What a workplace feels like – and the ideas that are prioritised in the design of the space – plays a crucial role in establishing a culture. And for EightyOne, Dot Loves Data and Octave, their new office in Wellington feels pretty damn good.
It’s never easy to be tasked with redesigning a building as iconic as Wellington’s old Press Hall. Yet that’s precisely the challenge Inside Design was recently presented with, creating the interior of design and creative agency EightyOne’s offices in the capital in a way that helps maximise creativity.
Seb Bernhardt was the design lead on the project, while Inside Design’s design director Neville Parker was also involved. According to Parker, EightyOne, which also collaborates under the one roof with its younger siblings Dot Loves Data and development and UX division Octave, was an organisation Inside Design had already collaborated with before.
“We did a project a few years ago for Rugby New Zealand, and EightyOne did the graphic design,” he says.
“Designers working with designers… it was interesting,” says Parker.
How interesting are we talking? Think whisky bottles turned into light fittings, a yoga studio, a gym, a massage room (staff get one per week), a beautiful gin bar/kitchen and even an indoor cricket pitch. Exposed pipes and ducts complement concrete floors and matte wooden desks. And the open space is made wider by its street facing, floor to ceiling length windows and the undivided flow that exists between companies and individual desks. There are, however, several cosy nooks to be found in the office. Designed for independent work and down time, hammocks, swing chairs and comfy sofas make for excellent brainstorming hideaways (or the perfect spot for a cheeky nap).
Level one has been decked out with plants and quirky decor, the boardroom is a lounge and doubles as a fully kitted music room and a living wall is in progress. There’s also a spoodle named Ralph. Put it all together and it’s a work environment where cooperation, comradery and worklife balance is at the core of all that the company does.
In other words, kind of like a hipster’s dream, but somehow still possessing a timeless quality that lets visitors know right away they’re in the presence of people who know a thing or two about good design. “It’s quirky stuff,” Parker laughs. Parker says the collaboration with EightyOne extended to include the
main fitout contractor (Toby Jackson of True Construction) and the bespoke joinery contractor (Tom Foreman from Tomahawk). For example, Parker says the presentation room floor is a parquet Tawa timber floor that True Construction’s Jackson constructed from timber salvaged from the Beehive that was donated to the project by developer/landlord Maurice Clark. Parker also says the plate steel cladding to the presentation room came from a site brainstorming session.
The entire fit-out process took between three and four months, according to Bernhardt.
“What they were looking for was a really welcoming space,” he says.
Naturally, the large size and openness of the Press Hall – once the heart of all things print and now home to many digital minds and trendy eateries – lent itself to that.
“The fit-out fits in to it [the old Press Hall] quite nicely,” says Bernhardt.
EightyOne’s co-founder Matt West says the company now boasts a client list that includes Trade Me, Kiwibank, NZ Rugby and Nike, and has recently added Wellington brand Fix and Fogg to that list. But it’s not just serving other businesses. It has developed a number of its own successful brands over the years, namely Sacred Spring, a range of gin distilled in Golden Bay that now takes prominence in the gin bar, Ultra Football, the world’s biggest football store based in Sydney, and an online recruitment matching company, Allsorts.
Much like the companies of level one Press Hall, “all [of these] are challenger brands that want to shake up the world. And that suits us just fine”, he says.
A recent senior hire, advertising legend Chris Bleackley, adds to the EightyOne, Dot Loves Data and Octave family, which West says is made up of 50 employees and is expected to see continued growth.
“Everyone wants to talk data at the moment, which will come as no surprise. The Dot team is doing some amazing stuff. EightyOne and Octave are bringing plenty to the data table as well, certainly in how it’s represented and interacted with.”
“Future is bright, world is ours, watch this space, and all that stuff etc etc.”
Future i s bright, world i s ours, watch this space, and all that stuff etc etc.