Clif Bar

Climbing to the Top

Photos by Frederick Julius Photography.

Who is Clif Bar?

Clif Bar is a company that produces organic foods and drinks, including their signature, original product the Clif Bar. The organization is committed to sustainability concentrating on Five Aspirations – Sustain their Business, Brands, People, Community, and Planet. With respect to the workplace, Clif Bar strives to make it unique and meaningful to all of its employees. The  Indianapolis location includes an office, bakery, and various employee wellness areas.

Why did Clif Bar Engage DORIS?

In response to an RFP, CSO Architects partnered with DORIS to determine the best direction for the future space to meet the needs of all their employees, through Research. DORIS worked with all 430 employees to gather detailed qualitative and quantitative data regarding space utilization, efficiency, employee morale, culture, and values.

Culture and values were of particular importance to Clif Bar because of their 5 Aspirations Model. They had just acquired a new location, in Indianapolis, and were finding it difficult to integrate their own specific culture with the previous company’s culture. They faced challenges related to language barriers and cultural differences.

Methods of Engagement

Employees Engaged

One-On-One Interviews

Continuous Hours of Usability Study

Ideation Sessions

Prototyping Sessions

Clif Bar’s Challenges & Solutions

During Clif Bar’s Research project, we identified and solved for  10 workplace challenges they faced in 2017. Here were 3 of their top challenges and the accompanying solutions. If these challenges sound familiar to you and your organization, drop us a line.



The typical Clif Bar employee needed to come through the door, clock-in, and get to work as quickly as possible. But what happens when everyone in a shift needs to access the same spaces, at the same time? Crowding. DORIS found out quickly that crowding was a huge issue for Clif Bar employees. The locker rooms, breakrooms, hallways, and the time clock area became incredibly congested during shift changes and break times.


DORIS recommended a new floor plan with a better flow for employees. Clif Bar employees participated in prototyping parties where they  created their own ideal layout. Many focused on larger support spaces for Bakery employees. One popular idea switched the placement of the offices and Baker support spaces, putting the break room, locker rooms, and time clock on the second floor, closer to the Bakery floor. With this new layout, the journey through the space improved for Clifsters.

Support Spaces


Support spaces is an umbrella term used to reference anything from a break room to a workout facility. For Clif Bar specifically, support spaces refers to their break room, locker rooms, restrooms, and other relaxation areas. The biggest challenge for Clif Bar was simply, there were not enough support spaces and what was provided did not meet their needs. 

One of the most common issues voiced was regarding the restrooms. They needed more, especially lacking stalls, additionally the restrooms were far away from the production floor, sometimes forcing employees to skip bathroom breaks altogether.

Additionally, the breakroom was ill-suited for peaceful breaks. There was no quiet area in the breakroom to make calls, nowhere to charge their phones, and was small and crowded during peak break hours. Because of this Bakery employees often ate lunch in their cars, and office employees would break at their desks.


DORIS’ recommendation may not seem that surprising as an overview, but it’s in the details that we begin to see how and where employees added their own twists, preferences, and design requirements. For instance, employees envisioned one larger, communal space where they could not only eat, but that could also help build a relationship between those who worked on the Bakery floor and those who worked in the office.

This large area included details and features like multiple small kitchenettes to prevent congestion, more food prep appliances, and pockets of seclusion for those who want to relax or make phone calls during their break. Additionally, employees designed a space with more food storage and healthier vending options.   

Employees created solutions for the locker rooms, locating them very near the Bakery entrance including a personal locker for each employee with enough space to store their work belongings, as well as their personal ones.



For Clif Bar employees there were valid criticisms about the way the space looked and felt.

The most prominent of which was located at the entry of the building. Upon approaching it, one was met with a large, metal turnstile entry. The turnstile was cold and ominous. The infamy of this entrance was so well known, it was given several nicknames by employees, with themes similar to “the Meat Grinder” and the “Jail Cell”. 

These challenges went even deeper than just the door. In fact, many employees also felt frustrated by the lack of wayfinding or reception for those entering the space. Because employees were familiar with other Clif Bar locations, they also felt as though they did not have access to the same amenities as the employees in other locations. Employees desired to take pride in their place of work and wanted the space and amenities to reflect those of their sister facilities, one that was distinctly representative of Clif Bar and their values.


DORIS facilitated a conversation about the ideal look and feel through a wide array of ethnographic research methods. Through interviews, interactive posters, ideation  and prototyping sessions, DORIS learned how Clif Bar employees wanted the space to look.  

This new vision for the space started at the entrance. Employees voted to remove the large, metal turnstiles in favor of something more airy and sleek, but still secure. Employees wanted an entrance with abundant access to natural light and outside views. This space not only looked more appealing, but it felt more comfortable with furniture, a waiting area for guests, and a reception desk to greet visitors. 

While employees wanted to ensure they had access to the same amenities available in other Clif Bar locations, they also wanted this space to be uniquely and distinctly theirs. To achieve this, employees dreamt of a space that emphasized the Clif Bar brand paired with what makes the Indianapolis Bakery unique through design elements both inside and outside the building. The concept of culture pride was something that was incredibly important to Clif Bar employees. Employee ideas included displaying flags related to employees’ heritage; decorating the space with photos of different cultural events, landmarks of home countries, favorite sports teams, and nature; celebrating diverse culture holidays while making it educational for others.

Next Steps

After receiving the Action Plan, Clif Bar leadership continued working with DORIS to guide their employees through the actual change. It’s one thing to ask every employee about their thoughts and opinions about change, it’s a whole other thing to keep them updated while the changes are made. DORIS partnered with Clif Bar to create an intensive, fun, and accessible communication campaign. 

The DORIS team came up with a custom solution, consisting of a series of posters, flyers, and occasionally emails, to keep every employee in the loop about every step of the change. This was necessitated by the fact that not all  employees had a consistent way to receive communications and not everyone fluent English. The flyer series gave every employee access to information about each step of the change in their preferred language directly in their workspace.

Because of this outcome, employees felt safe, comfortable, and informed throughout the transition from their old space to their new space. 

DORIS attended Clif Bar’s big reveal. It was an incredible event where Clif Bar unveiled their new space to employees, their families, and others in the community. Members of the DORIS team went to the new space and witnessed how much of the employee voice was reflected in the new space. They even met Kit and Gary. But the true cherry on top? Hearing Clif Bar employees express pride in the space they have created.

“I’d recommend DORIS if someone is transforming a space they currently have. To involve employees in the process… it’s priceless. It’s invaluable to have that input and involvement from employees.” Clifster (Clif Bar employee)