Office space has been undergoing a major cultural revolution ever since post WWII. Directly after WWII, the office space became a reflection of self-worth. Then in the 80's it became a sharing open floorplan of cubicles. By the 90's, the high-tech start-ups pulled down the walls and the office space was wherever you could set down your laptop. We now live in a knowledge economy and lifestyle plays an important role in the office environment.
Small Army, a boutique ad agency, located in Boston's old Horticultural Hall, directly across the street from the Boston Symphony Orchestra tapped into this new trend in a big way. According to Steve Kolander, EVP/Creative Director of Small Army, "We consider ourselves storytellers instead of ad guys, and we wanted an office space that felt more honest and less manufactured." In an effort to bring this unique direction to life, Small Army hired a young team of designers called The Makers Co. to make a space that was collaborative, free-thinking, imaginative and self-reflective.
Senior art director, Christian Williams of Small Army happened to be one of the Makers, and so with an intimate knowledge of its personality, Christian and his team began to sketch out ideas for the new space.
Leveraging the 30' ceilings, the initial concept began with dreams of a tree house. But, costs and a rapidly approaching move date quickly turned that plan into a phase 2 initiative.
Perhaps one of the more interesting and unique experiences about entering the Small Army workspace is the absence of a receptionist. Instead, graphics and unique architectural details serve as a guide into the space. The walkway is like falling through a rabbit hole into a storytelling factory. You pass through an editing bay room, and two phone rooms until you find yourself in a large living room with couches, chairs and 15-foot high windows with massive amounts of sunlight pouring in. Above the conference room's sliding barnyard doors reads the moral to the Small Army story: "The strongest relationships are built on shared beliefs." This is the centerpiece and rallying cry of every Small Army employee. According to Williams, "The idea of working at a desk all day is antiquated thinking. Our goal was to create a variety of non-traditional spaces where people could break free of their desks and work in a setting that is most efficient to them."
As a result, The Makers created a café/bar, where people could have lunch or hold meetings without feeling like they're in an office. They cut a giant swath in between the kitchen and an abandoned office and turned the area into a bar. With easy access to the roof, they added artificial grass, lawn chairs and bbq grill as another non-corporate meeting place. The conference room became less stodgy when Williams found a bowling alley floor at a flea market, designed some custom legs, and turned it into a conference table. The bathrooms were no longer institutional when he turned the men's room into an outhouse from a Moose lodge and the Women's room became a flapper's bathroom from the 1920's. Kolander points out that you can never tell where a good idea will come from so its important to give every space a meaningful identity.
"Small Army prides itself on it's ability to craft very personal stories for their clients," Williams, notes "We wanted the space itself to reflect that." As a result the space is full of custom designed furniture and accents created specifically to match the Small Army culture.
In the 'Great Room' is where the storytellers keep their computers, telephones, project briefs and personal stuff. The ceilings are 30 feet high with skylights to keep the office feeling half outside, half inside. Off in a corner is a storytelling room with corkboards, blackboard painted walls, couches, guitars and a piano where ideas and stories are concepted, shared, massacred and born.
The energy in this new space feels fresh, powerful and original. It's all about lifestyle. It's the new paradigm shift in office design and with a very limited budget, Small Army figured a way to shift it into high gear.
Recognized as one of the leading advertising agencies in Boston, Small Army works with a range of national and local brands to tell stories that build relationships with audiences. Their stories are told in traditional advertising channels, non-traditional media, social media and any other place that audiences are most apt to engage. At the foundation of each story is a core belief that both the brand and the audience share - the moral to the story. Small Army has been creating successful stories since 2002 for brands such as SolidWorks, Seaport Hotel, Reebok, Emerson Hospital, WGBH, GymIt and DirectTire. The agency is also responsible for the national annual cancer fundraising event, Be Bold, Be Bald!, through its non-profit, Small Army for a Cause. For more information, visit http://www.smallarmy.net.
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