I’m currently at home with a stack of decongestants and a swimming head. Being ill at a time the studio is running at capacity is decided not what’s needed, but I’ve been out of sorts for weeks, so it’s time to fix it with Albos oil, no going out, and a stack of books. I’ve just finished reading Where wizards stay up late and next is either Founders at work or The Pixar Touch. These last two are because I’m curious about what sort of company BERG is. I mean, we have values and ambitions – some tacit, some known, and some being worked out – but what sort of beast would we like to be? What are the qualities of successful studios? Where are the well-trodden paths? I’m curious about Pixar, because their work is inventive, beautiful and popular, and because of how highly they value creative processes. Also because they were a technology company and production house for nine years, and then leapt to storytelling and Toy Story. So: reading.
Meanwhile, back in the closing weeks of 2009, we’re running three multi-month projects: Ashdown, Kendrick, and this stage of our work with Bonnier. Each will have public output over the coming two or three months. Very public in some cases. It was busy early this week and I moved from my desk to the sofa. In the room were, in clockwise order from my normal desk: Nick Ludlam (who has joined us for a couple months to work on iPhone development in Kendrick. He’s startlingly talented, and we love having him here); Tom Armitage (writing, deep deep data diving, and bringing Ashdown to life); Matt Jones (design direction, business development and a little travelling this week); Matt Brown (who has a cosy nest of monitors and graphics tablets, out of which comes beautiful, clever visuals and a startlingly broad selection of music); and Jack Schulze (who is in and out filming a lot of the time). Elsewhere: Georgina Voss continues her research around UK education, Benjamin Manktelow continues his into cybernetics, and we’re working with two other designers pretty much full time too. The studio is pretty crowded and there’s no room for meetings, so I’m pleased that the builders start work Monday on partitioning the new studio space. That should take three weeks, during which time we have some sweet pitches and maybe some workshops. And of course, this week, there’s been the usual mix of risks, exciting prospects, project flutters, and surprises.
On surprises: I tell you, there is nothing, nothing that makes me happier than when someone says “hey, look at this,” and they’ve made something incredible. It must be happening twice a day at the moment, and it makes my heart sing.
It’s good, the studio humming along like this. The work is good, the pipeline is being kept healthy and moving, and admin is under control. But as I said, we are at capacity, and that has its consequences. We aren’t able to spend enough time on our own projects and when one of us is running at a little less than 100% – like me, this week – we’ll feel it. I know I’m behind on proposals and important conversations, by several weeks in some cases, and while I should be able to catch up, it should never have happened. Even the small things: there have been some great comments on the blog recently, about business strategy even, and I wanted to address them — but ran out of time this week. We have no burst capacity… I, personally, have no burst capacity. That means strategic growth (as opposed to organic growth) is put at risk.
So I’m also giving thought to how we can be more efficient and relaxed with the same level of output. Can proposals and sales be more routinised? What else? Why do some innocuous tasks suddenly feel like a Big Deal and become hard to do? How can well-being and happiness be maintained? Maybe we should print out more pictures.
I’m too cryptic. Let’s bring this down to earth. It’s a lovely, productive studio full of lovely, productive people. I bought some new brown shoes on Tuesday. And if you’d like something to read before you wind up the week, may I direct your attention towards our first guest editorial on this blog, by our friend and inspiration Megan Prelinger, and we are extremely proud to have her contribute on design, technology, and mid-century Modern: Another Science Fiction: An Intersection of Art and Technology in the Early Space Race. Wonderful.