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Thermaltake opens new office, prepares new designs

While producing iconic designs like the Level 10 chassis, Thermaltake has been located in a small office on the outskirts of Taipei. Alongside a growth in the company's ambition, CEO Kenny Lin recently decided that he needed to grow the office. Champagne bottles at the ready, KitGuru sent a spy along to investigate.

There are tons of literary references about the outside reflecting the inside. Hindu wisemen believe that the separations between inside and outside are, in fact, an illusion – that there is only a single universe which flows as a continuum. Whatever the philosophical debates, Ikea has made a fortune by enabling people to create a clean, attractive environment.

So, let's ask the question, how nice should an office environment be – if you truly want to compete on a global stage?

Thermaltake has spared no expense on this occasion. The new building is located in the Nei Hu Technology Park, right in the centre of Taipei, a short walk from the head offices of companies like Acer. We've included a night shot of the nearby bridge, a Google snap of the building itself and, just to the right of Thermaltake's new building, you can read ‘Nangang' – where the annual Computex exhibition takes place in June.

The bridge is near Thermaltake's new office building - which is shown to the right.

New Ethos
The new building follows on from a series of major internal discussions at Thermaltake about what the company is, what it should stand for and what kind of products it should be making. CEO Kenny Lin believes that for a company to stand out, it needs to be courageous – to be willing to step forward onto the world stage with new and innovative products.

“When we saw the economic downturn, we assumed that people would want much more economical designs and we acted quickly. Looking back now, I can see that this was not right”, said Lin. “Even though the economy suffered, Thermaltake's best-selling products were all at the high end, from the new Toughpower XT power supplies and Frio cooler, through to the unique Level 10 chassis. It was something of a surprise. It taught me to focus on quality and our core values, ahead of market conditions”.

He also wants to spark passion, from his design team through to his customers. Finally, he appreciates that you don't get everything right first time, so there's an underlying need to persevere – to push on when you don't get it right. That combination of courage, passion and perseverance is what he describes as “Thermaltake's DNA for the new century”. Fine ideals, aspirational stuff – but what has that got to do with an office move to a new building?

New Building
Having examined the internal office arrangements for all of the world's most successful companies, Lin approached the new building design with new thinking. “I need my teams to be at their creative best, to conceive of products that have never been imagined before”, said Lin. “To create special designs, people need to feel special and be in a special environment. A place where their creativity is nurtured. We are already seeing the results”.

Each floor has chill zones to encourage discussion on design

The design teams themselves all have massive glass walls to write on – somewhere everyone can access and comment on. We will do a special follow piece on the design areas themselves – with some ‘design in action' pics, but for now we'll focus on the new building itself.

It's all about gaming - right? The new offices are covered with design icons and chill-out spaces

This concept of creating an office that people really enjoy being in, then giving them lots of opportunities to eat etc around their work colleagues – has been pioneered by the big American concerns like Microsoft. It makes for a friendlier environment, while increasing the amount of time people will spend talking about work related stuff. Smart investment really.

If you want to get a head in design

The cost of creating this kind of building in the UK or USA would be prohibitive. KitGuru has not idea how much this new environment cost, but it certainly seems worthwhile if your staff start knocking out better products.

There are at least 2 kitchen areas on each floor - most with free noodles and snacks
Thermaltake CEO, Kenny Lin, is a pro-class cyclist who also has a keen interest in pro-gaming

While many company executives will tell you that they love their products and market, not many of them have hired a team of professional StarCraft II players to get them up to a competitive level.

Kenny Lin believes that the rapid pace of development of his Tt eSPORTS division will help drive the rest of the company to innovate quicker. How has he picked up the pace with design for the gaming products?

A year ago, Tt eSPORTS did not really exist. At CeBIT last year (March) they showed early demos. By Computex (June) the products were real. The full launch was September and, by Xmas, they were selling in volume.

This new division is driven in a very special way. Thermaltake has given up a huge amount of floor space to create the ‘Apollo Training Facility' for the company's own pro-gaming squad. These players sit less than 50 metres from the design team. When the gamers want to see a new innovation, they go next door, meet with the designers, the CAD model is then created and passed over to a special machine which can cut a new mouse from a block of solid resin – in less than 3 hours. That's some speedy prototyping.

Inside the air-con-cold Apollo training centre - right next door to Thermaltake's gaming products design team,
Kenny Lin takes on his own pro-gamers every day - and encourages the rest of the company to take lessons.

We will touch back on the special areas within the new building in a separate article. For now, we'd like to highlight the best product we've seen from a gaming company for a very long time, the Tt eSPORTS Pro Gamer bag. Here you can see an early model getting the friendly thumbs-up from close rival, Razer.

Thermaltake CEO, Kenny Lin (left) gets the thumb-up from Razer on his new Pro-Gamer bag design

KitGuru says: It's great to see companies pushing hard to create new and interesting products. Thermaltake has had some very interesting ups and downs in recent years and we really like the fact that Kenny Lin was prepared to say that some of the design decisions taken were not right for his company. Putting the ‘lows' to one side for a second, the Frio cooler and Level 10 chassis show that these guys can produce desirable looking products and we hope that this move will stimulate more competition among the chassis, PSU, cooler and gaming products companies.

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