Through qualitative research and co-design, NBBJ helped Microsoft uncover vital design priorities and achieve early stakeholder buy-in for the new B92 Learning Center.

Although Microsoft trains 30,000 employees a year across the globe, it had no home base for learning, a place where new employees, business partners, and visitors could see the company’s commitment to learning and innovation. The B92 Learning Center was conceived to create a central location for training and education, as well as for the corporate library, store, and visitor center, which had been scattered throughout the Redmond campus.

NBBJ’s designers challenged Microsoft to allow key stakeholders to participate in the concept design of this important facility. Among other activities, the process included a series of participatory workshops that established consensus around program goals and a conceptual vision.

Exercise 1: Image Card Sort

In the first activity, 24 participants received 35 image cards each. From these, they were asked to select five images describing their ideal future space, and three images describing what the future is not. By examining the most frequently selected images, the design team understood the participants’ priorities for the project.

Exercise 2: Adjacency and Experience Collages

Next, the participants were separated into four teams, each receiving a toolkit consisting of two sheets of paper, shapes, images, words, markers, tape, and other supplies. Each shape indicated a different part of the building program: each team cut the shapes to size to indicate relative importance, then arranged them on paper to map out desired relationships and adjacencies.

Each team then covered these diagrams with a sheet of translucent paper, on which they arranged a collage of their aspirations for each experience of the program. This insight into users’ desired experience of the building informed every subsequent step of the design process.

Completed Project

The B92 Learning Center opened on time and on budget, and the building has proven widely popular with Microsoft employees and visitors. New staff can grab a cup of coffee or visit the library in between training sessions, or rub shoulders with guests in the visitor center and company store.