By Craille Maguire Gillies | Photography by Pete Aspros, Grip Limited
There is nothing like a big orange slide plonked right in the middle of an office to obliterate hierarchy between upper management and everyone else. But then Toronto creative agency Grip Limited, home to that big orange slide, has never been a place for hierarchy. Grip, whose clients include Acura, Lululemon Athletica and Labatt, has an unusually linear team, with an astounding 11 partners. David Crichton, one of eight founding partners calls it a “flat structure” in which partners work directly with clients, and therefore with their own designers, writers, interactive and technical staff who put together campaigns. “There’s no corner office mentality. There isn’t actually a corner office,” Crichton says, adding that newly hired president Harvey Carroll has the worst digs in the space – a small, drafty office that no one else wants.
Grip’s office – designed by the folks at Johnson Chou and featuring the agency’s signature orange logo – is spread over two and a half floors, and reflects the open attitude of the agency. (And the fireman’s pole in the atrium is great when you’re running late for meetings.) Crichton spoke with Unlimited about breaking down barriers – and walls.
+ Every Thursday, many of the company’s 100-plus staff gather in the atrium for a 4:30 beer-fuelled news briefing. (It counts Labatt as one of its longtime clients.) “On Thursdays we open up the draft taps and play foosball,” says Crichton. “The atrium is basically stadium seating for announcements.”
+ The company has events called “What’s your story?” when anybody in the company – from someone in the production studio to a creative director – can present new ideas.
+ They notice the little things. White Astroturf lines one of the boardrooms. “It deadens sound,” Crichton says, “but it’s also not expensive. We like to do things creatively that don’t involve spending a lot of money. It sends a message to clients that you can be creative without being excessive.”
+ That working-class ethos turns up in Grip’s logo, a bright 1960s-style orange circle meant to show the company’s working-class roots. “I would say the culture here is pretty peer-oriented. Our partners work on a client’s file directly, so that means we worked directly with everyone here,” Crichton says. (Click to see a TV reel of some of Grip’s work.)
+ The non-linear structure of the company lets employees move between departments for rare wholesale career changes within the same company. For instance, a longtime studio manager became a designer and later an art director. One former IT staffer went on to become a multimedia editor/producer at Grip’s in-house production facility. The strategy is to “let people make a career change and then keep them in the company. At the end of the day, [the happiness of] a bigger paycheque only lasts two pay periods. If you provide a place where people like to work and are respected, they’ll be happier and more enthusiastic.” U