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Viacom18’s new office: The design story

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-04-2017 Livemint

A girl carries matkas (pots) on her head, but look again—the matkas are music quavers. A pair of scissors is cutting a man’s hair, but look again—his hair is made of film reels. A man is riding a bike, but look again—his bike emits a Wi-Fi symbol.

The music quavers represent the MTV music business, the scissors symbolize the edit suite, and the Wi-Fi icon conveys the digital Voot business.

A flute depicts Viacom18’s music channels, the differently-attired people represent diversity and collaboration.

These are just a handful of the dozens of graphic design artworks that populate the walls and columns of Viacom18’s new office. Witty, joyful, layered and creative, this unique collection of works represents design at its best: when art meets a client’s brief.

The matkas symbolize cohesion and balance, the music quavers are a reference to the music industry.

The brief was to unite Viacom18’s individual channels and be “one together, to speak in one voice. It was a deliberate call not to display each brand logo on its relevant floor,” says Sonia Huria, head of CSR and communication, who was leading the new workplace design project.

Inspiration can strike anytime, turning ideas into stories, an image which represents the motion pictures business.

Uday Parkar, an advertising professional and the founder of creative agency Koba, responded to this somewhat generic brief by leveraging his communications background, and marrying storytelling with graphic design. “I love graphics, and I wanted the office to say something about Viacom18 when the visitor walks in,” he says.

Also Read | Sudhanshu Vats: The disciplined storyteller

It is clear that as much effort has been invested in Viacom18’s workplace branding as most companies devote to the more challenging task of devising a new corporate identity. Parkar’s visuals are quirky but strategic: They express teamwork and collaboration, but also allow each business unit to maintain its own voice.

Wi-fi adds a spring to our step, aligning the music and the digital businesses.

The resulting chorus of harmonies is melodious, maintaining its pitch, floor after floor. The work occasionally stumbles—some of the installations are gimmicky—but on the whole, this has to be the first office whose visual imagery I wanted to own.

The human resource departments answers questions from all quarters.

To assess its originality, I benchmarked the work with the 100-plus offices that have been featured in Mint to date. Many of these companies have creatively illustrated their stories in their spaces—through art, design, visual imagery or sculptural installations, with their own products or industry-related memorabilia. But few have employed graphic design so inventively to remain true to the brand—except, perhaps, for Internet multinational Google, always adept at building iconic workplaces.

HR can be heavy lifting, always there to respond to multiple comments.

Parkar’s passion for graphic design comes from wanting to “scribble, not just downloading imagery. I drew the first set of images for this work on toilet roll, because it was late at night when we got the call to present something. I was in Dubai on a project, and I didn’t have a scribble pad. I ran out of toilet rolls after a while!” he laughs. Old-fashioned, but it worked.

Snip, cut and crop out the unessential, at the edit suite.

How ironic it is that a business reliant on fleeting images has created a collection of lasting visual stories. Hopefully, it will get us thinking about how we would capture the stories of our everyday lives without reaching for our smartphones.

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