Happy New Year - 2012 is here, it's going to be huge and it starts with a big move for Hebe Media.
The team at Hebe have all had a break, with two heading off to sail the high seas of the Caribbean and another doing some serious quality control on Cancun's Tequila. I was left here to hibernate (cue violins) with the help of a bottle of Hendricks, and to keep any eye on things between drinks.
The break for Christmas came at a pretty critical time in our development as Hebe Media. We've spent the last year laying the foundations for a number of initiatives and relationships that we always saw coming to fruition early on in 2012. Our predictions were right, and we look forward to making a series of announcements on the blog, throughout January and February, starting today.
Hebe Media has never really had a home (okay, you can put the violins away now!) The team has lived and worked all over the UK, as well as internationally. We've tended to work remotely using technology to communicate and share, and then coming together at key moments to make things happen. One of the upsides to this way of working is that it facilitates free movement of people and ideas ('work is an activity, not a destination'), and for us this has meant we've been able to collaborate with loads of interesting people and brands, in all-places. The downside to working remotely, though, is that the social side of things can fall-short (remote working can be remote). When you only see one another when activity demands it, it can be hard to foster the kinds of cultures and behaviours we have always wanted for the Hebe family; 'family' being the operative word.
When, in 2010, we found ourselves in the same city at the same time, for the first time since we started the company in 2003, Lee and I decided that we should take an office and we found an out-of-town space in Tadcaster. Our first office at Commer House was very good to us. However, as we grew through 2010/11 - developing more and more relationships and opportunities in Leeds city centre - we found ourselves visiting the office less and less, and reverting to our remote working way of life. It wasn't just our location, though, that had an impact on the time we spent in the office. From the very early days of being in Tadcaster, we'd started to talk about what our dream work space would be like, running a series of idea generation workshops to map out the blue-print for the ideal Hebe Media headquarters. Inevitably, it had everything that we didn't have in Tadcaster (it was a large open space that could be reorganised for different purposes; it had a photo studio; it was shared with a wide range of creative people and businesses; it had a social space so it could be used to throw parties but also had quiet spaces where you could focus on work at key times... and so on.) From very early on the blueprint was of a multi-purpose, studio environment shared with likeminded creative people. It would be a place where collaboration took place as a matter of course, and where 'the collective' made a support system and shared infrastructure possible and practical.
Informed by our work with Hyper Island and our own experiences attending and working with art and design schools, as well as an ongoing conversation with Imran Ali and Leeds City Council, we began to wonder whether such a space might also have an educational function and become a catalyst for innovation and action, in and for the City - what would happen if you pulled a groups of incredibly bright and brilliant creative people into a space like this, and then challenged them to think differently about a wide range of creative problems. So, we began to modify the blueprint, moving away from a studio / workspace and towards the idea of a 'deisgn institute'. I will drop a marker in the sand at this point, because an announcement about the development of that institute will be made on the blog in the not-too-distant future.
Midway through 2011, Lee was introduced to Laura Wellington and James Abbott-Donnelly, the duo behind the recently opened Duke Studios. When Lee reported back to the team about the plans for Duke Studios it was immediately apparent to everyone here that it matched (okay, it won't have a 1980's arcade or catwalk, but you can't have everything!), and went beyond what we had begun to map out when thinking about our ideal home. To boot, Duke Studios was in Munro House, a building whose doors we found ourselves passing though with some frequency during the latter half of 2011 to meet friends, plan projects and participate in events.
In October 2011, following a period of correspondence with Laura and James about the fit between Duke Studios, Hebe Media and other residents who'd been considered and made it through the application process, we received an invitation to take up residence in one of the large studio spaces in Duke Studios.
We'll be moving into Duke Studios on 12th January 2012. We've already had the pleasure of meeting some of our new neighbours (full details here) and look forward to meeting more in the coming weeks and months - the scope for collaboration with those we've met is already clear. The video at the top of this post was circulated by Duke Studios in December, as a way to introduce the first five settlers. It also gives you an idea of the Duke environment. For the full tour, though, drop by and say hello!
For Hebe Media, 2012 is set to be a defining year. It begins with a big move into a huge new home. Huge in terms of size, but also in terms of its potential... nine days and counting!