Inside the agency: BBH London zags where others zig
Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s London office is obsessed with sheep.
There’s one above the the building’s entrance, and another on the wall next to the building’s elevators. Four plastic sheep sit underneath a staircase, one of which — black, of course — is facing in the opposite direction. The sheep matter both historically and symbolically: Levi’s gave BBH a life-size model of a black sheep after its successful “Black Sheep” ad in 1982. The symbol stuck, and so did BBH’s motto: When the world zigs, zag.
The sheep are one of the small, but significant details of BBH’s Kingly Street HQ, a spacious three-floor SoHo office in a building owned by Queen Elizabeth. One part office, one part art school, the space is both open and connected, a physical reflection of the new way that BBH wants its employees to work. Spaces are designed to make it easy for teams to come together in groups both big and small. But it also gives people space to work alone.
“The black sheep is about finding people who have different skills, different points of view and want to do different work,” said BBH chief strategy officer Jason Gonsalves. “But we also have to find a way to let them work together. Everything here is about managing that tension.”
More collaboration, however, also means more activity, which is why the BBH London office is dominated by bamboo, a material known for its noise-dampening properties, as well as Rigitone plasterboard. The bamboo is a departure from BBH London’s previous design, which was dominated by steel, marble and glass. “We wanted the new space to feel more organic, which is the way we work. It’s much warmer and more human,” Gonsalves said.
BBH’s London offices open up to its central atrium, its bright and spacious heart. Two long tables dominate its bottom floor, and are populated by not only BBH employees but also clients and friends looking for a space to work. BBH also uses the space for conferences, events, and even monthly all-company lunches. The new space is a product of a £2 million ($3 million) redesign completed in 2013.
BBH London is also dotted with eleven “think boxes”, which give creatives space to work together. BBH also offers up some of its wall space for artists’ exhibitions. The office also houses its own coffee bar.
BBH London is also a reflection of co-founder Sir John Hegarty’s philosophies: “Do interesting things, and interesting things will happen to you”. With that in mind, BBH created a dedicated Culture Team to help find new and interesting projects for other BBH employees. These have included events such as Audi Day Out, which celebrates the agency’s first client, as well as BBH Unplugged, a music event that included performances from BBH employees.
The space is, on the whole, largely understated in its approach to design and decoration, which BBH says liberates employees to express themselves. “Sometimes companies can be too loud and you can hear their voice everywhere,” Gonsalves said. “We like letting our work do the talking.”
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