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The Ideal Studio

Pentagram is a multi-disciplinary partner-led design agency founded in 1972 which now employs 142 staff in its offices in London, New York, Berlin, Austin, and San Francisco. Angus Hyland, who has been there 15 years is one of 19 partners and works out of their UK base in Notting Hill, west London.

Angus Hyland, Pentagram partner, on...

The set-up at Pentagram...

“Pentagram is uniquely structured for a medium-large sized agency in the fact that all of the directors (partners) are practising creatives who run their own teams. This makes us like an atelier of small businesses, working more or less independent from each other in terms of projects, but sharing profit, portfolio and space. We regularly join up teams especially across disciplines when a project requires a collaborative focus.”

“Every six months the partners get together internationally and we share our learnings then. I am obviously dimly aware what other people in the office and internationally are doing through chat and because so much stuff is posted on the blog but it’s useful to hear how a project went.”

“I think the atelier culture means we can have an overall Pentagram culture as well as strong individual voices.”

The difference a bit of space can make...

“Pentagram is lucky to have an amazing building hidden in Notting Hill which we’ve resided in for the last 30 years – over half our company’s lifespan. Not only is it situated in a nice bijou neighbourhood, but the scale of the office is impressive in its own right. With 16,000 sq ft and only 65 members of staff, each person gets a lot of square footage. This is an astonishingly good ratio for London, I emphasise this because I think it’s a key ingredient of why it’s a good place to work; there’s a surfeit of space.”

“Back in the 1980s I spent six months working in a small studio in the north of Italy where tantrums were a daily occurrence. In my 15 years as partner at Pentagram London, I’ve rarely heard someone raise their voice, let alone have a full-blown argument which is amazing because the studio is fully open-plan.”

The potential benefits of a power cut...

“Technology these days feeds everyone through the same sausage machine. We all basically use the same search engine for example so if we type in the same word we all get the same results. It means we’re all looking at the same department stores – we’re not going into the side streets, we’re not traipsing cross country.”

“A power cut would take away the candy and we could see how people adapt, how they look at these things from a different perspective. The old way you concentrated on things for a longer period of time sketching out a layout for example – you had to focus very quickly on one solution rather than hundreds.”

Staff turnover as a driver of innovation... 

“New blood with new ideas is one of the most obvious ways of keeping things fresh. We grow by partner so quite often someone new comes in and it changes a bit of the shape.”

“We used to have a relatively high turnover of creatives because in a sense you are working in a very flat structure which means there is a bit of a glass ceiling – you can’t climb the corporate ladder because there isn’t a corporate ladder. That promotes a renewal through getting new, young people in on a relatively regular basis.”

Whether a move to east London appeals...

“We have been here a long time and being in an area like this does create a different kind of culture – it can be quite hermetic in some respects.”

“You don’t walk out into the street and find yourself in Shoreditch, you find yourself in leafy Westbourne Grove. I am not against the idea of moving east and we may look at it at some point but I don’t think we’d go to Shoreditch – we’d look for a cheaper area where we could get a building of a similar size, somewhere with potential.”

The ideal studio...

“I’d avoid gum ball machines, basketball hoops and caravans and focus on a well-crafted working environment. Breakfast, lunch and dinner with a lot of work in between – we also have a dog (Rolo) and a tree inside. What more could anyone wish for?”


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