“Greetings from Western.”
Three simple words, splashed in paint across a wall in the lobby of Western Window Systems’ new manufacturing and office headquarters in South Phoenix, immediately convey to all who enter the building the sense of dynamism, energy, and fun found at the company.
The 18-foot-wide-by-11-foot-tall mural, a throwback to the Curt Teich “large letter” postcards of the 1930s through 1950s (those in which scene-setting images appear in the cards’ giant block letters) is the product of Gilbert, Arizona-based artist Kory Miller, whose colorful creation points to the unique corporate culture that thrives at the manufacturer of industry-leading custom door and window solutions.
“The mural is supposed to wow people,” says Miller, who’s been painting since his childhood in Flagstaff. “I want them to see it and say, ‘Is this really a window company?’”
In fact, the mural was just one part of president and CEO Scott Gates’ vision when conceiving the company’s new 170,000-square-foot manufacturing and office facility and how it should look and feel to employees and visitors alike. To Gates, the goal was to look and act more like a Silicon Valley tech giant than a staid factory in conservative Phoenix.
“Like Kory’s mural, this building helps us put this company’s amazing story in context,” Gates says. “And it’s a story that customers keep telling us they want to be a part of going forward.”
Miller spent 40 hours painting the image, which features the word “Western” set against a backdrop showing the new headquarters amid an array of iconic saguaro cactuses. Inside the block letters are depictions of the company’s innovative products, as well as some of the fun features of the new building: employees playing the table shuffleboard game, the bright red two-story corkscrew slide, and a nod to Miller’s previous artistic contribution to the Western Window Systems landscape, a painting of pro wrestler the Ultimate Warrior. The original of that painting appears in one of the new building’s conference room along with portraits of other famous wrestlers, a gesture to the company’s flair and vibrancy.
“Several years ago, Western Window Systems hired me to paint portraits of the company’s founding fathers,” Miller says. “Instead of paying homage to these men, they asked me asked me to paint old-school wrestlers in business attire. They said to me, ‘We aren’t stuck up businessmen and women, and we want our clients to experience our sense of humor and fun rather than look at an old retired guy.”
The mural is the latest large-scale project for Miller, who also specializes in graphic design and illustration. Previously, he created a mural for the Art House in downtown Gilbert, and his work also can be seen in various places in Flagstaff.
“Working with Western Window Systems was a unique experience, mostly because of how wonderful everyone who works there is,” Miller says. “Every day I painted, it was a job to interact with the employees.”
A fitting acknowledgement of the company’s self-proclaimed motto of “coolest place to work,” the mural boasts not just color, pizzazz, and attitude, it also features a most apropos tagline below the main image: “The Birthplace of Awesome.”