“Cztery Kubki? What’s that? You want Tea? Ah; Kubek is Polish for cup… Sure it’s not an English mug?”
It comes to something when even your imaginary friends start to get pushy… Instead of gazing out the window onto mean streets – where a recessionary wind blows cold and the Transits gather at the gutter like wildebeest before migration – I decide to dip my toe into the stream of consciousness again. Do I have another blog inside me? This is hard enough to answer on an empty head let alone the emptiness that rumbles in the pit of your stomach as you wonder if you’ll ever write meaningfully again. A feeling most acute at 2am: or on the pavement outside of where you used to work 2 minutes previously. If you don’t write you become an ex-writer – otherwise known as a PR person.
Exes are always trouble… All of the office upheaval that I am informed about post-departure by ex-colleagues – # the white vans are here and you’re not!@Twitter – got me thinking: what features are most conducive to a positive creative environment? Just in case I ever get near one again. Unfortunately the only thing trending round here is last night’s pizza. As each of my major organs succumbs to the domino effect I resolve to get all professional and work through this sticky mozzarella patch like a golfer with the yips. Not so much a brainstorm as a soft drizzle – the kind you follow down the window pane when everything goes blank – I manage to reach an island in the stream: there’s no Kenny or Dolly but I do find the thread hanging from my briefs again… Remember: always ponder your briefs carefully in case you have an accident online. (Thanks Mum)
Let’s face facts: just maybe I ‘m not best placed to describe the top of the range office model; you know the creative environs psycho/conceptual glass/steel West End Meeja company sort of ambience based thingy. Where’s Kevin McCloud when you need him? (The back of the van is still my best guess…) Like the perennial bridesmaid – I always seem to miss out.
If I look back I have existed in a series of compromises and blatant make do – if architectural innovation in the work place were a soap opera we’d be talking Emmerdale here: Moscow East not East London. In this barely functional grey world you can Shoreditch any affectations. The odd critical bouquet carelessly tossed in your direction counts for a lot. As a former boss told me – in any creative collaboration you only get out what you Putin. Then why do I always get put in the KGB annexe? Puns! Where would we be without them? “Creatively employed that’s what…” Who said that?!
It’s not all been thin gruel. I fondly recall a moment when it was considered a positive shift in company policy to change the pens from Biros to Uni-Ball Vision Elite. Hell; we’d arrived baby… Cue the ‘80s classic rock anthem: “Nothin’s gonna stop us now…” It was even on the agenda in the weekly boardroom meeting vis-à-vis cost (of course) – ah; those witty individuals in accounts who were worried about the Stabil(o)ty of the company – and aesthetics: bloody designers – can’t they just leave me alone!
Which dredges up another story – along with the taste of garlic bread…There was a long standing joke at Uni – as our seminar rooms got smaller and more far-flung as the course progressed – that a broom cupboard was the next obvious venue for Module Three: Marxist Discourses in Structuralism. Then one day after a long walk into the anonymous suburbs we opened door 666 to find a mop, brush and bucket and no desks at all. As always there is more than the devil in the detail. If there were any lesson to be learned that day – apart from a warning that you should be careful what you wish for – I’d pose the question: does it really matter? It might have been a small cupboard but with elbows raised I still gave every last noble drop of my undergraduate intellect for the cause of Gramsci and Althusser.
The literary cliché of the writer struggling in a garret would seem to contradict arguments for external/environmental stimulation. Are the glass/steel temples found in rarefied firms – whose series of initials suggest a ‘70s progressive rock super-group reunion – a necessity or an indulgence for top talent to deliver; or simply the agency equivalent of conspicuous consumption? Is it all Emperors’ new clothes? No more than an outdated craving for prestige in the rapidly expanding world of remote agencies? Or; is it an extension of attitude and ego? Look at us: we are cool; we are different from you. If that’s the case then why are their environmental priorities all the same? Maybe its not meant to impress the talent but intended that their prospective clients know they’ve definitely come to the right place.
Starting in the foyer of ABD&C Associates – “Did you see what we did there? Did you? How we immediately hot-wired the smooth delineation of your received perceptions?” – the design is usually a no-brainer: funky corporate chic in an unsteady relationship with a dominatrix bohemian girlfriend. I should rococo! (Apologies, I seem to have lapsed again.) These are the transit lounges to creativity and are designed to give a visitor the sense of another world where normal rules – like gravity – don’t hold sway. We’re CREATIVE is writ large.
The wait to see someone important (that means everyone other than the cleaner) usually involves the knack of perching on a sofa that looks like an installation at Tate Modern (credit where credit’s due – it is interactive; ergo – must be a digital agency) where you rapidly come to the conclusion… “Hey, they must be different as obviously no-one has an arse around here.” It must be a result of the skill shortage of backend developers. How do I know this? Easy: I overheard a conversation between two earnest young men at the counter queue of Café Ner(d)o. Their skinny jeans boasted spectacularly low-slung crotches and with a studied disdain that hovered about them like the fresh coffee aroma – what seemed an equally uncomfortable view from their skinny designer glasses: I ordered full-fat…
So there you are balancing in a suit on a suite that’s more Damien Hirst at the ICA than Darren from sales at DFS… This isn’t Ikea either. Oh no; this medieval torture rack comes from an exclusive little boutique shop in an up and coming area where the locals are just coming round to the taste of lattes with caramel and extra maple syrup and cost – “How much!” – and is an exclusive one-off piece from Nathan the designer who used to work here but who had to move on before the critical culmination of a major pitch for the sake of his artistic integrity: “You do understand?”
Margherita is calling me on the hot line in my lower intestine: I need to bring this blog to a decent conclusion until the next instalment. Experienced writer’s trick warning! Time to build some tension… Jeopardy; personalisation; universality and no resolution; a design for life: mine. Let’s apply it to the next paragraph. Getting back on to the sofa…
It is furniture that threatens to swallow you whole – “Sorry Max, I can’t seem to find your 11.30 appointment” – with sound effects combined from Reginald Perrin and an art-house movie. All the while you’re attempting to avoid an ugly incident on a coffee table that resembles a shard of glass from a suspect gene pool. Cut!
“Let’s plump those cushions…”