Viacom18’s new office: The design story
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A girl carries matkas (pots) on her head, but look again—the matkas are music quavers. A pair of scissors is cutting a man’s hair, but look again—his hair is made of film reels. A man is riding a bike, but look again—his bike emits a Wi-Fi symbol.
The music quavers represent the MTV music business, the scissors symbolize the edit suite, and the Wi-Fi icon conveys the digital Voot business.
These are just a handful of the dozens of graphic design artworks that populate the walls and columns of Viacom18’s new office. Witty, joyful, layered and creative, this unique collection of works represents design at its best: when art meets a client’s brief.
The brief was to unite Viacom18’s individual channels and be “one together, to speak in one voice. It was a deliberate call not to display each brand logo on its relevant floor,” says Sonia Huria, head of CSR and communication, who was leading the new workplace design project.
Uday Parkar, an advertising professional and the founder of creative agency Koba, responded to this somewhat generic brief by leveraging his communications background, and marrying storytelling with graphic design. “I love graphics, and I wanted the office to say something about Viacom18 when the visitor walks in,” he says.
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It is clear that as much effort has been invested in Viacom18’s workplace branding as most companies devote to the more challenging task of devising a new corporate identity. Parkar’s visuals are quirky but strategic: They express teamwork and collaboration, but also allow each business unit to maintain its own voice.
The resulting chorus of harmonies is melodious, maintaining its pitch, floor after floor. The work occasionally stumbles—some of the installations are gimmicky—but on the whole, this has to be the first office whose visual imagery I wanted to own.
To assess its originality, I benchmarked the work with the 100-plus offices that have been featured in Mint to date. Many of these companies have creatively illustrated their stories in their spaces—through art, design, visual imagery or sculptural installations, with their own products or industry-related memorabilia. But few have employed graphic design so inventively to remain true to the brand—except, perhaps, for Internet multinational Google, always adept at building iconic workplaces.
Parkar’s passion for graphic design comes from wanting to “scribble, not just downloading imagery. I drew the first set of images for this work on toilet roll, because it was late at night when we got the call to present something. I was in Dubai on a project, and I didn’t have a scribble pad. I ran out of toilet rolls after a while!” he laughs. Old-fashioned, but it worked.
How ironic it is that a business reliant on fleeting images has created a collection of lasting visual stories. Hopefully, it will get us thinking about how we would capture the stories of our everyday lives without reaching for our smartphones.