Eyes are Smiling

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The world of advertising is a fast moving one, and so creative innovation agency, Iris, knows that it needs to continuously progress and evolve in order to stay ahead of the game – hence the business’ tag line, ‘For the forward’. Iris doesn’t just apply this philosophy to its clients, but to its own business too.

Organic growth within the organisation over recent years had resulted in a fragmented workplace, with teams working in silos across several floors, and so they were looking for a new home that connected everyone and everything together, that better reflected their work and ethos, inspired creativity, and allowed them to deliver a truly integrated service to their clients.

‘Our old office wasn’t fit for purpose,’ Grant Hunter, Iris Executive Creative Director Europe, explains. ‘People were spread out over different floors. We had to mould ourselves to the space, whereas here we’ve managed to get the space to adapt to us.’ 


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Above: The client journey has been carefully crafted, from the moment a visitor steps through the door into the reception area.

London-based design and research studio, Spacelab, carried out in-depth research to understand different teams’ needs, and identify how Iris could get the best out of a space in order to optimise the potential for creativity and collaboration. Based on this, Spacelab helped them find a new home – right on the banks of the Thames and spread across a single floor, bringing the whole team together for the very first time.

Different parts of the business that were previously on completely different floors are now just metres apart, which generates a much better sense of team”

‘Spacelab challenged our vision because we were looking at a bigger space,’ Dan Burman, Iris Creative Operations Director, says. ‘Through the workplace study and their heat mapping tool, they taught us that the space that we originally wanted was probably the wrong size. They helped us understand what we did actually need – and it really pushed us into an amazing space that we probably never would have gone for without them.’ 

The new space has completely transformed how Iris functions as a business, with every detail designed to support a more agile way of working and nurture collaboration. 

Stepping through the door, it’s impossible to ignore the infectious energy and buzz. Informed by their unique spatial analysis tool, Spacelab kept the space open with minimal internal partitions – breaking down the barriers, both mental and physical, between the teams and with visitors, to deliver a completely collaborative, energetic and unique atmosphere.

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Above: Digital installations display Iris’ work throughout the space.

‘The barriers have really come down between departments,’ Grant continues. ‘Different parts of the business that were previously on completely different floors are now just metres apart, which generates a much better sense of team.’

Through keeping the space open and shifting away from allocated desking to an agile way of working and a diverse environment of workpoint types, Spacelab has created a flexible and adaptable space, which allows Iris’ teams to grow and move fluidly around the floorplate. As a result, the total headcount can grow comfortably by 20%, preventing the need to lease additional space, or move to a new home again.

“The new social hub – the real heart of the space – has been positioned to take full advantage of the views across the Thames, whilst also being visible from across the whole floorplate”

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We’re all aware that having conversations with people, whether planned or unplanned, is so important for people’s wellbeing, and also for inspiring creativity – and this is, of course, a core element of Iris’ business. In their new world they are no longer tied to their desks, with a variety of communal and collaborative areas designed to encourage socialising and coworking between teams, giving everyone the freedom to collaborate and interact with a variety of colleagues throughout the day – something they previously wouldn’t have had the chance to do. The new social hub – the real heart of the space – has been positioned to take full advantage of the views across the Thames, whilst also being visible from across the whole floorplate. All of this contributes to the undeniable buzz felt throughout the space.

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Above: The social hub, positioned to take full advantage of the views across the river, provides space away from desks for socialising.

‘The old office always used to feel like a library,’ Grant recalls. ‘Whereas now, when you walk into our space, there’s this energy, a sense of excitement – which is really important for a creative agency.’

Spacelab has also designed a series of ‘creative hubs’, which provide a variety of flexible environments for collaboration between different teams and spaces that are ideal for people to discuss and present ideas.

Both existing clients and potential clients often visit Iris, and so it was important that the space fully reflected this integrated and collaborative approach to work. Spacelab has carefully crafted the client journey, from the first step through the door, through the whole space, and finally culminating in the client pitch room with full panoramic views of the Thames. By maintaining the openness of the floor, clients and visitors have full visibility of the Iris teams as they walk through, and can feel the energy of what is going on around them. Iris’ brand is embedded along every step of the journey, from the reception manifestations, which have been designed in collaboration with the team, through to the digital screens and trophies throughout the floor, which display Iris’ impressive work and achievements.

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Above: The agency’s branding is embedded through the space, such as in the manifestations designed in collaboration with Iris.   

‘Our old building just didn’t feel like us,’ Dan considers, ‘and our clients were completely underwhelmed when they came to see us. Now our work and our space reflect one another, and clients love coming here.’

The contrasting timber floor finishes and lines created by the lighting and lowered ceiling rafts also help guide the client journey. Furthermore, these lines help create definition between the different areas, such as the alternative workpoints to the left and the desk spaces to the right.

Exposed features create an industrial feel, and are perfectly balanced with bespoke joinery and soft furnishings, to create a boutique, comfortable, professional environment.

Throughout the research and design process, Spacelab harnessed cutting edge VR technology. Working in iterative cycles, they got the users to test the spaces in virtual reality as the design developed, and then hone the scheme in response to feedback at every stage. For example, creative collaborative spaces were a key part of the brief, and users were able to test the creative hubs throughout the design process to ensure they were fully suited to their needs.

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Above: Bespoke joinery helps guide the lines of sight and creates definition between different zones.

Now our work and our space reflect one another, and clients love coming here”

Iris now has a space that fully encapsulates their ethos of ‘for the forward’, and is moulded to how they work. The buzz of the space, created through their collaborative working style, is tangible as soon as you enter it, and fully reflects this forward-thinking business.

‘It’s made us collaborate,’ Dan enthuses. ‘It’s made the work stronger. It’s made us interact more. It’s made us visibly see more work upon the walls. It’s made us visibly be able to comment and strengthen all the ideas, because they are more visible to everyone.’

Not something we get to see every day. Our eyes have been opened!

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Above: Bespoke joinery and soft furnishings have been used throughout, resulting in a high end, boutique and comfortable environment.

Project Team

Client
Iris

Interior Designer
Spacelab

Project Manager
Savills

Furniture Suppliers
The Furniture Practice

Flooring Suppliers
Havwoods, Chroma 

Furniture Suppliers
United Strangers, Icons of Denmark, Bestuhl, Hitch Mylius, Muuto, Dare Studio, Warm Nordic, Johanson, NORR11, Menu, Gubi, byKATO

Storage Suppliers
Metal Office

Other Suppliers
Hicks Joinery, Overbury, Savills

The Client

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Iris is a creative innovation network of over 1000 people in 17 offices, working with some of the world’s biggest businesses including Samsung, adidas and KFC.

The agency was formed in 1999 by a team of six people around a single client.

In 2014, leading Korean marketing company Cheil Worldwide acquired a significant investment in the agency.