Friends with benefits

It’s been an eventful 12 months for Graphical House with some significant changes occurring. We found ourselves in an untenable workplace situation that put us in the fortunate position of being able to re-evaluate what we wanted and needed from a studio.

— Original door sign upon which Peter Saville based his ‘This is not brothel’ sticker.

For years we occupied our own space, a shop front unit. In some ways it was great. In other ways it really wasn’t well suited to a business like ours. Massive carbon footprint, either freezing cold or boiling hot, too much sun and too many reflections. Never ending dubious visitors. Yes it looked fantastic (that’s what counts right)? And it definitely brought us two clients directly, they literally walked in off the street, what do you guys do? But there came a point when we just couldn’t stay. It felt bad to leave, that part of the city is in a bit of a sorry state now with so many empty units at street level. It feels like there is no strategy, no ideas, or at least the ideas are old and not fit for the realities of a modern city centre.

— Trying to get some work done in our old studio on a sunny day. (Still from 'Sunshine' by Danny Boyle).

After this we spent a little time in a modern workspace conversion in the city’s business district, there are loads of these in Glasgow, many of them standing half empty with sky-high rents the venture capitalist owners don’t want to devalue. You don’t realise until you spend a little time in this area just how empty it is. There isn’t the sense that it’s run down because it isn’t, it’s just empty. It’s not obvious at first but if you look up, no one lives there. Hardly anyone works there. Decimated by the pandemic? Or simply decisions from the past manifesting in the present. It’s hard to say, it’s probably a little of both but there are people better qualified than me to decide. In a way that space suited us well with its semi-industrial aesthetics. It was quiet, easy to heat and comfortable. There was no direct sunlight so we could actually see our screens, but the view was of a not very nice wall and it just felt too isolated and quiet, an island. Not really us.

So what next? We knew we wanted somewhere with character and proximity to other people like us, a community. Somewhere nice to be, that we would want to come to.

Ideally not somewhere with the same feel as Peter Saville’s infamous and semi-controversial This is not a brothel’ sticker (more on that here) that has been the traditional/​clichéd setting for companies like ours for years. Somewhere with the potential to have less of an environmental impact but also easy to get to. And somewhere we’d be proud to bring our clients. Enter Collective Architecture.

— Collective Gallery, a project we worked on with Collective Architecture. Confusing hey.

We’ve known Collective for years, some of us for a very long time indeed. We have worked together on many occasions, always a really enjoyable and rewarding process. Recently they bought a floor of Albert Chambers (a building not a victorian gentleman) on Bath Street in Glasgow, just off Buchanan Street the city’s still bustling retail centre. They have been kind enough to invite us to share this space with them, giving us our own area at one end of the squared off horse shoe shaped floor. The entire space has been around 60 – 70% refurbished so far (with ambitions to complete the rest before too long) and to an extremely high standard. Everything has been considered in that way that great architects do. Meeting and town hall’ event and social areas filled with light and beautiful, tactile materials. Technology, art, music and a properly good coffee machine. All things that we also value and appreciate.

— Albert Chambers, 4th Floor, 13 Bath Street

Beyond the tangible, the culture also fits. Open, friendly and social. Eating together, shared playlists, meetings at the coffee machine. You’ll always find us in the kitchen at parties. Last week we joined Collective for Burns night. What was really remarkable was the diversity of their team. Readings and performances in Turkish, Malaysian, Ukrainian, Gaelic, old Scots and Northern English. Greek Classics, Bob Dylan, John Lenon and John Cooper Clark alongside Burns. This is something to be admired.

When we left our old studio we were worried that we’d lose our identity. In many ways it had become a big part of who we were as a company. Of course, like many Design Consultancies, our brand – or at least our attitude – is mostly visible in the work we produce for others, but even so, how you feel about your direct environment has a massive impact in both the obvious but also more subtle ways. 

Now it feels like we’ve found a new home, one that aligns with our values but is maybe more than we had imagined, because it has been imagined by people who are expert in imagining spaces. There is a valuable lesson in there somewhere.

So thanks to Collective – for inviting us in and for being so welcoming. We still have a little settling in to do but hopefully we can bring something to the table. Need some advice on kerning? We’ve got you.