Ad Hoc Office

Want to meet the “Mad Men” of the current era? Look no further than the Laughlin Constable advertising agency in the Loop, whose recently completed office redesign is a perfect 3-D representation of the brand and marketing masterminds who work within its walls. Take the shipping pallets as partitions, the modern-meets-midcentury furnishings and the massive wall-to-wall “exaggerated tattoo” mural as proof that designers Randy Roucka and Chantal Lapointe of Gary Lee Partners drew heavily on the personality of their client for inspiration during this out-of-the-box undertaking. We sat down with the design duo to pick their brains about the collab.

Gary Lee Partners hired a sign painter from Minnesota to craft the wall-to-wall floor mural for the Laughlin Constable advertising agency’s Loop office.

This office is amazing! How would you describe the aesthetic?
Chantal Lapointe: The overall space speaks to the fact that Laughlin is a creative firm, and clients can see that through the interesting use and application of materials. They wanted the feel of a loft space in a downtown office building.
Randy Roucka: I’d say it has a warehouse effect, opening with a ‘wow’ factor when the clients get out of the elevator. The idea for the floor was the concept of a tattoo. People personalize themselves with tattoos, and they wanted to personalize their space with their own full-floor tattoo.

How did the process unfold?
RR: We trusted each other, so whenever they wanted to do something other than what we suggested, we made it work. We worked through the material choices together, and made sure those choices would satisfy how they wanted to use the space.

Did the clients sit back and relax or did they actively participate?
CL: They were very involved. When Laughlin decided they wanted vintage and found furniture, one of the lead creative directors got really into it and would email us with interesting objects and pieces that he found at local vintage shops. We started out with broad ideas and their enthusiasm inspired us.

The space has a fantastically funky feel to it. How much did the agency’s industry influence that?
RR: They are ‘big idea’ thinkers, so they were open to our big ideas. Day after day they are thinking big, and they wanted that to come across in the design.

What were your favorite aspects of the project?
CL: It was the tattoo floor. When we first presented it, we didn’t know how we would achieve it. The Laughlin Constable creatives would throw out ideas for the design, and that helped make it personal. We hired an exterior sign painter from Minnesota to execute it. It took five nights to finish, and it was so incredible to see it come to life night after night. I also love that you discover it gradually; we are told that oftentimes the elevators will open and people poke their heads out to get a better look at the floor—it has been an engaging and differentiating tool for them.

What was the most labor-intensive part of the whole process?
RR: A lot of design personality was expressed through finding and installing unusual materials in different ways. The pallet walls are a perfect example—they were available and affordable, and offer a high impact.

Did you learn anything about the advertising business while working on the project?
CL: Ad agencies often want to brand with work that they have done and who they have had as clients. But they wanted it to be more about who they are, the fact that they are creative—they wanted that to be their brand.

What has been the response from clients when they walk through the door?
RR: We are told that they feel confident that they are working with somebody that is so bold, smart and playful.