argodesign Amsterdam — End of Year Report 2021
Once again, we were faced with a year that can only be classified as unique. At the start of this year, we exclaimed “2021 may not be easier, but let’s go exploring”. How little did we know how that statement, and the mindset, would hold true. Each month we held our breath waiting for a return to normalcy. We were certain each month, that the next month would lead to the inevitable end of the stress and global exhaustion.
Until it didn’t.
In one of the greatest lessons we can take away from 2021, we were so certain about everything, until we weren’t. It would seem that there really isn’t any going back — but I’m not sure if that’s bad.
Just as we did in 2020, we refused to let uncertainty win! We continued to thrive as a global team partnering with our Austin and New York offices under the banner of ‘one argo’. We returned to our office with new flexible ways of working allowing us to once again feel inspired through human connection. And we continued our client work with DreamWorks, the Dutch Railways, Elsevier, New York Life, SalesForce, Red Hat, and many more.
Looking Forward, Agility is the Key
Pulling from our 2020 End of Year Report
We never thought of this year as a hindrance that would handicap us. Instead we chose to focus on how we could still have the most positive impact with our client partners [and with our team].
In the last year, we watched as the world changed on a weekly basis. We celebrated when we could once again visit restaurants, and we recoiled in frustration from the growing entropy of new variants as everything felt calm. We were overjoyed to travel, and felt the malaise of depression return when lockdowns would once again flair up.
Just as we adapted in 2020, we had to embrace agility in the ambiguity of 2021. We returned to the studio, and were able to once again connect, remembering the beautiful moments of serendipity and happenstance that could take place outside of our Zoom and Meet cocoons. At the same time, we continued to embrace working from home, beautiful solitude, and welcomed in our flexible future. Always trying new ways of working and adjusting as we strove for the best work and team environments. We didn’t go back. We learned, we shifted, and we went forward.
We learned to etch agility into our culture as a core competency and to embrace uncertainty knowing it will continue to be there.
A Culture That Continues To Strengthen And Save Us
Looking forward to what will most certainly be a more distributed workforce and working style, it’s not space and physical location that will bind us. That’s been clearly shown from the last two years. It’s culture. It’s that shared set of often unwritten values that connect the team. It’s what people do when no one is looking. While the office, or physical spaces, have a critical role in building culture, we’ve learned there is so much more we can bring and build through digital connections.
As we shift towards living on the internet, we have recognised our culture needs to always come first. In our studio, we are seeing a shift in how we manage and lead in order to support our cultural values and vision. Listening, empathy, emotional intelligence, diversity, and communities will continue to take center stage with even greater force as we build the studio.
It’s no longer simply about what a person is doing, it’s about seeing, working, and supporting them as a complete individual.
Returning to the office did allow us to remember the moments we loved and continued to build our culture and who we are. It brought continued life to our community and collaboration. It made us happier people. But that’s not to say the office is the future. There is much more we can explore in spaces and communities and we look forward to doing so with the studio in 2022 and beyond! In a flexible future, culture and community will continue to need more focus, and something we certainly plan to invest more time in during 2022. (and something I just wrote about)
We will continue to find our style in this new world.
The First to Leave
2021 saw our first resignations in our studios history. We have always been proud in an industry where a two year tenure can be considered long, that it took seven years for the first team members to leave. While it’s hard to say goodbye, we know that all work is transitory and the best we can do is provide a stimulating, enjoyable, and passionate environment while people are with us.
When the first person to depart from our studio stepped out, I shared the speech below with the entire team. I believe it’s worth reposting as it celebrates who we are as a studio, and how we value the people on our team.
Love those who leave and know you did your best for them while they were with you! Who knows when you’ll meet again.
I thought it would be good to share thoughts on this transition.
This one is hard. It’s the first time someone has really left, and I had a long think on what to say given the situation.
When someone leaves a company, it’s for a variety of reasons — personal, work, career, location, etc. Individuals leave in order to fulfil a desire that can not be met at the moment. They see something in the future that can’t be fulfilled at their current company.
We all know that over time, people’s priorities and drivers change and that leads to changes in their lives.
And if changing jobs, or anything else, brings then that desire and fulfilment they want, I think it’s something to celebrate. I have never wanted to have a person leaving be a somber event because to the person leaving, it’s a moment of growth and positivity.
Amelie, I think you leaving, despite sad, is actually a reason for us to celebrate for you, and on behalf of you — for all of us supporting you in your life and what you want to do next.
I won’t make this lengthy — I’ll only say that Amelie, during your time here, you have had such an outsized and amazing impact on this studio. I was thankful for every day you were here, not just for your work, but your commitment to bring community into the studio. Your drive to make everyone feel connected and together, especially in the last year when we needed it the most.
It has been amazing to have you here, and I have to think whatever you choose to do next, you will be amazing at it as well.
I want to say thank you for allowing us the privilege to work with you for this past year. You’re always welcome back, and whatever you do, we’ll support you!
The New to Join
2021 saw our studio grow by roughly 20% and hire our first PM — as a studio that prided ourselves on our design teams having program management and planning skills, we have all had to admit the absolute joy and need that hiring a PM has brought to us. We also hired a myriad of new design talent who have brought fresh thinking and excitement to the studio!
It’s a continual learning process and we couldn’t be happier with our new additions this year!
In the face of uncertainty, we still managed to have another blockbuster year, working from locations all over the world and with clients who maintain a global footprint.
We continued our multi-year relationship with DreamWorks, working on building the future of a cloud native movie production pipeline. We continued to release work with the Dutch Railways helping millions of individuals commute on a daily basis. We extended our digital transformation clients working with Zwilling on their digital strategy and the future of the kitchen. We worked on the e-bike micro-mobility revolution with VanMoof. We worked with New York Life on transforming their website and digital presence. Finally, we continued what have been long standing relationships with Elsevier and Facebook handling international research.
I’m honestly not sure where we go from here, or what 2022 will bring us. We have created a studio built to adjust, always asking “How do we continue to improve?”, knowing we can conquer anything placed in our way. For us, we see beauty in future instability. We know we will survive. We will continue to embrace the unknown and ambiguous with passion and agility. We have our team, our culture, our community — we have what we built.
We are lucky to be unique. A studio that is true to design, that understands our craft beyond the simplistic notion of the screen. That design is purpose and intent — it is dreaming of a future and creating it. A studio that is true to the people who work with us — and built to try to provide them the best career and environment possible. Design is the life around us that we experience daily. And it’s our passion to shape that life, and the subsequent future that holds us together.
Looking back at 2021, and 2020, and speaking personally, I will always be proud of what we created and what we continue to build. Who we were, what we became, and what everyone here will carry forward as we grow across Europe and beyond. How we help each other and build each other up — it’s a truly wonderful thing to watch and be a part of. As we depart this year, we look forward together as a team.
Our goal as argo has always been to create something more than what has existed. Something bigger than each one of us individually, and with more impact than what we have seen before. It’s all of our responsibility to drive towards building this — we never get ahead alone! And we choose to do that not because it’s easy, but specifically because it is hard!
Everything is impossible until it’s not. Hi 2022, we’ve been waiting for you!
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