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Spirit of the Lift

Spirit of the Lift

Sulaiman Beg

Sulaiman Beg

January 28, 2019

Going up? A new project by Conran Design Group explores the impact of design through six "themed" elevators at the Havas London office.

"Even within our own creative community, design can be perceived only as a visual layer rather than for the power it has to move us because of the ideas it helps to convey."

For many office workers around the world, there may be no better symbol of the sometimes mundane, repetitive, and solitary nature of office life than the elevator. But for one week earlier this month, Conran Design Group took over six elevators (or “lifts” for our British friends) at Havas HKX Village to turn a space usually reserved for staring forward or at a phone screen into a disco, a living room, and one that could potentially give entrants a heart attack.

Conran’s CEO and Managing Partner Thom Newton shares how the project came to be, the importance of design, and one bad pun.

 

How did the idea come about to convert the office’s elevators as a way to explore the impact of design?

There were two main objectives that led to the concept. First, we wanted to elevate (excuse the awful pun) the perception of design within the creative community (Havas King’s Cross). We are a building of 1,800 creative people spread across multiple disciplines that each have value to add when deployed strategically to achieve specific goals. By emphasizing our broad range of specialisms, we can allow people to understand better what they need and when they need it in relation to a given business challenge. Even within our own creative community, design can be perceived only as a visual layer rather than for the power it has to move us because of the ideas it helps to convey.

The second objective was to illustrate the impact design can have. We wanted to take something mundane and everyday and use design to change the experience of it, in turn changing the way people behave and interact with one another. We wanted to make design a real talking point.

How long did it take to set up?

A week to generate and develop the ideas, 10 days to detail, implement, and install. It was an exercise in keeping things simple with a small team, clear brief, and tight deadline. In our experience, a strong creative idea always helps people understand and deliver concepts with greater focus and impact. The simplicity of the concept helped get buy-in to the idea, making the process of delivering a positive experience for all.

"We had lots of feedback about how it had brightened up people’s week..."

Were staff notified about the experiments in advance? I imagine “fear” would have caused a lot of panic attacks.

Yes, in terms of the generalities of taking over the lifts for a week and that they would look and feel different. Not about the specific lift themes—we wanted this to be a surprise. If people had a strong reaction to any specific lift, we felt they had the option to wait for the next one….

What has the reaction been so far?

Unbelievably positive. I think people really embraced the spirit of the lifts and really enjoyed the interaction and talking points. We had lots of feedback about how it had brightened up people’s week and generated a totally different vibe in this usually uninteresting (and largely solitary) experience.

Any plans to continue this or make permanent in other agencies or with clients?

We think if it were permanent, people might get sick of it. Its impact and popularity, I believe, was largely derived from its pop-up and temporary nature. We will definitely suggest other campaigns for the building and will certainly generate new ideas to promote the power of design.

Were there any ideas that didn’t make the final cut?

Yes…either because we thought people might be offended or find them too intrusive.

"Even within our own creative community, design can be perceived only as a visual layer rather than for the power it has to move us because of the ideas it helps to convey."

For many office workers around the world, there may be no better symbol of the sometimes mundane, repetitive, and solitary nature of office life than the elevator. But for one week earlier this month, Conran Design Group took over six elevators (or “lifts” for our British friends) at Havas HKX Village to turn a space usually reserved for staring forward or at a phone screen into a disco, a living room, and one that could potentially give entrants a heart attack.

Conran’s CEO and Managing Partner Thom Newton shares how the project came to be, the importance of design, and one bad pun.

 

How did the idea come about to convert the office’s elevators as a way to explore the impact of design?

There were two main objectives that led to the concept. First, we wanted to elevate (excuse the awful pun) the perception of design within the creative community (Havas King’s Cross). We are a building of 1,800 creative people spread across multiple disciplines that each have value to add when deployed strategically to achieve specific goals. By emphasizing our broad range of specialisms, we can allow people to understand better what they need and when they need it in relation to a given business challenge. Even within our own creative community, design can be perceived only as a visual layer rather than for the power it has to move us because of the ideas it helps to convey.

The second objective was to illustrate the impact design can have. We wanted to take something mundane and everyday and use design to change the experience of it, in turn changing the way people behave and interact with one another. We wanted to make design a real talking point.

How long did it take to set up?

A week to generate and develop the ideas, 10 days to detail, implement, and install. It was an exercise in keeping things simple with a small team, clear brief, and tight deadline. In our experience, a strong creative idea always helps people understand and deliver concepts with greater focus and impact. The simplicity of the concept helped get buy-in to the idea, making the process of delivering a positive experience for all.

"We had lots of feedback about how it had brightened up people’s week..."

Were staff notified about the experiments in advance? I imagine “fear” would have caused a lot of panic attacks.

Yes, in terms of the generalities of taking over the lifts for a week and that they would look and feel different. Not about the specific lift themes—we wanted this to be a surprise. If people had a strong reaction to any specific lift, we felt they had the option to wait for the next one….

What has the reaction been so far?

Unbelievably positive. I think people really embraced the spirit of the lifts and really enjoyed the interaction and talking points. We had lots of feedback about how it had brightened up people’s week and generated a totally different vibe in this usually uninteresting (and largely solitary) experience.

Any plans to continue this or make permanent in other agencies or with clients?

We think if it were permanent, people might get sick of it. Its impact and popularity, I believe, was largely derived from its pop-up and temporary nature. We will definitely suggest other campaigns for the building and will certainly generate new ideas to promote the power of design.

Were there any ideas that didn’t make the final cut?

Yes…either because we thought people might be offended or find them too intrusive.

Sulaiman Beg is Havas' Director of Global Internal Communications. He has never eaten canned tuna fish.

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