Three years. That’s all it took for Huge Oakland (formerly Huge San Francisco) to make a move across the Bay. “San Francisco was changing quickly,” says creative director Jen Tank. “Moving to Oakland felt culturally right. We have access to better talent, and it’s where the talent lives. There’s more drive here for creative and cultural expression.”
Now Huge Oakland, one of 11 Huge outposts, occupies the second floor of the historic Wakefield Building in the hip Uptown neighborhood. Instead of individual offices and cubicles, the 35 employees work together in what Tank calls “a bullpen, so everyone gets to sit together.” Among her favorite details in the open work space are the exposed HVAC system, which “makes the space feel like a New York loft,” and the abundance of white-board walls. “You can pretty much write on every wall on this office,” she says.
Another enviably unique feature of Huge Oakland is its ability to seamlessly tap into the talents of its 1,200 employees around the world. To make that happen, every conference room is equipped with a Chromebox, a device that enables video conferencing for Google Hangouts. It makes face-to-face communication across states and continents a breeze, while giving Huge Oakland a distinctive competitive edge over other local creative agencies. “Clients not only have the care and attention of the Oakland office, but are part of a much bigger network, like our DUMBO office in Brooklyn, which has a full production studio with experts in every field.”
So it’s no surprise that what Tank values most about Huge are the people. In fact, she left and returned to work at Huge three times because she couldn’t find a better environment. “We have the smartest people in the world who are very entrepreneurial, who know what they want to do, and work hard. They all have that spirit in common.”
As for the work culture, it’s all about doing, not talking. “We don’t have a lot of tolerance for talking here,” says Tank.
“Make it, draw it, show me what you’re thinking about. If you’re bringing up something for a second time at a meeting and don’t have something to show for it, I won’t be happy. It’s all about the work.”
Given the location of Huge Oakland, many of the clients are naturally tech-driven. But no matter the work, the process remains essentially the same and involves three steps: learn, iterate, and launch. A terrific example is the recently announced tool for Google called Test my site.
After conducting some research, Google noticed a rapid rise in the number of mobile users searching for businesses “near me.” To help those businesses capitalize on their presence during mobile searches, Google enlisted Huge Oakland. For the first few weeks, Tank says the team “digested everything we could about the project, conducted design research, and had a vision.” Then, over the course of four months, they worked in “one-week sprints,” continually designing and prototyping with client revisions implemented every Friday. Tanks says, “The process was very iterative, as we waited for the client to buy in.”
The resulting site allows small businesses to test their URL for mobile friendliness and speed, as well as more targeted recommendations on how to improve performance, whether it’s on a mobile device or desktop. The best part? Results are delivered within seconds and are displayed in a friendly, easy-to-digest format, which means everyone can use this tool.
“One of the most exciting things was being labeled a “transformative agency [in L2’s 2016 Advertising Agency Framework report],” says Tank. “Design is at our core, but we want to really transform already ambitious businesses, make them better, and help them compete in the new digital economy.”