Officeland: Switzerland Creative Services

Smashing the stereotype of typical design firm decor

By Jeff Lewis

The Montreal headquarters of Switzerland Creative Services would make Ikea addicts cringe.

It’s not that the creative boutique, which boasts satellite offices in Toronto and the Bronx, N.Y., isn’t deserving of a second look. It’s just that operations director Ben Pobjoy and creative head Shawn Butchart favour an esthetic that leans toward taxidermy, vinyl LPs and a healthy assortment of vintage junk over the mass-produced, ergonomic furniture popular among firms who trade in type.

“There’s the stereotype of a lot of design offices that are really clean and modern,” Pobjoy says over the phone from the company’s Montreal workspace. “Our office tends to be a lot more Pee-wee Herman in nature.”

Antique tin cans pasted with yesterday’s advertising slogans, pop artwork, prints of old typography, photography and yes, stuffed animals, fill out the space, which doubles as an art gallery come summertime. “There’s a grouse on the wall, which is really wicked because it’s flying, and I think a mallard duck and a pheasant above where we keep cutlery,” Pobjoy says, rhyming off the oddities, which also include a set of mounted antlers (whether moose, elk or deer, he’s not sure).

The strange surroundings belie the hardworking set of artistic entrepreneurs – a graphic designer, illustrator, photographer and visual artist, respectively – that make up the Swiss team. Their current abode is a former ground-level loft that serves as the headquarters for three separate entities: Switzerland Creative Services, the Emporium Gallery and a software development venture called Red Tree.

Recent projects include branding and design work for New York City-based cinematographer Nadia Hallgren, whose credits include the 2008 Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning film Trouble the Water, as well as Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11

Pobjoy says his firm’s clubhouse-feel – the office doesn’t have a boardroom, and there’s no secretary to mind the phones – and throwback décor are both intrinsic to the in-house creative processes. The relaxed approach also reflects a business model that’s increasingly nomadic, he notes. “Physical space is important for face-to-face collaboration, but I feel as though it’s less and less important in terms of its traditional use.”

Business these days is conducted wirelessly and increasingly in transit. “That’s how it’s evolved. [The office] is more of a place just to charge your computer than anything else.”

Still, there are pleasures unique to the Swiss digs. “We’re one of the few offices that have at least five or six hundred LPs on hand,” Pobjoy says. (The selection runs the gamut from Hank Williams Sr. to Run DMC).

What constitutes a typical day? “I would say a lot of coffee, a lot of vinyl, a lot of work and a lot of smokes would sum it up.”

One Response to Officeland: Switzerland Creative Services

  1. Claire Moore says:

    Creative types always seem to make the haphazard, tchotcke-strewn office look good. My favourite part is the dorm-style bunk in the corner. For late nights, perhaps?

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