Branding agency FINE opens the doors to its dynamic Portland studio

Founded in San Francisco in 1994, branding agency FINE expanded to Portland in 2007. Servicing its extensive client list, including Symantec, Apple, Anchor Brewing and Pernod Ricard, from a light and airy office space, the company's ethos is extended right through to the decor, offering variable seating and meeting options alongside inviting breakout zones. We chatted with the team about their newly renovated offices in the heart of Portland...

Describe your space

Our space is dynamic and active — an immediate immersion into our culture. Stepping off the elevator, you’re stepping directly into the mix, without any sort of reception barrier blocking your line of sight. Upon entering, you’re immediately pulled into our environment with an open bistro, kitchen, stage, and work area.

The open concept promotes collaboration, with circulation paths through our work areas to help spark spontaneous conversations. Though it feels high energy, it’s comfortable and offers pockets for focused concentration, physically manifesting our culture into the aesthetic. Glass-walled meeting rooms spatially continue an open flow and creatively inspire open dialogue through transparency.

Because a significant portion of our work is in the high-end hospitality market — placemaking and developing digital destinations, branding, and even concepts for their actual spaces — our office is designed to feel familiar to the metropolitan style they’re used to.

Ultimately, brand informs architectural and interior design, so there is a purpose behind every design element in the office.

What do you love about it most?

The whole purpose of our space is to increase our creativity and not get caught up in rigid systems and structures. We created the environment to promote a high-frequency of unplanned conversational “collisions” among staff. We envisioned areas where casual interactions create opportunities for genius to happen just going from one place to another.

Our space is also extremely flexible, so it serves well as a place we can share with the larger community during meetups.

Tell us something funny or interesting that happened there recently

Anyone who walks in during our Monday morning All Staff meetings will be walking right into a yoga session, as we start every week with stretching before moving into our staff-hosted “5x5” (5 slides in 5 minutes) talks. So whether you’re a job applicant or a UPS delivery person, you may find yourself stretching when you step off the elevator.

We’ve also used the space to film our Design Week Portland promotional open house video, and will be doing the same this year. Ever poured a bunch of coffee beans onto someone’s head, filled a bucket with dry ice and planted it in an elevator, or brought in a baby goat? It all seems so calm on the surface, but we like to think there’s some irreverent, and maybe even subversive, thinking going on right beneath.

Anything quirky or different about your studio?

You can write and stick magnets on most of the walls (just be careful to pick the right ones). We also have a “suspended chair” in our library that works best when the door behind it is open, and womb-like buzzy chairs for sensory deprivation work. And lots of toys and books.

Any specific design features or areas that work for your agency?

Everyone has a desk, but we’ve also provided places to sit, stand, lounge, and escape — opportunities to think about the same problems in multiple settings. We recently redesigned an area to add some built-in benches, soft seating, and the aforementioned buzzy chairs. It’s now one of the most-popular places to work. Having this flexibility is something we think affects the outcome and quality of work in a positive way.

Our space is a crucial tool. The accidental collaboration it inspires has changed up how we engage with our clients, connecting with them on a more-frequent, informal basis as ideas strike. People feel enlivened when they visit our office, and our space has triggered an expected level of interaction when they get a sense of our energy; experience is an energy game.

What's the local scene like?

We’re within walking distance to one of Portland’s bigger food cart pods, so the location is a hit when it comes to lunch. We’re also nearby some of the city’s big art venues — Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Dolores Winningstad Theatre, and Keller Auditorium. We’re only a block up from the Portland Art Museum, which is a nice opportunity for our monthly designers’ unite to explore the latest exhibits. Plus, the Park Blocks are our backyard and come summertime that means a farmer's market and breaks in the much-desired sunshine.

To find out more about FINE, visit wearefine.com.