How LinkedIn is Designing with Purpose

How LinkedIn is Designing with Purpose

Mikhael Banut is the environmental graphics project and program manager at LinkedIn. He’s worked as a graphic designer for over 10 years and received the 2014 AIA Design Award. Mikhael recently led an initiative to feature 15 original works of ArtLifting art at the LinkedIn office in Sunnyvale, CA. All of the artwork is created by artists who are homeless or have disabilities. ArtLifting co-founder Liz Powers spoke with Mikhael to hear about his role at LinkedIn, his design principles, and how ArtLifting fits into them both.

 How did you get the role you have and what is your day to day like?

When I started at LinkedIn, I was designing applications for our spaces. I graduated with an art degree, so I had a real appreciation for the arts. Once I had the opportunity here at LinkedIn to start designing, they gave me another opportunity to start creating environmental graphics, and I now manage that program. I work with all the LinkedIn spaces around the world.

What inspires your design process?

What inspires me is making the connection with the local talent, and showcasing them in our spaces. Part of that comes from my personal knowledge of how challenging it is to get your foot in the door as an artist, and showcase your artwork.

What made you decide to work with ArtLifting?

I went through the website and saw the artwork, a lot of which was really amazing. I wanted to see how we could incorporate that into our space and showcase some of that work. Plus, I connected with the stories behind the art. That’s how we try to design our spaces; start with the story and grow from there. It’s tied into the foundation of design, as most of our designing is based on our culture and our values. With the art program, it’s a way for us to reach out locally and provide opportunities in different regions.

Do you see that as a growing trend right now?

I know that the values within a company are very important. If you could use art as some reminder of what our values are, then there’s a huge platform on every wall to showcase that. If values are the foundation of a company, then why not use our values to create the company’s space

"Tim's Dream" by Tim Strouss and "Bright Eyes" and "Dancin Feet" by Judi JMW

"Tim's Dream" by Tim Strouss

"Bright Eyes" and "Dancin Feet" by Judi JMW


What do you see as the benefit of having subtle designs showing values?

Thinking of it in that way, it gives us more flexibility. So for example, if our value is a specific phrase, without using that phrase directly, that shows how the value can blend into any situation. So it’s more of a way to align ourselves.

How does ArtLifting fit into your belief that values can be shown in a multitude of ways within a company environment?

At LinkedIn, ‘relationships matter’ is one of our values, so building relationships is important. Linkedin is a platform for people to connect to opportunity. When we are providing that opportunity, it’s a device to build deeper relationships. When we find artists like yours, and they are trying to make a living or do something that they are passionate about, I’m totally onboard supporting that.

Why did you choose the works of ArtLifting artists for the LinkedIn office?

We’ve always wanted to showcase local artists in our spaces, and what better way to do that than with someone with an inspiring a story who is still passionate about art after going through hardships. We purchased a series of artwork from local ArtLifting artists in the Bay Area for the new office in Sunnyvale.

What’s been the reaction from LinkedIn employees?

I do have people come up to me who are curious and want to know what ArtLifting is about. That’s why we have the plaque, to be able to show the story. It’s always about the story.

How did you hear about ArtLifting?

I first learned about ArtLifting through a colleague. That's what sparked me to take a look at your website, and the rest followed!

What value does ArtLifting bring to its clients?

I think you guys have a really great service going. There’s plenty of walls out there and a lot of people who want to get involved in something like ArtLifting. We’re at work all the time, and with ArtLifting art you can bring the gallery to that space. That’s powerful.

"Ore" by Marc

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