And now the end is near and so The Ideal Studio faces its final curtain. For the past four weeks we’ve been working with Represent Recruitment on a quest to discover which factors designers, studio managers and experts believe contribute to a productive creative environment. For this final week we lined up a diverse group who brought a really fascinating set of ideas to the project, rounding us off in style.
First off we had Dan Germain of innocent who touched on a theme that came up several times this month – the balance between creating a space that promotes imaginative thinking but maintaining it as a place of work. He said: “We want it to be as relaxed and informal as possible, but you have to have a balance – you can’t just have rooms full of bean bags and free sweets – there is a transaction occurring, people are being paid to come here, not lounge around and ‘be cool’.”
He went on to say that you can make happy accidents happen but you can’t force things. “We create areas where people will bump into each other, so that people meet and talk about other things that might turn into interesting stuff. It’s the old thing of Steve Jobs putting the toilets at Pixar in an awkward space so people had to bump into each other.”
For Tom Lancaster, head of design at The Greater London Authority, the challenges were less about reigning in creative impulse but helping them coexist in a public sector context.
“There’s a fear of accountability in the public sector which can make people scared to take a risk. It is a challenge but as designers we are involved with some amazing things and we have to work hard to get that magic across. Without the bottom line of profit to determine success – which would naturally slim down the volume of propositions we work on – there’s a huge amount to communicate in a clear way – it’s easy for that to all become noise.”
But leadership expert Eugene Hughes explained that creative agencies and studios aren’t always the best at engendering the right environment. Far from it, in fact. “Some of the most uncreative cultures I have experienced have been in design communities,” he said. “You see far more creativity in industries that you wouldn’t necessarily expect like engineering. I don’t think design studios get it right, they don’t really use technology to their advantage for example. Design studios could and should be leading the way but I am not sure they are.”
One of the issues with creative companies was a one-size-fits-all approach. “In a lot of teams there’s a tension between working collaboratively – which is where everything’s going these days – and the need for refection and solo working. There is a difference between individual creative genius and collective creative genius. One of the challenges is that in contemporary culture there is a bias towards the extrovert – it’s all about speaking up – but a lot of people do their thinking inwardly."
“Some of the most uncreative cultures I have experienced have been in design communities.”
So it’s about thinking differently, not trying to do what you think a creative company should do. As Simon Jordan of Jump Studios explained: “The one that really grates is red telephone boxes as a “hilarious” way to provide video conference facilities. It’s been done too much, it’s clichéd and we don’t think it was that interesting in the first place.”
He agreed it was about making spaces which properly reflected companies’ values. “Our role is to understand those intangible brand propositions and translate them into a tangible manifestation.”
And for Stephen Ledger-Lomas of Mother London, it is important to maintain a sense of where an agency came from. He said: “We have a lot of people here who have been on a long journey with Mother and who can make people aware of the things we have done in the past without ramming it down anyone’s throats.
“The central ethos of Mother from its inception was a small group of people sat around a small table. Now it’s one big 250ft concrete table which the architects built the building around.”
Many thanks to everyone who took part in the project and to Hyperkit who designed the project’s website so splendidly.