Minneapolis agency, account planners have recently been working in an open area with no permanent desks-though they are provided with their own computers and phones, stacked on a rolling module that can be pushed around the floor to wherever you're sitting. "People need some kind of a base, and that rolling locker becomes your base," says architect Jim Young, who is redesigning FM's offices. Beginning this summer, the agency's creatives will join planners in the experiment, trading in their offices for the movable lockers.
But not everyone is sold on the virtues of openness. "I think there are times when a creative person needs privacy," says Goldsmith. Adds Andy Berlin of Fallon McElligott Berlin, "My experience of open floor plans is that people erect emotional privacy barriers to compensate for the lack of physical privacy-and it's much worse. You can end up with harsh exchanges between people."
With that in mind, some are trying to find a middle ground between an open and closed environment. In his new digs Goldsmith provided art directors with closed offices and writers with open offices; "that way each team has the choice at any given time," he says. Riddell's solution was to build three-quarter offices, with one open wall that is partially covered by glass and has no door. "I wanted people to have their privacy, but I didn't want to lose the buzz of energy that comes from an open space," he says.
To some extent, the move away from offices toward more open spaces began years ago with Chiat's initial "no walls" design, but it seems to be picking up steam now for a number of reasons. Architect Young notes that high real estate costs are a factor; "with an open environment, you use space more efficiently." (This lends a bit of credence to the theory of one Chiat critic, who believes that the virtual office is "just a case of downsizing with a great marketing spin on it.")
But in addition, open environments may be a response to fundamental changes in the creative process-specifically the rise of account planning. "Planning means more people are involved in creative development," says Cohen, "and as that happens you're confronted with the issue of,how do we all meet and work together if everyone is separated by offices and departments?"
Rather than grouping people according to their particular discipline, some planning agencies prefer to group people according to the accounts they share. To that end, Chiat's office has no such thing as a creative workroom, though it does have a room set aside for each account, to be used by all people working on that piece of business. Similarly, at Mad Dogs Cohen anticipates that his rolling desks will tend to cluster according to accounts-with, for example, the Thom McAn creatives, planners and account people sitting together. Like a number of new environmentalists, Cohen uses the word "community" a lot; he's trying to create a place where the old divisions within advertising no longer exist.
But this may be an idealistic view of how people within an agency really interact. Silverstein, whose agency is also planning-driven, has been grouping planners, account people and creatives for some time now, and he's concluded that it doesn't work. "The creative people are telling us they want to get back together with other creatives," he says. "I tend to think they're right. Writers and art directors need to be together to support each other and bounce ideas off each other." Hence, as Silverstein now plans the redesign of his agency's workspace he's considering a return to more traditional departmentalization.
Even at Chiat/Day-where seldom is heard a discouraging word about the new utopia-Cooke has concluded that creatives may need a sense of their own community within the virtual office. "Creative people need to feel they are a collective force, and that feeling has gotten a little dissipated here," he says. Cooke plans to create a "hub" area within the office that will serve as a natural gathering area for creatives.
Interestingly, one company that's moving counter to the