One of the things that was easier, writing these notes about the studio back in 2009, was that the room was smaller. There’s something about stewing in each other’s pheromones. You share moods. If the week was tiring, you were all tired. If you had the sherbet fizz of excitement in your belly, you knew that was the collective unconscious of the studio at large.
In August 2010, we’re too big for that. We’re not big by any means! Eight people, a network of experts, and just taken on a ninth – Alex Jarvis is joining us in October! – but big enough for different moods and senses to sit together in the same space.
When three people are buzzing, collectively discovering a new filming technique, you can see the static sparks fly between them and the energy is infectious. Conversely, a feeling of difficulty or defeat when a particular project is crunching can rise like some deep magma upswell and roll around the studio almost tidally before it’s recognised, digested and massaged out.
Mood transmission follows lines of physical proximity, conversations, and collaboration.
Part of the job of gardening a studio – a community of people – is to encourage the right transmissions and tides. By weaving together sources of energy, in reinforcing loops, a collective exuberance may take place.
Exuberance is a period in the development of the brain that lasts until 10 years of age. It is an over-production of connections between neurons, a decade-long acid trip seeing the secret alignments of the universe. During your teenage years, your brain sculpts itself into a mirror of the reality it has chosen to perceive, pruning away possible worlds.
Exuberance is a state only entered into with care. It’s frazzling. We maybe don’t have to use it right now.
We have a lot on at the moment: internal R&D, film-making, design and communications work, ops and infrastructure, the sales pipeline… projects are giant invisible bears that roam around the studio tickling ribs and cracking heads. Recently projects have been colliding, not in a way where that has been affecting the work, but in odd second-order ways: people have to task-switch too much; tasks appear suddenly when they’re urgent instead of being apprehended; the gardening of the studio becomes automatic and unthinking. That needs to be looked at.
When I write these notes, I’m aware that I’m now just one perspective. When I look around, easiness and effort sit side-by-side. This studio has many voices.
What matters now are how different characters refract light differently as illumination moves between them, and how the interference patterns of the waves and rhythms of different projects interacting can be either choppy or smooth. Complexity. I have no ways to understand this. My brain’s picture of reality isn’t yet sculpted like this.
So I’m thinking about ways to manage a small big room instead of a big small room.
All of which feels like growing up a bit.
a process whereby a system produces its own organization and maintains and constitutes itself in a space. E.g., a biological cell, a living organism and to some extend a corporation and a society as a whole.
The studio we’re creating together is not only a garden that grows culture, but at the same time garden capable of self-gardening. We sometimes overlook this capacity in humans I think, because of the organ focus we have on the body. There is an organ for thinking. There is an organ for cleaning the blood. There is an organ for digesting the world into particles. These are clearly demarcated. There is also an organ for self-growth, but it isn’t demarcated in the same way. It is distributed into the molecules of every cell in the body. It exists on the organisational plane. So the organs of regulated self-creation in our studio will be psychic and structural, but they have existence none-the-less. I want to be able to spend more time looking for and looking after this organ.
For some reason today, I’m preoccupied with the leylines and gravities and internal terrain of the studio.
I monitor three budgets: attention; cash; risk. All are flows to be directed. Attention: how many minutes do we have as a studio, any how many can be spent in experimental or undirected ways? Cash: how can cash-flow be managed to build up working capital to invest, versus spend freely to buy more attention to spend? Risk: how tolerant are the attention and cash budgets to delay or failure?
We can direct some flow into the infrastructure of the studio machine: our calcified processes, libraries and knowledge that operate automatically, and give our future attention and cash greater leverage.
In the last 12 months, we’ve consulted on design strategy with Nokia, the BBC, Sitra, Bonnier, Layar, BILD and Absolut. We’ve written articles in Icon and Edge, had press in Wired and Creative Review. We’ve made a movie about RFID, re-invented the magazine with Mag+ — and created a digital magazine publishing platform that excited Apple. We’ve released Michel Thomas, Schooloscope, and BBC Dimensions. We’ve moved premises, built a team, and have significant internal and client projects well underway.
From this, we’re building decent leverage of our activity. The conversations we have with people now are less like client/supplier interactions, and more like figuring out how to start relationships. Good.
Behind the mountains there are mountains, so enjoy the climb. It’s a good feeling to look at the mountain-tops and, even in a little way, know we have room to choose the path.
And of course, on 19 August last year, we launched as BERG.
A beautiful, difficult, inventive, frazzling, exuberant, rewarding, wonderful garden.