On the creative floor: BBH London

An office that looked like an investment bank just wouldn't do once the agency embarked on a way of working that was more open and vibrant, Nick Gill writes.

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In 2009, Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s fortunes were best summed up by Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

We were in a gruelling recession, yet the whole industry was benefiting from an explosion in media and technology. Creativity was being liberated as media silos were being broken up. We were keen to take advantage of this.

60 Kingly Street, designed during the 90s, wasn’t a particularly stimulating place to work.

It was marble-clad, departmental, process-driven. The creative department was on the fourth floor and everyone sat in offices, rarely coming out and hardly ever sharing ideas. We weren’t connected and nor was our work – crucial to this new world.

So we knew we needed to invest in a whole new set of skills. But we also needed to change how we worked. We needed to rip it up and start again.

It felt like we needed to get some fluidity back into the agency. Be comfortable with working in different ways – big groups, small groups, with external partners and freelancers.I wanted a "shape-shifting creative department", staffed and scaled against our clients’ needs.

Our creative leaders needed to enjoy more influence on their business and we wanted to unlock the fantastic creative talent that lies outside the creative department. I didn’t want BBH to be a business with a creative department; I wanted it to be a creative business with creativity permeating every part of the building. Something more like a creative studio than an office. Vibrant, exciting, functioning, open, inclusive. In truth, I wanted to go back to art college.

So we mixed everyone up. We clustered around different types of business. We put creatives with strategists and team leaders and producers. We put creative directors with clients and team leaders, encouraging them to exert influence. We mixed office with open plan.

We became more fluid and relaxed in how we worked. We flooded the creative department with young talent and encouraged them to be open-minded in how they worked. We hired some amazing new creative leaders to lead this talent. And the work got better.

We could have redesigned the building first and figured out how to work in it next. But we decided to "zag" and do it the other way round. So, although we’d "opened up" how we worked, the building still looked and felt like an investment bank.

So this stunning new building is the next chapter of the story. It is the physical embodiment of a cultural initiative. It’s what a group of us have spent four years trying to achieve.

It’s open. It’s inclusive. It’s creative. It’s cool. It’s light. It’s connected. It has space to show and share things. It has 30 per cent more social space. It has 11 creative think-boxes, exclusively for creatives to weave their magic. And there’s a lot of bamboo. Which is nice.

It’s true that your environment affects how you feel and how you work. Well, it has never felt better coming to work as it does now.

Nick Gill is the executive creative director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty London