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Why we’ve ditched the office

Categories: Inspiration, Jewellery Quarter, Useful/interesting

The outside of 8a Legge Lane, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham

At the start of the Christmas break we closed those black double doors on our office of the last 13 years one last time – as of January 2017 we’ve become a ‘distributed' team. Basically this means that we work together remotely day-to-day (from our respective homes most of the time), meeting in person every week or so.

There wasn't one catalyst for taking this decision – as with most big changes there were lots of reasons – but certainly one of the biggest drivers, and biggest changes for each of us personally, was to get rid of the daily commute.

Ugh, that commute! Despite the team all being based in and around Birmingham, between us we were still managing to rack-up a ridiculous 26 hours a week travelling to and from the office each day.

It's one thing having some time to get into the 'work mindset' every morning but that’s more than 3 working days worth of time sat in cars or on packed commuter trains. That’s how long it’d take to (re)watch a complete season of 24, with several generous tea/loo breaks between episodes. That’s the time it took the entire globe to see-in 2017 – from Kiribati to Baker Island – for goodness sake.

By any measure, this is neither good nor sensible use of time – but particularly in terms of work/life balance. Not to mention the significant environmental impact and monetary cost of all that travelling to-and-fro.

The old office meeting space – sofa and all

And how often were we actually meeting with clients at the office? A handful of times a year at most; which doesn’t really warrant having a permanent dedicated meeting space. And the construction work happening in the street, while not crippling by any means, had been fairly noisy for a good few months and was unlikely to be finished in less than a year. Plus there was the possibility of our building being sold within the next couple of years and, if so, we’d have to find another office anyway – paying a lot more than the current rent for not-as-nice a space. Hmmm. You can see where this was going …

We realised we’d actually been working perfectly well with clients in different locations for years, so … why not each other? We’d done the odd day of home-working anyway, so making that a permanent set-up didn’t seem an impossible leap.

Once the idea was planted it was time to hit Google and research the pros and, particularly, cons of moving away from all working in the same space, from people who’d already done it.

A combination of our hypotheticals, along with the practical experiences of those who’d already taken the no-office plunge, gave us a decent list of pros and cons:

Pros

  • No commute! This is a big one – saving time, money and the environment – so definitely counts as three-pros-in-one
  • No travel disruption (leaves on the line, snow/ice on the roads etc.)
  • Not paying over-the-odds for city centre rent; hell, not paying *any* rent!
  • We could each create our perfect working environment; noisy/quiet, messy/tidy, dressed/pyjamas
  • Forced to be at the cutting-edge of digital technology and communication – as we’d be relying on it
  • We’d have to be more structured with internal meetings – yes, this was a ‘pro’
  • More internet connections = someone’d always be connected
  • No construction noise/disruption from the new flats apartments being built a stone’s throw away
  • We’d be all set-up incase of out-of-hours emergencies
  • Opens the possibility of working in-house with clients, with little disruption/set-up
  • If any Supercoolers move away from Brum, they won’t have to leave their job
  • We could recruit from further afield without the need for someone to relocate or have a huge commute (and, practically at least, setting-up a new home-worker’s easier than adding another body to an office)

Cons

  • Possible barriers to effective communication – both regarding projects day-to-day, and the ‘team spirit’ side of working with others
  • It doesn’t suit everyone
  • More temptation to eat ALL THE BISCUITS IN THE HOUSE

The pros pretty much speak for themselves and are pretty convincing; but obviously the big worries were the cons.

Communication barriers were mentioned in nearly every essay, news item and blog post we read as part of our research into remote working. However, each of these articles also detailed how other companies had overcome potential communication issues; primarily with tools we were already using day-to-day – Slack, Trello, Hangout, Skype etc. We also knew it’d be important to be sure and maintain social/personal communication as well as working together on projects. So, this 'con' was definitely surmountable.

A large part of the reasoning behind ditching the office was to give everyone in the team a better work/life balance, so this change absolutely had to work for everyone. It had to be all or nothing … so, how did we go about planning for, trialling and, clearly, ultimately taking the plunge into ditching the office?

Find out in the next thrilling installment: How to go remote – detailing the myriad considerations and months of planning that go into becoming an office-free business.

(Oh; and as for being tempted by unhealthy snacks, I'm still working on it …)

2016 – A year in review

Categories: Our work

What ended up being … let’s call it a ‘strange’ year in terms of national and global politics, started off perfectly nicely in the world of digital design.

We launched a newly-Spektrix-integrated website for boutique opera house Longborough Festival Opera, allowing them to sell tickets online for the first time ever.

“We commissioned Supercool to create our new website alongside the integration of a new box office system - we were concerned that as an understaffed and not technically savvy organisation we would soon be out of our depth, but Supercool took our brief and created a website that exceeded our expectations both in terms of design and capability, along with a user-friendly and intuitive CMS.”

We also designed LFO’s beautiful-if-we-do-say-so-ourselves 100-page perfect-bound season programme, giving each production its own distinctive personality – and audience members a lasting keepsake.

"We've created several pieces of print with them and have been impressed by their imaginative design."

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The second iteration of our e-commerce website for haberdashery friends Guthrie & Ghani has a revamped design and a whole bunch of functionality improvements – for both website visitors and administrators.

