Wieden + Kennedy - Design Bureau

Mark Fitzloff, Executive Creative Director + Partner, W+K

Wieden + Kennedy | Studio Tour

Friday, July 20th, 2012

By Georgia Perry

The Portland, Oregon-based headquarter offices of advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy are chaotic, disorienting, and not especially functional—and their principals wouldn’t have it any other way. Executive creative director Susan Hoffman is quick to admit that the emphasis at W + K is on creativity over functionality. “I don’t think you should be too comfortable if you’re working here” she says. With clients such as Nike, Coca-Cola, and Old Spice, W + K’s employees are challenged to continually take creative risks and adopt the firm’s slogan: Fail Harder.

Designed by architect Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works Architecture in 2000, the five-story building is organized around a large center atrium that washes the space in gallons of natural light, making it just about the brightest office interior you can find in rainy Portland. Although the space is creatively stimulating, “it’s incredibly impractical to have this much open space in an office building,” admits Mark Fitzloff, another executive creative director. The W + K employees work in clusters around the perimeter of the building, while pieces of fine art, one-of-a-kind furniture, and epic instillations (including a full-size totem pole) are sprinkled throughout the place. Break time treats like pool tables and video game consoles are also readily available, as W + K employees are encouraged to do whatever it takes to refuel their constantly-running creative minds.  

Tom Blessington, the Managing Director of the Portland branch, also cites “the nest” as one of the best examples of the firm’s unusual yet inspirational environment: it's a structure composed of branches and reeds, with a sofa inside that has been designed to look like a pile of rocks. But Blessington says inhabitants of the nest should be warned: “Anything you say in the nest can and will be heard by the rest of the agency.”  You’ve been warned.

Executive creative director Susan Hoffman is quick to admit that the emphasis at W + K is on creativity over functionality. “I don’t think you should be too comfortable if you’re working here” she says. With clients such as Nike, Coca-Cola, and Old Spice, W + K’s employees are challenged to continually take creative risks and adopt the firm’s slogan: Fail Harder.

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