When you step inside an Industrious location — whether it’s in Kansas City or New York — there are certain things you can expect to see: tons of greenery, floor-to-ceiling windows, and furniture that straddles the line between professional and comfortable. At the same time, each location is a unique reflection of its physical space and specific location, taking cues from its neighborhood’s architecture, geographic landmarks, and cultural touchstones.
Every day, Industrious’ Design Manager Stephen Tortorella works to establish that delicate balance between replicability and individuality. At the same time, Tortorella’s team is behind many of the design decisions you might not even realize affect your day at Industrious — like why it’s easy to grab a meeting room or quick cup of coffee. We sat down with Torterella to learn more about the design that informs members’ experience and why he loves coming to work.
Tell us about yourself. What brought you to Industrious?
I started my career in a more traditional architecture firm working on retail stores for luxury clients around the country. My interest in retail design stemmed from a desire to learn how to build quickly and iterate on one design over a series of locations. After cutting my teeth there, I moved from that firm to an in-house role at Chipotle Mexican Grill.
My time at Chipotle really gave me the opportunity to see how a branded environment is developed at all levels — not just through architectural design, but also through operations, guest experience, and long-term facility management. I saw this as the perfect move following my experience in retail architecture since it enabled me to learn how an established company develops locations at scale. At Chipotle, I helped develop new restaurants around the country, which allowed me to learn a ton about design’s role in developing a new location.
While at Chipotle, I was always interested in my coworkers’ stories about the early days when the company was establishing itself — how decisions were made and how, back then, Chipotle planned for scale. I was really interested in being a part of something more early-stage. When I saw the opening at Industrious, I knew it would be an excellent opportunity to apply all that I had learned, both in retail architecture and at Chipotle, while establishing a good foundation for a newer company’s spaces to scale effectively. I was also excited to challenge myself with a new use type, moving from retail and restaurant to commercial office space.
I’ve been here for about three years now and absolutely love it. I’m having fun every day!
How does your background inform the work you do at Industrious?
People hear that I’m an architect and their first question is usually, “Will you help me design my house?” Architecture typically brings to mind single-family, ground-up residential design or city skyscrapers. Those are important areas of architecture for sure, but the built environment encompasses so much more! I love being able to play a role in the spaces that people interact with every day. My personal interests right now are in iterating and building upon designs across a series of spaces.
As I started my professional career, I realized that a lot of companies have teams like we have at Industrious: a group of architects or interior designers making sure that the experience when a user comes into their physical space is consistent. For example, when you go to a national bank branch in your hometown, the experience you have is similar to if you were to go to the same bank’s branch in Brooklyn or Los Angeles. You see the same touch points, consisting of a lot of the same finishes and experiential pieces that are built into the environmental design.
There are people whose job it is — like mine — to decide what a user’s first impression will be when entering, what the right succession of spaces will be, and how to design a location so your path to your destination is clear. Through my time in both retail architecture and in-house at Chipotle and Industrious, I’ve been able to sit at both sides of the table, which helps to inform our thinking as we constantly review and iterate on our space designs and offerings.
What kind of impression are you trying to create for members when they enter an Industrious?
When Jamie and Justin founded Industrious, the name of the game for coworking was flash — this was a new way of thinking about work, and these spaces were designed to reflect that. Jamie and Justin recognized that there was a market opening for folks who did want the flexibility that coworking provided, but not the additional distractions that some spaces were putting out there. Our designs and the iterations of the designs that we’ve had over the years have all sprung from that mission of creating professional, productive spaces.
We have what we call a design vision, which is essentially our branded environment standards for what we want the visual experience to be as a member comes into the space. A few words that come to mind are understated, high quality, and honest. The design decisions that we make cascade down from that vision. For example, if we’re looking at two shades of blue — one that’s bright, loud, and poppy and another that’s deeper and more understated — we would go with the latter because it would be more conducive to our brand image and the environment that we’re trying to create.
What are some of the design decisions that members might not realize affect them everyday at Industrious?
In addition to the way the space looks, we also play a large role in how it functions through the space planning of each location. Based on our operating portfolio of locations and how we see our members and operations teams using them, we’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what is needed from a planning perspective.
We have a set of metrics that we look to hit for each location — for example, I mentioned earlier the right succession of spaces. But at an even deeper level, the metrics also get to some items that you may not even realize. Like the distance of how far an office should be from a coffee machine, the number of member fridges and microwaves, or the appropriate number of phone rooms based on the expected member count. All of these things help inform and drive our space planning. Over time, we’ve massaged those numbers to the point that we’re really confident that if we’re putting X-number of desks on a floor, we know we’ll be designing the space in a way that will correctly and successfully serve members.
Can you tell me about one of your favorite locations?
It’s tough to pick just one! Something that I love is how much locations change after we open them. When we launch a location, it’s completely empty and there are no people in yet — no community built up. Coming back a year or so later, it’s rewarding to see how the community really makes the space their own. One location to do this that is pretty near and dear to my heart is Industrious One Thomas Circle in Washington, D.C. It was the first location that I personally launched. Coming back over the years and seeing the community that’s built up over there has been really exciting.
With my retail background, I have also enjoyed the opportunity to partner with landlords and explore what it means to have our coworking product in a more mixed-use and retail-style setting, as with projects such as Industrious Fashion Square, Industrious Walnut Creek, or Industrious Short Hills. It’s exciting to see how landlords and our team at Industrious think about the ways that space use is changing.
What do you love about what you do?
Another question where it’s tough to pick just one thing!
My coworkers are amazing. Each of my colleagues — from Design, Construction, Real Estate, Product, Facilities, Ops, IT … you name it — exhibits levels of care, ownership, and support that I think are truly rare to find in professional life. Knowing that we’re all in it together and that we’re able to put our heads down to solve challenges as a team makes coming to work each day a joy. I’m so happy to be on this team, helping to define both the future of Industrious and the future of the workplace.