On Monday we launched our new project with Represent Recruitment looking at which factors, both physical and cultural, contribute to the perfect creative environment. There’s been lots of wisdom and insights from the five agencies we’ve focussed on this week, kicking off with Pentragram partner Angus Hyland who pointed to the partner structure as a key strength of their setup. “I think the atelier culture means we can have an overall Pentagram culture as well as strong individual voices,” he said, but he also praised the fact that with 65 staff in 16,000 square feet in their west London offices this “surfeit of space” was a “key ingredient” for a productive and harmonious workplace.
We ended the week with another famous agency, in the shape of Wolff Olins. Ellen O’Connor told us all about the various extra-curricular activities they put on for their staff and revealed that creating the perfect creative culture is meticulously planned. “We all work hard and have busy lives so we want to give people the opportunity to do things here if they wish,” she said. “It’s woven into our DNA – myself and the experience manager sit down every week to talk about how we’d like people to experience our building and our culture.”
But she also said that the staff were also part of the process.”In terms of creativity, it’s just as important that people have passions outside of work – Wolff Olins has employed a cage fighter, TV presenter, carpenter, sculptor, stand-up comedian and several DJs!”
On a smaller scale, Kirsty Carter from A Practice For Everyday Life talked us through how important it was for studios to get the nuts and bolts of running a business right.
“We have seen some of our most talented friends and colleagues not get the business side quite right – you can easily underestimate how important it is and get carried away, and everything can then all come tumbling down very quickly. As a director of a small agency you need to be a person of many talents to run it successfully, it is not all about fancy private views, famous clients and design presentations all the time, there are some really hard business demands on us too.”
This was echoed by James Chambers of Chambers Judd who pinpointed a significant step in the studio’s early days. “I think getting a good accountant was one of the best things we did. That side of things all seems very intimidating until you get some advice, and having someone take the fear out of it and explain it in English was very important.”
“A good design studio should be more Woodstock than Sandhurst.”
Matt Wade, Kin
James also spoke of the importance of people “getting in the zone” and being uninterrupted, an idea Kirsty also touched on in the context of constant client demands over email.
Matt Wade of Kin has a way of keeping client feedback quite structured. He said: “We have a weekly workshop with clients to review the work where we can show prototypes, get feedback and change direction if necessary. We know when those sessions happen and we do not really encourage the clients coming in the rest of the time.”
And he gave us a great line about what he thought creative studio should strive to be. “I find chaos much more interesting than order. I think we need places for our mind to go. A good design studio should be more Woodstock than Sandhurst.”