New Work: Grey Group
A creative company needs an innovative workspace. For Grey Group, one of the largest marketing communications companies in the world, a move to a new, state-of-the-art headquarters in the Flatiron District, a New York design center, symbolized a renewed commitment to creativity. Paula Scher has developed an inventive program of environmental graphics for the offices, which were designed by Studios Architecture.
Grey moved from a sedate midtown location to 200 Fifth Avenue, the former International Toy Center, a century-old landmark building that once housed several toy companies. (Grey is our new neighbor; the building is a short two blocks away from Pentagram's offices at 204 Fifth.) Grey Group is part of industry giant WPP and counts among its clients blue-chip companies like Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Canon, 3M and Eli Lilly. The Grey divisions at the new headquarters include: Grey New York, its flagship advertising agency; G2, its activation marketing agency; and Cohn & Wolfe, its sister company and PR partner. In the new headquarters these divisions are located from the second to sixth floors, with an entrance lobby on the first floor.
Scher and Studios previously collaborated on the interiors of the Bloomberg L.P. headquarters, where Scher developed an environment of numbers that was a three-dimensional manifestation of the Bloomberg brand. For Grey, Scher has designed graphically playful signage that captures and promotes the creativity of the company’s various divisions. The program utilizes materials used in the interior design to create a series of optical illusions that brand the agency in the space. “It’s a house of visual games,” says Scher.
Architect Tom Krizmanic and his team at Studios designed the interiors of 370,000 square foot headquarters in response to the structures left in the landmark building. The project included restoration of the building façade and retention of the original terra cotta walls. Located between 23rd and 24th Streets, the building has views of Madison Square Park and the architects installed a landscaped courtyard within the building that brings a park-like environment into the corporate space. An open floorplan helps promote collaboration and creative interaction among employees and the Grey agencies. The second and third floors house Grey’s creative departments; floors 4 and 5 contain the more corporate offices of account executives, as well as Cohn & Wolfe, the PR agency. G2, the group’s interactive agency, is located on the fifth and sixth floors.
Studios designed the interiors using different materials for each division or department on each floor. Scher’s environmental graphics use these same materials —wood, glass, metal and polymer—in ways that suggest the personalities of the different divisions. The signage mixes the materials with elements of reflection, transparency, lighting and pattern to create a series of optical illusions that sets each department apart and at the same time ties the headquarters together into a cohesive environment.
Visitors to the first floor lobby are greeted by a front desk backed by a dramatic wall of backlit metal mesh that features both the logos of Grey Group and G2 rendered in the same mesh.
For the open, gallery-like spaces of the second and third floors, which contain Grey’s creative departments, Scher designed large-scale installations that brand the agency in the space. The second floor features large windows on Madison Square Park and distressed elements like exposed brick that remain from the building’s previous incarnation. Here Scher designed a typographic neon sculpture with the Grey logo rendered inside a 35” cube that sits on the floor like a piece of art. Surrounded by reflective glass, the cube activates the space.
The third floor features an installation of a Grey logo supergraphic made out of the same recycled distressed wood as the wall.
Restrooms on the second and third floors feature superscale male and female icons that appear “correct” at their respective entrances but then graphically stretch down the halls.
Project Team: Paula Scher, partner-in-charge and designer; Drew Freeman, designer.