From the “hackable” meeting rooms of Google UK at Kings Cross to the utilitarian, laboratory campus of RocketSpace aimed at fast growth tech start-ups, London is well represented in The World Interior of the Year Awards 2017 shortlist.
I paid more attention than usual to the nominations this week, having just been through the design and fit-out of my own company Rainmaker’s new office on Borough High Street. After 21 years of defining new business best-practice for marketing agencies you’d imagine we’d have thought it through from every angle, and yet, though we’ve published thoughts on branded environments before, doing it for ourselves has highlighted some factors I’m sure will help any agency improve its true growth potential.
On best behaviour
Which working behaviours do you want to encourage? Which do you want to change? For us, it has always been about cultivating an intelligent, aware, curious and entrepreneurial mind-set in our people. So from the moment they approach the glass frontage of our bright, modern office, they are presented with original artworks and installations: a library of our staff’s favourite books, a three metre citrus orange neon sign and a three metre Pearlfinders logo made up of thousands of media and data sources we analyse daily to identify opportunities. It’s what we can afford - but our pounds work hard.
At Google’s new London campus, employees will be able to swim, shoot hoops and even walk in a flowering meadow without leaving their employer's premises. A step maybe too far for some. Bloomberg is not putting a canteen in its £1 billion new London HQ because it wants staff to go outside during breaks. It’s an approach we also share. Not because Borough Market is on our doorstep, but because we want the community of business development professionals who work for us, to take inspiration from their personal experiences of what brands are doing in the field; a constant source of insight and opportunity for our clients.
A place to stand
Geographical location is a pretty powerful statement of ambition and intent. As Brexit negotiations plunge us headlong into the unknown, Facebook and McKinsey have just announced new headquarters in London. A bold message to analysts’ and stakeholders’ commitment to UK growth. We chose Borough because for us it is a perfect intersection of commerce, creativity, tourism, social reality and raw entrepreneurial energy. AMV BBDO are here. Iris is here. We like what they stand for and where they choose to stand.
Act One, Scene One
Every business must evolve. Since Rainmaker last moved office we’ve grown to over six times the size. We’ve launched Pearlfinders, developed new products, and now service clients across the US, Asia and Europe. If we could do all that from an office started in Clerkenwell in 2002, then what can we do here in Borough? This is theatre. Our new home needs to be an invitation to accelerate, and to be a launch-pad for the next phase of our mission. Clients and employees both need to anticipate evolution, a sense of renewal ringing off the walls of our work, play, and meeting spaces.
Does it all add up?
In our visits to some of the world’s best creative and design agencies, and literally hundreds that specialise in environmental branding, we’ve seen huge variance in approach. Some have elegant, dark wood interiors that suggest consultancy and intellectual weight. Others are homely with log fires, eco-pods and café receptions virtue-signalling their down-to-earth-ness. I’ve sat in bronze nests, caravans, ski-lift gondolas and faux Victorian living rooms, each designed to communicate something special and different about their collaborative, creative, brutalist, or humanist approach to business. The chic industrial aesthetic is more than just a template from the book of available design options. It is about a stripping away the ephemeral and the unnecessary. It says efficiency, transparency and robustness.
For prospective clients, recruits, suppliers and investors, your office environment, from its location and street outlook, to the reception area, working spaces and meeting rooms, offers a window into who you really are as a business, what you stand for. And it takes courage - does it all add up?
An Olympic flame
New business people above all benefit from a space that is branded correctly. For them, specifically, the visualisation of the qualities and personality of the products or services they represent is crucial. They need to embrace and project these nuanced facets of their business. The best new business or sales people that we have ever encountered, talk in word pictures. They make graphic what others desire. Far more than other employees, new business staff require an environment that stimulates them to do this. They are your torch bearers.
Companies spend painful amounts of time and money agonising over marketing communications, yet forget the psychological impact of their physical surroundings. Interiors are full of opportunity to convey values and amplify your culture. Many of the most rapidly growing companies we speak with are adept at aligning their behaviours and actions. This extends to their business spaces too. Every area, every object and every surface it sits on, is an opportunity to say something positive about their business – don’t waste this free media.