Creative and digital agency, ColourCraft Studio, blurs the lines with its new Mumbai headquarters designed to reflect its identity, values and culture.
ColourCraft Studio (more affectionately known as CCS) is a creative and digital agency based in Mumbai and Bangalore that has been creating unique brand, digital and social experiences since 2009. This year, CCS revamped a 1,600 sq. ft. space in the central Prabhadevi area of Mumbai into a creative studio that could easily be mistaken for a cafe or lounge if you didn’t look closer. So how exactly did they walk the fine line between people productivity and people happiness (while staying on schedule and budget)?
Finding the right spot (in Mumbai!)
Being a creative design studio, CCS clearly articulated its own design principles before even initiating its search for an office space.
Functional, aesthetic, minimalist – that’s how Creative Director Ankit Jain would describe the agency’s overarching creative philosophy. “If your principles and work space clash with each other, it definitely has a negative impact on employee morale and the overall vibe of the company.”
With the design principles clearly defined, the search for the right space began with a set of clear criteria:
● Central area in Mumbai with convenient commuting and public transportation
● Lofty ceilings to give employees a feeling of ample space in a city where everything from living to commuting to sleeping is cramped for most people
● Square layout with minimal obstruction, again to give people as much space as possible but also to create a collaborative atmosphere (square layouts are generally more spacious and allow for more interaction than rectangular layouts, but on the flipside square spaces can have more pillars obstructing the space)
Of course, in a city like Mumbai, it is not easy to find a space that perfectly fits your criteria and budget. So after six months of relentless and often mind-numbing searching, CCS found the perfect spot in Prabhadevi, but it was totally worth the wait. Not only did it have all the criteria that CCS was looking for but had minimal obstruction too.
Designing your workspace as an extension of your brand identity
CCS has always been rogue in terms of its values and culture, focused on being iconic through its work and initiatives, rather than being just another agency in the sea, being organic in its growth and culture rather than trying to play the valuations game or project a culture that does not reflect ground reality, and being free to work for brands and projects that are interesting as opposed to just money-making, and allowing people to pursue individual passions. Over the last seven years, CCS has managed to create an environment that is meritorious, inclusive and people-driven. Now it was time to extend these values to the work space.
So if you thought that finding a space was the tough part, the real challenge was about to begin: designing and creating a space that not only aligns with the agency’s values and focuses on employee happiness, but also on a tight schedule of two months (rent-free period) and on a very conservative budget (CCS is 100% self-funded).
So how did they extend their brand identity to the space? They just went back to their creative philosophy! We’ll let their Creative Director do the talking:
1) Raw, minimalist- use of raw brick walls, concrete and metal; exposed piping that run like veins across the office and lots of glass to give a feeling of openness. The idea was to “design” as little as possible and give as much open space as possible. This not only gave the place a vibrant look but also helped save a ton of painting, plastering and finishing costs. This “Work in Progress” look fits perfectly with the nature of our business, which is always work in progress!
2) Functional – we took a survey of all the key employees (or what we like to call key users) to determine what they would consider an ideal workspace including desk size, height, storage, ergonomics with a focus on convenience, comfort and productivity. The idea was to apply concepts of User Experience Design (UX) that we use in our work, which puts the key user at the center of a design. We got a lot of great (and some crazy) ideas such as:
● Community table that doubles up as a lunch table
● Open deskspace without separators for flexible seating and collaboration
● Electrical outlets on the table as opposed to below the desk where it is inconvenient
● Hooks under the table for hanging bags
● Moveable white and black boards for brainstorming anywhere
● A game area to take a break from work
● A conference room that doubled up as a bar / lounge
3) Aesthetic – In post-colonial India, the concept of styling has not caught on yet when it comes to designing a space. People still heavily depend on interior designers who mainly provide technical expertise and also double up as a space stylist.
However, we were clear from day one that we wanted a specialist to style the space. So while we had a young and talented interior designer, Ria Hingarh, who developed a floor plan, technical drawings and specifications in line with the vision of the Creative Director, we also had a space stylist – Bhavini Johar – to give
aesthetic touches that added soul to the place, which would have looked otherwise too cold and barren because of its raw minimalism.
Simple and inexpensive things like antiques bought from Chor Bazaar or cage lights sourced from Lohar Chawl or plants that added freshness (and green is our brand colour too!) or old- school switchboards or a post box in the reception gave the space a beautiful mix of modernity, earthiness and old-world charm.
Create an ambience or “vibe”
The cherry on the cake of a great office design is the ambience. At the end of the day it’s the people who contribute most to the atmosphere and vibe of a place, without which it’s just four beautifully decorated walls.
To facilitate an ambience of conversation, collaboration and creativity CCS introduced a few subtle features like:
● Surround sound speakers that play ambient music in the bullpen/common area that give a theatre-like echo because of the high ceilings and vast open space
● An espresso machine that fills the office with the delicious aroma of freshly ground and brewed coffee that welcomes you first thing in the morning
● A full-stocked bar for an early start to the weekend or madmen-esque client meetings
● A game area with foosball, table tennis and carrom which also spawned a CCS Foosball Premier League The “vibe” is palpable and engulfs you when you walk into the place – the music, the coffee, the chatter, the foosball – immediately transforming your mindset from just “business as usual” to “let’s do something awesome today”. And this has vastly contributed to productivity and excellence at CCS.
Reception from Clients & Impact on Business Development
Aditi Gandhi, Co-founder and Business Director, believes that the new office space has helped put CCS on the map of iconic agencies.
“I think internally we always felt like an iconic company but it wasn’t projected outwards except with our portfolio of work. The new HQ is a statement of who we are, our purpose, our way of doing things and the fact that we are here to stay. It allows us to lead the conversation, whether it is with clients or employees or interviewees, and it is clearly showing results in our bottom-line as well as margins. Since we unveiled the new office, almost all of our new projects have come through word-of-mouth and pull-marketing, whereas earlier we had to invest in some amount of advertising and push-marketing. It’s totally worth the cost, time and effort we have put into creating this space.”
● Have a clear vision based on your brand identity, values and culture
● Design around the key users by taking inputs from them
● You can create a great workspace no matter what the size of your office or budget
● Invest time and money in styling and accessorizing the office to add soul to your space
● Don’t forget to put the cherry on the top – the vibe of the place. Final Word We’ll give the final word to Ankit Jain, Co-founder and Creative Director, who was the driving force behind this project.
We’ll give the final word to Ankit Jain, Co-founder and Creative Director, who was the driving force behind this project.
“It was extremely tough, deeply frustrating and there were days when I just wanted to give up. When you are trying to create something iconic on a tight schedule and budget, with a lot of inexperienced people including me, it is physically and emotionally draining. But that’s what a labour of love is supposed to be. Fortunately I had an amazing support system in Aditi, all the peeps at CCS and my family, and I am proud of what we – all of us – managed to achieve. We made a tiny, 1600 square feet dent on the planet, yo.”
And that’s what makes us the biggest small agency in the world !