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95 Cannon Street, Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Six offices. Nine years. By the time Fuzzco hit address number six, they knew what they wanted in a workspace.
• Plentiful conference rooms and private spaces
Creative Directors John Nissenboim and Helen Rice founded Fuzzco in 2005 in a Charleston Single House, a type of long, narrow home with multi-story porches called piazzas. Since then, they’ve grown into a 15-employee agency tackling a broad range of projects: everything from logo design to app development to video production to good, old-fashioned brochures. They moved into their sixth space late last year.
From the outside, Fuzzco looks like the happy marriage of a sardine tin and a shoebox. A former warehouse that previously housed a restoration woodworker and a stash of medical supplies, the building stretches up two stories and out across 7,800 square feet, six-and-a-half times bigger than Fuzzco’s last office. When the agency moved in, they added a large burned-wood structure that protrudes from the front, creating a covered entryway and hiding a second-story porch. The building says “fun” as spoken in an industrial tongue.
To get to Fuzzco, most employees walk or bike through the surrounding neighborhood, a thriving mix of personal residences and commercial properties. Rice describes her typical journey: “I enjoy the little rituals like saying good morning to the guys at Hominy Grill, checking out the squirrels drinking out of faucets and taking a shortcut through the parking lot.”
She then ducks behind the wall hiding Fuzzco from the neighborhood. Here, the agency has found privacy in the midst of bustle that allows them to be both part of the community and apart in a way that supports their work. The same holds true for the inside of the office: privacy within community.
Fuzzco is busy; current projects include creating an identity and website for Modest, a mobile commerce platform venture led by Harper Reed. They’re also branding Charleston nonprofit Greenheart, which works with urban youth to build urban gardens. Busy agencies need meeting rooms and areas for working alone. One of the benefits of the company’s latest space is … space, for all of it.
Team members can choose from a variety of spots, depending on need: client meeting, company meeting, brainstorming session, break, quiet time. “We wanted to create distinct environments throughout the space to accommodate different moods and use cases,” Rice explained. Dark and cozy, downstairs offers several conference room riffs: the traditional “boardroom,” anchored by a big marble table; a long-tabled conference room, a library, and a lounge so comfortable that Senior Web Designer Melanie Richards said, “a lot of us have ended up hanging out here instead of at our respective homes.”
Upstairs features the main studio with employee desks, a comfy living room, and mini-conference rooms that welcome pairs of collaborators with small tables and whiteboards. These last spots also serve single employees looking for alone time. “Sometimes my headphones aren’t enough solitude and I need to get away from my comrades to just read, draw, or think and the office has plenty of small, quieter spaces for that,” said Designer Colin Pinegar.
• Plentiful Bathrooms
Or, really, even one. When Fuzzco took over, the property offered nary a toilet, outhouse, or chamber pot. “Rumor is that the woodworker would walk across the street to use the restroom at Hominy Grill every single day for 20 years,” Rice said.
• Natural Light
Like many a young and creative company, Fuzzco offers its employees small diversions, several with a sting. In addition to taking a bumper-pool break, employees can Zen-out while watching the jellyfish tank or seek productivity inspiration from the company’s observation hive. Bees come and go through a tube; the hive is located inside the building behind glass. (Buzzco?)
"Watching someone else work hard for a while is kind of satisfying," said Design Director Brandon Oxendine. “It’s beautiful to watch them move around and work in their hive.”
Beyond these quirky elements, the company has kept their interior basic. Many a modern office aims at minimalism, but Fuzzco has resisted any gloss that demands the adjective “sleek.” Cement floors, raw pegboard, unfinished plywood, unadorned walls, and exposed ductwork bespeak commitment to basics and flexibility that allows for repeated reimagining, both of the space and the company.
"We didn’t want to go in with fixed ideas about how each space was really going to work so we kept a lot of it spare," said Rice. "The whole building is still very much a blank canvas that will evolve over time."
Natural light illuminates that blank canvas. Skylights welcome in the sun, making the second floor, in Rice’s words, “airy, bright and fresh.” Each of the four Fuzzco designers who spoke to Dribbble heralded the light.
Ryan Hubbard, designer: “Our old space, great as it was, felt like you were working in the hull of a ship, so the skylights have been a game changer, for sure.”
Colin Pinegar, designer: “I like the skylights. Having natural light is crucial to my sanity.”
Melanie Richardson, senior web designer: “The light in here is really great. The windows and skylights let in plenty of sunlight, and the light color scheme makes everything feel airy and pleasant.”
Brandon Oxendine, design director: “Shiny white enamel desks and fresh natural light make this space [upstairs] feel like a totally different building than the downstairs. … I also really love the windows on the ceilings. There’s this huge tree right next to our building that hangs over the roof, so when you look through these windows, it’s just like you’re in a forest.”
• Standing desks
In addition to the natural light, each of the designers touted their shiny, white desks as central to their success. When Fuzzco moved, they chose adjustable standing desks for the studio, plus chairs that can be raised for the sitters. Health benefits motivated the new desks: Standing to work helps posture, blood flow, energy level and metabolism. “I feel good and nimble through the day,” said Pinegar.
Plus, you can boogie. “It’s great to be able to just crank through work standing up,” said Oxendine. “A few of us find ourselves dancing to our music from time to time. Sitting down is less conducive to dancing.”
Sample Fuzzco’s work below, then go visit their account and their Dribbblers: Ryan Hubbard, Brandon Oxendine, Colin Pinegar, Helen Rice, and Melanie Richards. Thank you, Helen Rice, for all your help.