On the Creative Floor – Wieden + Kennedy

Wieden + Kennedy is featured in this week's Campaign magazine in their 'On the Creative Floor' series. Editor Claire Beale writes:

'We've run a couple of features recently on agency offices: the physical embodiment of how different agencies see themselves and what's important to them. Instinctively you know what matters to an agency from a few seconds' perusal of its office space; the sheer love that some agencies expend to ensure their people work in stimulating, inspiring environments is a brilliant marker of creative intent and a cultural fountainhead for all the company stands for. It's clear from this week's feature where Wieden + Kennedy's priorities lie: in the pursuit of creative excellence.'

That could be true. Or it could just be that we're too stingy to shell out cash on flash offices and designer furniture. So our place is, as Campaign points out, 'commonly mistaken for a junk market, art show and care centre for drop-outs'.

Below is the text of Tony's article about what it's like 'on the creative floor' at Wieden + Kennedy London.

There is no creative floor at Wieden + Kennedy. The borders between who exactly is and isn't creative are very blurred in our office. We sit in mixed-up teams and are currently exploring a loose version of hot-desking. We try to move people round the building from time to time. These days, a "creative team" at W+K might include a comms planner, a technologist, a designer, maybe even (whisper it) an account handler.

My sister, who teaches furniture design, helped design the basement of our previous building. She said she thought that ad agencies were some of the least creative environments she had seen. Their receptions all tried to tell visitors how successful they were: big marble lobbies with designer furniture and banks of televisions showing off their own work. She believed that 'creativity' is the stuff you bring into the agency each day. With this in mind she designed see-through cabinets that sat next to people's desks where they could display objects of inspiration. When we moved to our current offices in Spitalfields we tried to take this same philosophy with us. The building we chose is not particularly impressive. What’s important is the stuff that we bring into it. 

The end result looks somewhere between a junk market and an art show. We often have to turn people away at the door who think the agency is some sort of shop or gallery. It has also been mistaken, not unreasonably, for a community care centre for drop-outs.

Reception

Bikes

Architects often want one overall look for a building. Their vision forced onto you. We are an eclectic bunch of folks who didn't want this to happen to us. There's no unifying design aesthetic here.

Many of the decisions as to where we ended up and how we designed the building came as a direct result of spending four years stuck in that basement back in Great Portland Street. 

We wanted our own front door on street level. 

Office

We wanted a shop window to showcase stuff we had made. 

Window
We wanted to get away from the advertising 'goldfish bowl' of Soho and have a more diverse creative community walking past.

We decided that no one should have to sit at a desk in the basement with poor light, so we put all the meeting rooms down there.

We wanted space we could grow into.

And cheaper rent was a bonus. 

Wieden+kennedy_london_offices_06
Not everything was logical. Matt Gooden joked that I was a lunatic and should be locked up. I took him literally and a bright green padded cell was born. Not the most practical meeting room, but it turned out to be a great room for conference calls because of the acoustics.

Rob_settling_in
Some decisions that may appear random did have a reason. 'The Sherlock Holmes Room' is based on an old-fashioned study with wood panelling and period fittings. It has a glass wall to the early Georgian street outside so we thought it would be nice to reflect on the interior what's outside.

Laughing_wieden

Giving back to the community is another value that we try to live up to. When we grew and needed to extend across the road to a second building, which we named 'The Cole', we decided to have a large event space that the local community and not just us could benefit from. This space is our village square, where we host talks, meetings, screenings and gigs.

There are no private offices here. We sit in teams round big tables and get together informally in project areas to review work. Clients often join us to sit with the teams for the day. The walls here aren't for keeping people out – they're for sticking ideas on so everyone can comment on and contribute to what others are doing. This is not a calm, contemplative work environment. It's noisy, chaotic and busy. We think the best work comes out of shared ideas, happy accidents and overheard conversations.

Table

Dog table

Being in two buildings has not been easy. I'd love to build a slide from the top floor of one building to the next floor down of the opposite building across the street and visa versa. That would create a real flow between the buildings, but I think planning permission and health and safety might have something to say about it! 

Floor
Finally I would like to return to my sister's point about creativity being what you bring into the agency. In order to do this you'd better be inspiring yourself outside of the office. We live in London, one of the most inspiring cities in the world. I firmly believe that most great ideas are not born sitting in front of your computer in an office.  Get out there and soak up what's happening out there in culture. You are who you meet and what you get up to.    

Tony Davidson, Executive Creative Director

 

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