When Rob Coke and Dan Moore set up Studio Output in Nottingham with co-founder Ian Hambleton, they wanted to design record sleeves. But this was 2002, and Napster was busy turning the music industry upside down. The company had to adapt or perish — and 15 years later it’s one of London’s top brand design agencies. This summer it moved into the Record Hall, which in a strange twist of fate used to be a former record depository in Clerkenwell. So at least records are involved somehow!
This sink or swim attitude and ability to be flexible about how they run their company is exactly what we mean when we talk about Workspace customers being Wired Differently. More than just working in a different way to the norm and making the most of the WiFi, this means that they also push boundaries, innovate and never settle for second best.
Since its humble beginnings in the East Midlands, Studio Output now employs 28 people and works with major global brands including the BBC, eBay and Sony Playstation. It also operates Found, an internal creative content and VR studio, and runs Glug, a creative networking and talks events that operates in 30 cities around the world.
“We want to make great work for interesting people that gets seen by the mainstream,” says Dan in Studio Output’s office at The Record Hall. The company’s recent brand refresh for BBC Sport ticks all of those boxes. “I sit with my son and watch Match of the Day every week, and when he can notice what’s changed on screen it’s a real buzz”, says Rob, who calls it a “dream job”. Dan describes Studio Output’s recent work for Autotrader as “another project that passes the mum and dad test”.
What’s striking about the agency’s work isn’t just the big names: it’s the variety of projects. From expanding BBC Three’s social media footprint to reimagining J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore fansite to making video content for Playstation, it seems there’s no limit to Studio Output’s capabilities.
The company moved to The Record Hall, Workspace’s newest building, in June having outgrown its old office around the corner. As well as the promise of more space, the rolling lease was attractive. “We wanted somewhere with flexibility, as it’s tough to plan five years ahead in agencyland at the moment,” say Rob. And where the old office only had room for desks and a meeting room, they now have breakout spaces within their four walls, which according to Dan suits a “more agile way of working”. The extra space also allows them to bring in freelancers for film and animation projects when necessary.
A cutting-edge digital operation like Studio Output also benefits from the state-of-the-art technology infrastructure on offer at the Record Hall: superfast broadband and Wi-Fi, access to a secure Dot 11 network and voice and cloud solutions courtesy of Workspace’s digital partner, Excell.
A large, welcoming office with a great café downstairs is attractive for clients, too. “We encourage clients to work here if they come in for a meeting and want to make a day of it,” says Dan. “It means you develop a closer relationship with the client which is really helpful,” adds Rob.
Networking events organised by Workspace have enabled Rob and Dan to meet people from some of the complementary businesses they share the building with, such as social agencies, business publishing and startups. Other meetings have happened more organically. “One day there was a fire alarm and we met someone outside from a startup that we’re now doing a proposal for,” says Rob. “It’s a place where these conversations just happen without you having to really force them”.
What’s next for Studio Output? In typical style, the company is refusing to rest on its laurels. In the Record Hall’s tech-enabled environment, it is expanding into the cutting-edge field of virtual reality. “We’re currently working on an R&D project with room-scale VR which we’re taking into Wired Live in November,” says Dan. “It’s an experience you can physically walk around.”
Rob hopes that self-initiated VR projects like these will act as a showcase for clients so that Studio Output will be well positioned when the field really takes off. “VR is quite a long way off mainstream adoption but we want to keep developing what we’re able to do,” says Rob. “It could be anything from a piece for Cardboard or Glass, something you might buy on the App Store or a big piece that goes into a museum,” says Dan. “But also lighter experiences like AR [augmented reality] for mobile - things which you can put in people’s hands today.”
It’s fair to say that Studio Output have moved on a fair bit since their days designing record sleeves. These days they’re pioneering VR in a hi-tech office space, so perhaps Napster did them a favour after all. If you fancy joining them and the other forward-thinking businesses at The Record Hall, or any of the other 69 property’s we have across London, why not check us out or take a tour? We’re sure we’re the perfect home for your company.