Residency Dispatch: Agency Visit la Segunda Parte

Editor’s Note: This is Block Club designer Tim Staszak’s ‘s fourth dispatch from Barcelona, where he is working remotely for six weeks as part of Block Club’s Residency Program—an employee development initiative representative of our ongoing commitment to infuse the work we do for our clients with innovative practices, fresh methodologies, and global perspectives. Check out Tim’s previous dispatch here.

Last week I had a couple of great creative conversations with folks from very different agencies around Barcelona. We talked shop, our companies’ histories, and what we saw for the future. In the course of my conversations with each agency, I began to realize similarities with Block Club’s work, style, and processes. I came away with new ideas, new friends, and a greater appreciation for how similar we all are.

My conversation with a founding partner of TOORMIX, Ferran Mitjans, began in their company’s kitchen over a beer, overlooking the open floor plan—a hip-industrial interior space comprised of concrete, stone, and metal. They moved into their current space a little over a year ago. It’s slightly under the street level due to the building’s construction into the hilly landscape.

In addition to being used for meetings and prototyping, the office will potentially be used as a shared community space for art galleries and speaking showcases. The next floor up is where the creative team works side-by-side down one long white table. We found many similarities in regard to the clients we work with and our approach, but what I found most interesting was that after twelve years of TOORMIX, they wanted to reinvigorate their creative spirit and reevaluate the company and its vision. For four years, one day a week, they would take a 30-minute flight to the Spanish island Majorca (Mallorca) to workshop ideas, prototype, debate, do calligraphy, and basically just learn. No computers, no contact from clients. No phones. They were doing this to help move the company to another point.

This process helped them to change their overall approach, develop new skills, and clients understood that what they were doing to self-improve in the so-called “play-room” on the island was trickling into the work they were producing to solve the clients’ problems in new and more creative ways.

Several days later, I made my way up to the Vila de Gràcia neighborhood to visit with the creative director of Morillas, Àlex Gobern. I had a great conversation with Àlex, who was really interested in the residency program and what it has to offer. He spoke to the history of the agency, which was a real eye-opener, the building itself, and the design community as a whole.

The founder of the company, Antoni Morillas, is considered a pioneer and a pillar to the graphic design community in Barcelona, which didn’t really exist until the fall of Franco rule. After 40 years of dictatorship, there was a creative design boom felt throughout the country and Antoni Morillas was a big part of that.

Àlex took me on a tour through the five floors of the office, which could also pass as a modern art gallery. Àlex told me that the building once housed the school where he learned graphic design before it was converted into their office. The walls and floors are filled with paintings, sculptures, and mixed media art by the founder and other artists.

Each floor is designated to a different part of the agency. Designers specifically working on packaging are on their own floor, branding designers on the next, the financial and client-facing folks have their own floor, and so on. There are about 80 people working in their home office in Barcelona, but the agency also boasts a presence in Madrid, Tel Aviv, Miami, and Guatemala.

These meetings have been an inspiration in more ways than one. I find it to be true that most agencies are run in very similar ways, at home and abroad, but it’s the small nuances that make them different and is what is so appealing to clients and the folks who make up these agencies. Discovering these nuances has been what this trip is all about.