliche. For proof, the entire layout of the company's new Arena District offices is loosely based on the mansion in the Clue murder-mystery board game.
May 15, 2014
When you say that Dynamit, a growing Web-design and development company, mixes fun and games with work, it's more than a tech-company cliche.
For proof, the entire layout of the company's new Arena District offices is loosely based on the mansion in the Clue murder-mystery board game.
"Every room has a piece of Clue inspiration," said a smiling Matt Dopkiss, one of the firm's co-founders.
The connection stems from Dopkiss and fellow co-founder Bobby Whitman, friends at Bishop Watterson High School: One of their first projects was putting a version of the board game on a computer.
"So we started working on puzzles and games for fun," Dopkiss said. "And, as it turns out, we're still working together, making things."
Some of the Clue-like touches include a hidden conference room, a library, similar hallways, and conference rooms named after Clue rooms.
"We wanted something to show off to clients and that employees would enjoy every day," Whitman said.
There are a growing number of employees to house. After starting with three, the company has grown to a staff of 45 and expects to continue growing.
The name of the firm springs from the early 2000s, when the two founders "were hobbyists who made small business sites on the side," Whitman said. "We made our own content-management system and named it 'Dynamit' and we stuck with it - or we've been stuck with it."
Their first big break came when the BBC hired them to work on a streaming video for a promotional campaign.
One job led to another, until around 2008, when they began working with Charley's Grilled Subs.
"We started working with the marketing department, and someone there says, 'So and so in services needs your help,'??" Whitman said. "Before you know it, we have five different clients under the same company."
The way in which the Charley's contract grew has become typical for Dynamit.
"The idea is not just to come in and build computer software for a specific problem," Dopkiss said, "but to work as collaborators. So we're not just helping build an app for Hilton, we're helping Hilton build hotels more quickly, and that reduces their overall costs."
When the growing firm decided to move into new offices, their collaborative approach was part of the reason the offices took an unusual form.
Starting in January, the Dynamit team began working with local architects Gieseke Rosenthal Architecture + Design and quickly realized they had a major choice to make.
The offices were to be inside a 1927 vintage building that had been built as an International Harvester showroom.
"There was a lot of carpet and a lot of cubicles," Dopkiss said. "On the one hand, we could have done something ultracool with a lot of glass. On the other hand, we were thinking about something a little different. We realized that we didn't want a cookie-cutter office."
The initial meetings with Dynamit were rather unusual, said Adrienne Consales of Gieseke Rosenthal Architecture + Design.
"They're very creative, very fun, very eccentric," Consales said. "At the early meetings they had these crazy, over-the-top ideas. They wanted secret passages, diminishing hallways. But that kind of helps in the original design process.
"We took the Clue game board and actually laid out the floor plan based on the board game and how it was situated. That's something you wouldn't know unless you talked to them."
The spacious new offices also feature reclaimed wood from 19th-century Ohio barns, furniture built out of Watershed Distillery whiskey barrels and carriage-house doors from one of the first homes in Marble Cliff.
Whimsical touches abound, with every room featuring a piece that is inspired by Clue.
More important, the demands of the firm's collaborative approach pushed them to create many more conference rooms than they previously had. "We went from three to nine," Whitman said, "and couldn't be happier."
The design also answers the inevitable privacy issues of open office plans by featuring smaller spaces. Three areas the size of phone booths - named Socrates, Plato and Aristotle - have doors and seats because "sometimes you need a place to go and be alone," Dopkiss said.
Even meeting rooms can be made private. In the library, which has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, Dopkiss casually put his hand on a book and pushed it. A section of the bookshelves rolled back, revealing a hidden conference room.
"We'll eventually have a red phone here and a red phone in the lobby, directly linked," Dopkiss said.
Strolling out of the secret room, Dopkiss and Whitman walked into the large kitchen and eating area.
Behind a high counter was a beer tap.
"Yes, it's a technology company," Dopkiss said, chuckling. "In our business, people tend to spend a lot of time at the office. We want it to be a place to enjoy each other."
A rooftop deck for more communal gatherings is coming soon.
"We think this will be a good home for us," Whitman said. "We're excited about this new place."