Don’t Let Mad Men Fool You
Don’t let sexy TV shows like “Mad Men” fool you: marketing, advertising, and public relations firms are not allknown for their opulent office spaces.
Over the past six years, I’ve worked in agencies with workspaces that have run the gamut from productive to distracting and — in some cases — just downright uncomfortable. Here’s a list of some of those spots:
- A small desk in a hallway directly outside a partner’s palatial digs
- A half-cube (short walls) in another slightly more secluded hallway
- A small office with a great city view (and a door!)
- The same small office with an office mate (who was lovely)
- A strange L-shaped cube (10’ x 3’ or something similarly awkward)
- A grey cube in a sizable cube farm
- A mid-sized executive office shared with two office mates
- Open bench-style seating with a sizable desk and a colleague directly across from me
Each of these working situations has provided its own unique benefits and challenges. The most obvious are ergonomic: my first desk was a few inches too low for my 6’6” frame, and I spent my first few months regularly slamming my knees into my desk until I found a way to re-engineer my keyboard tray to no longer serve as a torture device.
Other obvious differentiators have been communication-related. I loved having an office to myself after two years of sitting in a hall, but I soon realized that I rarely saw or spoke to people without directly seeking them out. The random conversations that occur in more open office spaces can be great sources of team camaraderie and even inspiration, and this is impossible when everyone is in his or her own little office behind a closed door.
Thankfully, many agencies — including my own — are embracing the necessity of well-designed workspaces. My current office space is perfectly suited to the work that we do.
As a social media agency, much of our work focuses on conversation and community. Our space helps us tell our own story, and it also facilitates conversation and community among our team.
As soon as you walk into our open, industrial office space, you are greeted by our Media Canvas, an array of nine large flat-screen monitors. Each week one member of the team curates the media canvas with YouTube videos that represent his/her personality or unique taste. So, on any given Monday you could be greeted by music festival footage, sports highlights, break dancing, or hordes of adorable puppies.
The next main feature you’ll notice as you enter the DAG office is a large, round blue couch, or as we call it the Conversation Pit. The Pit design was conceived by Eero Saarinen, our founder’s favorite architect and designer, and it’s remarkable because of its circular shape. Like King Arthur’s round table, there are no ends and no clear head. As such, all conversations in the Conversation Pit are equal and without hierarchy.
We like to consider this as analogous to our approach to consumer marketing: we empower brands to develop authentic, equal relationships with their consumers where the brand is no longer at the head of the table talking down to its consumers. If all of our favorite brands joined us in the Conversation Pit, the consumer marketplace would be a much friendlier and more engaging place.
Past the conversation pit is the main area of our office. Its most noticeable feature is its openness: we all sit at bench-style desks in a large, airy, open room with an exposed ceiling and large windows.
The abundance of open space, conference rooms, and whiteboards makes our office a perfect place for conversation and collaboration. This has definitely fueled the creativity that is so key to our business, but it has also driven a sense of community within the office.
We are a social company, and our space ensures we are also social office mates. In its own way, our office has become a writ large Conversation Pit for our team, where we’re always sharing and always listening.