I was struck by the differences in the office environment as well. Mobility Labs isn’t wholly based in New York, so we don’t have a conventional office, we are set up at a co-working space in SoHo. I didn’t realize quite how accustomed I had been to the idea of the design studio in the classic sense — large counter spaces, machines and printers, paper and pens of various sorts, walls covered with cork boards and our in-progress work or scribbled research notes, and most importantly, privacy and knowledge that this is all ours. It’s jarring to be in a place where everyone huddles over laptops, sometimes from communal couches, where there are no bookshelves or pinboards, no phones on desks. I have yet to print anything from this office, making it the closest thing to a “paperless office” I’ve seen. It’s not surprising that we’re also without staplers, binder clips, white out, or any other typical office bric-a-brac. It’s a BYOWorkstation approach.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some grandpa yearning for the return of rotary phones and carbon paper. I’ve never been a corporate stooge, never had an expense account, never enjoyed the luxury of handing off my marker-sketch designs to a “studio” who will render it all perfectly over night. I absolutely hate 3-hour marathon meetings, heavily-bageled though they may be. I have zero love for corner offices which shut out the light, or middle managers who insist on “checking in”, or layers of account coordinator types who spend more time gossiping than writing endless emails (which is impressive in its own right). My habits as a designer were forged in the fires of freelance and solo practice; I do my own production work, archive and manage my own resources, interact with clients, and do the billing myself.
And so the challenge for us now — and one we’re looking forward to — becomes one of moderation. How can we be modern and nimble, but still bring the best practices we’ve learned along the way from traditional workplaces. How can we grow our design offerings in a way that utilizes everyone’s skills and roles, without stepping on toes or doing extraneous work ourselves? How can we improve our systems and protocols without being formal or oppressive? How do we build a company culture across web video chats rather than lunches? As Creative Director, I have to ensure that I’m making efforts to get the best work from our team, rather than going it alone. My role is to direct creatives rather than create directives.
Things are different than before, but that’s not to say they’re worse. New challenges, new protocols, new people and projects. Every new patch begins with a first stitch.