“The team of web designers and developers at Supercool have done a tremendous job at not only designing and creating a lovely looking site, but also making it work behind the scenes for us.”

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To coincide with their 25th anniversary, we launched a simplified and easy-to-search new website for one of the world’s finest concert halls – Symphony Hall Birmingham – along with its smaller but equally impressive sister venue Town Hall.

The site was put to the test in September with an on-sale for Kraftwerk tickets, which it passed with flying colours; selling-out within about 10 minutes.

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One of our most exciting launches this year was a fashion-led, Tessitura-integrated website for Scotland's national dance company, Scottish Ballet.

The website’s been a big hit not only with Scottish Ballet and their audiences, but with the judges of the Lovie Awards. The site was awarded bronze in the Best Website: Art category of this pan-European contest which 'honours online excellence’. Safe to say that we and Scottish Ballet were pretty chuffed. Go team!

"It has been a real pleasure to work with Supercool on Scottish Ballet’s new website. The process felt like a partnership with enthusiastic people that have flair, technical solutions and cared as much as we did about the final product. Most importantly, we are delighted with the result: an easy to manage and striking website that delivers results (higher engagement, lower bounce rates, and higher conversions)."

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So, what's next?

In 2017 we’re looking forward to launching new websites for: a small-but-perfectly-formed theatre, a rural touring company, a Frank Matcham-designed opera house, and a renowned jazz venue – as well as new branding and websites for a passionate and pragmatic arts consultancy, and “the collective voice for culture in Birmingham”.

We’re also sponsoring the next Family Arts Conference, so look out for more about that early next year.

Speaking of which, here’s an early New Year’s Resolution – MOAR BLOG POSTS!!11!!1! We’ll see how that goes, eh …

In the meantime, warmest winter wishes and all the best for 2017 – from Supercool.


via GIPHY

Supercool’s Dozen

Categories: Our work, Silly

12

Today is a milestone in Supercool’s history – it’s our 12th anniversary. (That’s 144 months. 626 weeks. 4,380 days.)

Supercool started life during the UN’s designated ‘Year of Rice’; two weeks before Facebook and three months before Gmail launched. Hmmm, they’re perhaps not great examples for our egos. Although we’ve (intentionally, of course) not spent our time becoming a world-dominating corporate force, we have had the pleasure of working on an ever-increasing number of fun, challenging and exciting projects. And we get to work with some fantastic people too, so we really couldn’t ask for more.

Thank you to all our ace clients – from WMS, who’ve been with us since the beginning, to the most recent addition to the Supercool fold, Longborough Festival Opera – for choosing to work with us over the past 12 years.

To mark the occasion, here’s a song all about 12, courtesy of Sesame Street …

2015 – A year in review

Categories: Our work

All I want for Christmas is

All we want for Christmas, in work-related terms, is for 2016 to be not dissimilar to 2015.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have added some fantastic new clients to our portfolio this year – from as far north as Aberdeenshire right down to West Sussex on the south coast – as well as continuing to work with lots of old friends.

Our 2015 started with a bright and colourful splash – the launch of an all-new vintage-inspired fashion brand and website for Lee & Lawrie, as well as an incredibly well-received re-brand, season campaign style and new website for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

CBSO branding, print design and website

In the spring we welcomed a new member of the team – Josh (Ainsworth). Which means we now have two Joshes – The Joshi? Both of whom also have surnames beginning with ‘A’. And both of whom are developers. Meaning no little confusion in the office at times. Hmmm. We’ve plumped for Josh 1 and Josh 2 for the time being as Backend-Josh and Frontend-Josh just didn’t sound quite right …

In the summer we worked on some ace projects – including websites for Stratford Circus arts centre in East London, author and knitting designer extraordinaire Sarah Hazell, and architects Sjölander da Cruz.

Stratford Circus, Sarah Hazell and Sjölander Da Cruz

James and I also found time to attend the Arts Marketing Association’s annual conference which was held in Brum; I wrote a series of blog posts about some of the talks, including a fairly popular one about 'sweary spaces and loyal fans'.

One of our biggest achievements this year was launching three complex and very different websites within a matter of days of each other – Chichester Festival Theatre, Sound (Scotland’s festival of new music) and Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Chichester Festival Theatre, sound and Birmingham Royal Ballet

It just shows what a small team can get done … though, for the sake of our nerves/sanity, we’re unlikely to repeat this time-defying feat anytime soon.

Early autumn saw us kick-off a new website project with our most scenically-located client – Longborough Festival Opera; a boutique country house opera with stunning views of the glorious Cotswolds. (And their productions are nothing to sniff at either.)

Their all-new Spektrix-integrated website will be launching soon, but in the meantime here’s a sneaky peek:

Longborough Festival Opera website sneaky peek

As if all that excitement wasn’t enough, in mid-November Josh (1) and his wife welcomed a new baby daughter. Awww, a Supercool baby!

So, what’s in store for Supercool in 2016?

Amongst other things … a refreshed website for our friends Guthrie & Ghani, the second stage of our work with Chichester Festival Theatre, and brand new websites for one of the UK’s finest concert halls and a national ballet company.

It looks like 2016 will be another busy year, so here’s to a relaxing festive break!

Warmest winter wishes, and all the best for 2016 – from Supercool.