Though many of today’s creative agencies are focused on expanding their services in the name of making money, growing faster, and staying competitive (or all of the above), Brooklyn-based digital design firm Work & Co isn’t among them.
In fact, when Felipe Memoria co-founded the agency in 2013, he and his partners committed to one thing and one thing only: smart, timeless design. “A lot of successful companies were trying to offer more, like advertising, but we quickly realized that we weren’t interested in selling those services,” says Memoria.
“For us, design is about making things people want, while advertising is about making people want things. We’re hard-core Modernist designers. And we’re trying to design things that last.”
That sort of single-mindedness is a quality shared by all of Work & Co’s 143 employees, from the interns to the 11 partners. Yes, 11. The decision to be so top heavy is too, a deliberate one. Memoria says, “We don’t follow a traditional model of the corporate pyramid. Instead, we have a lot of senior talent who used to have bigger responsibilities, managed a lot of people, and were the top creatives in their former companies. They’re no longer managers or execs, they’re just designing now. And that’s very powerful.”
Staying independent is also deeply important. While a lot of companies have benefited from investors or buy outs, it’s not of interest to Work & Co. After his previous company was sold, Memoria noticed how things changed. “It’s hard for people to do amazing work when they’re worried about the investors and their expectations. It’s easy to lose passion and focus, and for the work to stop being so personal.” Work & Co, on the other hand, is owned entirely by the partners, all of whom are dedicated design and technology practitioners.
Whether it’s streamlining the digital booking experience for Virgin America or designing a website that scales easily from handheld mobile devices to large-screen TVs for Brazilian telecommunications company Oi, Work & Co enlists several different processes. The pitching process is typically very involved and inspired, followed by intense concepting and production. “It’s like organized chaos,” says Memoria. “Everyone is on an assembly line, with laser-like focus, working together to define and solve the very same problem. With this sort of deeply collaborative process, you’re more likely to come up with a solution that’s really interesting.”
Another unique thing about working with Work & Co? There are no formal presentations. “We constantly overshare during the design process, so we don’t need to lose a full day of work to create them. We basically all open our laptops and show the client what we’re doing,” says Memoria. “We keep iterating over and over, because design is always a work in progress. Also, we never ever change the team. The people you meet in the beginning of a project are the people you finish with.”
Naturally, Work & Co’s offices in Dumbo, Brooklyn, reflect the company’s passion for thoughtful, considered design. The floor plan is straightforward, with the workspace on one half and conference rooms on the other. As for how it’s furnished, Memoria jokes that it’s “basically an Eames showroom, and will still look great in 50 years. It’s easy to be inspired when you’re surrounded by great pieces.” But perhaps the most interesting design element is how the space’s original bones (like the ceiling, beams, and brick walls) are exposed and, for the most part, raw and untreated. They were concealed before the renovation, but Memoria wanted them visible to everyone. “It completely matches our design philosophy. We love uncovering the truth.”