The Lobby Diaries – Grip Limited

My latest for Advertising Week. Original here. Enjoy!

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(Editor’s Note: Some months ago, I asked Anne if it would be fun to do an agency style feature. I voted for washrooms, but that really was not a very good idea. Anne came back with lobbies — a much better idea. Agencies often have cool lobbies and we would love to share your agency’s unique foyer style. If you’d like us to consider your lobby, reach on outAnd a huge thanks to Anne for being the voice of reason. Once again.)

We here at the Advertising Week Social Club would like to offer you a new feature: The Lobby Diaries.

Like your mother once told you (and every subsequent person who was short on original advice), first impressions are the most important. Whether or not we’re willing to admit it, we as humans begin to make assumptions based on our initial interactions with, well, just about everything.

This not-so-secret bit of behavioural study brought us to the idea of taking a look at how agencies make their first impression. The lobby is where most first-time guests will have a chance to sit and observe – awaiting their host, immediately forming a lasting impression. Hopefully a good one.

We started wondering – what are they really seeing? What does this space say about the agency?

Why not have a look, we thought, and why not take you our great readers along for the ride. So see here the start of our journey, exploring some great agency lobbies. (We are beginning in Toronto, but my passport is in fantastic standing if your L.A. office would like a feature. It’s nearing cold season and I still haven’t bothered to buy an appropriate winter coat.)

First up on the docket: Grip Limited in Toronto.

Big Orange Slide is the name of Grip’s staff-contributed blog. You might be wondering where the name comes from, it’s certainly a bit odd. Well my friends, it’s named after the big orange slide that the lobby overlooks.

This icon of childhood delight heads down from the top of a 40ft wide and 50ft tall atrium that also houses stadium-style seating, a spiral staircase and for good measure, a fireman’s pole. All this to take in from the soothing comfort of curved white walls and a tasteful chandelier.

Upon first impression, they sure do seem to have their priorities straight: be creative, be open.

And this is exactly what the agency has in mind for its 160 strong staff: from Thursday’s “Untold Story Of…” gatherings that allow all non-partner staff members to present anything they’d like to the agency, to the ability to contribute to the agency blog that boasts a unique readership of over 30,000, the staff here are encouraged to share, contribute and participate.

Harvey Carroll, President of Grip Limited, puts it in perspective:

“We try to have a culture that facilitates being interactive and collaborative. Having a space that’s very open allows for that. People feel like they can go and ask anybody a question or bring anyone into a meeting. What we’ve found is that the best idea can come from anywhere.”

This feeling definitely resonates from the lobby. Expertly designed by Torontoarchitectural firm Johnson Chou when the agency took over the downtown space in 2006 after only 4 years in business, the lobby manages to be playful without being hard to take seriously.

With great big windows facing the slide, the lobby is awash with natural light, making the whole area even more impressive. Visiting guests are in for much more great design when they enter the office, but surely this first impression is a great one for the agency.

But those visiting guests do face a mild dilemma: to slide, or not to slide.

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