Last week I went with the rest of my cohort from BDW to check out some great agencies in Portland, Oregon. From the behemoth Nike campus to the small five person team at Parliament we got to see a really broad spectrum.
We started out at Nike. For some reason I was expecting something kind of old and industrial. I was absolutely blown away by the campus. It was a fantasy wonderland of beautiful landscaping, art, sports facilities and museum-like memorabilia chronicling the history of Nike.
A manmade lake, Japanese gardens and walking path into the beautiful surrounding forests gave promise that anyone needing a break from work could be quickly surrounded by nature. The giant fitness center complete with basketball courts, a large swimming pool and a spa also spoke of a work culture that equally values fitness. By the end of the tour I think we all harbored secret fantasies of working for Nike in some capacity, just so we could hang out in an environment like this all day. Our next tour had an incredible environment as well, but in a very different way.
If you've ever seen the Portlandia Stay Cool skit on Wieden + Kennedy, then you've probably already got an idea of how creative the interior is.
We arrived for our tour and were immediately struck by the aesthetic on the first floor. It reminded me more of an art gallery than an agency entrance. Every employee had an artistic black and white photograph hanging on the wall that in some way captured their personality. A giant beaver stood guard.
Our tour guide had us take the elevator up 6 floors, where I was immediately glad that I'm not afraid of heights. The "open beam" look has been taken to a whole other dimension here, and glass offices are perched over sharp drops. Wooden bridges connect the floor, and yes, there really is a bird nest at the top.
After admiring the creativity of the building, we were brought into a conference room for a meet and greet with some of the department heads. This is where things got a little less Portlandia, and a little more real world ad agency.
The agency has been around for many decades, with 8 locations around the world and about 700 employees. It was really interesting to hear how teams work together and how innovation is fostered in such a large, global agency.
In contrast, our next agency tour was at Parliament, where the five person team has recently moved into a three story building in Downtown Portland that took four years to renovate.
The bottom floor used to be a bar, the second floor a dancehall and the top floor a bordello. Now Parliament is using the top floor as office space, the second floor as co-working space, and they are still speculating on what the first floor might turn out to be.
The renovation was so recently completed that there were still piles of sawdust in places. It will be interesting to see how both the space and the agency evolve.
Everything about Sincerely, Truman was after my own heart. From the moment we walked in the door, everything and everyone we encountered was warm, welcoming and wonderful.
Every morning coffee is served to the public in the open bar and lounge area that greets you as you walk in. The time is meant for real human interaction, not business meetings, and people are welcomed to stay and hang out for as long as they want.
As we walked through the space the people working would stop, smile and say hello. This was a first on any of the agency tours we'd been on. There was a genuine congeniality that was contagious, and it wasn't just towards us, it was obvious that everyone there enjoyed working with one another.
If this wasn't enough, the history and philosophy of Sincerely, Truman is completely based around my own true love - story. They really get it too, it's not just lip service here. I wanted to stay forever, but the tour was over too soon.
Our next and final tour was at the lovely Second Story, which is appropriately located on the second story of a building in South Portland
Second Story started out building interactive experiences for museums. This has branched out to include many other types of organizations and companies as well. They do really neat stuff, some of which we got to play with after the presentation.
Getting to play with interactive installations brought out the joy in everyone. There was a Coca Cola bubbler screen that you could stand in front of and watch your own image bubble away. There was an astronomy table that you could touch to shoot streams of light from your fingertips. A model car sat in a display case that recognized when you stood in front of it and gave you interactive information at eye level. Colored light panels could be manipulated by pulling up a site on your phone and touching your screen. We could have stayed and played all day, it was truly delightful.
But all too soon it was over, so we said our goodbyes and trooped off to get some rest. We all had 9am workshops at the Webvisions Conference we came to Portland for, but that is another story for another time.
I really enjoyed getting to visit such a wide variety of agencies in Portland. Getting to meet in person and see the physical spaces of these agencies gave me real insight as to what these places are really like. Thank you BDW for setting up these tours, and for all of our wonderful hosts who welcomed us into their space and gave us their time.
Since becoming a mom to a little boy with Trisomy 21 I have written a lot about Down syndrome and disabilities. I am a storyteller, wife and mom to a teen and a toddler. Life is busy!