Moo: “The office maketh the company”

Tucked away behind a grey carpark in the heart of Shoreditch, just off London’s “Silicon Roundabout”, a large, industrial-looking building houses a business card printing company with a bright difference.

I approach the London HQ of Moo, the planet’s fastest-growing print company, and rather than being disheartened by the heavy glass door, I’m greeted with a vinyl sticker saying “Ah, push it – push it real good!”.  With a bounce in my stride and Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s 1998 hit jiggling through my brain, I enter a kaleidoscope of colour – a pantone parade that welcomes me into “the place where they love to print”.

Friendly, humorous communication from the moment you arrive at Moo’s HQ communicates the brand’s values and company culture
Friendly, humorous communication from the moment you arrive at Moo’s HQ communicates the brand’s values and company culture

After a few false starts, Moo kicked into life in 2006 when Founder and CEO Richard Moross realised that he needed to re-brand and find people “better than him” to help build the company.  Now at 230 people and still growing, Moo has three offices in the UK and US, with more plans for expansion.  The company has taken the standard business card and created a new way of sharing information about ourselves in a distinctive, fun and personal way.

Moo’s minicards have been dubbed “the Web 2.0 handshake” and have become a favourite with people in the tech space as well as with designers and anyone keen to share their business or personal information in a visual and creative way.  Products include the unique minicards, high quality “Luxe” cards and stickers – and every one is personalisable.

Moo’s unique mini-cards used here to introduce the Moo team
Moo’s unique mini-cards used here to introduce the Moo team

Putting great design first is at the heart of everything Moo does, and it’s important that the brand values cascade from products and services through to everyone who works there.  These values provide a constant as the culture evolves and include consistency of quality as well as the friendly Moo personality.

“Our brand values are explicit and guide the way everyone should be thinking; the cultural values are more implicit”, says Moross.  So it is the actions of people at Moo – as well as their environment – that serve to remind people what the company is all about.

This is something that becomes increasingly important as the company continues to grow.  As it’s no longer practical to go out to lunch together every Friday as it was when there were 10 people in the business, lunch is now brought in and Moross makes an extra effort to sit near someone different.

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The free-food kitchen features an echo of the colour-filled repeating boxes from reception

For Moo, the service and products they provide is inextricably linked with their culture, and the environment plays a crucial role,  Moross explains, “In my view the environment is incredibly important.  It sets the tone for how our thinking is guided”.

By paying attention to the space – whether the furniture, lights or even the small turns of phrases you’ll see in basic communications such as how to use the loos or meeting rooms – it tells a story of what is valued and how people should behave.  In a similar way to the clothes that people wear, the way the space is dressed is an expression of what the company is about.

“They say the suit maketh the man, I think the office maketh the company”, Richard Moross, Founder & CEO of Moo

Visual wit abounds at Moo's London offices - even the sign for the men's loos exudes a sense of fun
Visual wit abounds at Moo’s London offices – even the sign for the men’s loos exudes a sense of fun

Moross is a believer in the “Broken Windows Theory” (made popular by Mayor Giuliani when he literally cleaned up New York City in the 1980s – and saw an unprecedented drop in serious and violent crime.  The theory argues that in effect, if a place looks un-cared for or misused, then it invites further bad behaviour and a downward spiral of crime ensues.  Moross expands on this: “I think the opposite is also true: if you create an environment that feels creative or looks creative or is comfortable then hopefully you’ll get a different result to an environment that is not conducive to that.” 

Home of great design

So how do you go about creating a place where great design happens and people care about quality whilst also feeling relaxed and at home?  Moo enlisted the help of Trifle Creative to help them bring the brand and culture to life, whilst balancing personality and order, creativity and practicality, function and form.

No two meeting rooms are the same at Moo.  Sofas and rug by Floorstory create a relaxed vibe
No two meeting rooms are the same at Moo. Sofas and rug by Floorstory create a relaxed vibe

Moross wanted to reinforce Moo’s relaxed culture without dropping into a “mish-mash” and at the same time reflect its passion for design and quality.

The “Wonderwall” is a wall with multi-colured cubbies painstakingly painted to exact pantone references by Trifle and some Moo volunteers
The “Wonderwall” is a wall with multi-colured cubbies painstakingly painted to exact pantone references by Trifle and some Moo volunteers

The challenge for Moo (as with anyone) is what to prioritise.  “We could have decided to spend £1m here, but then if it’s too finished, too perfect then that also sends the wrong message”.  A good example of using their smarts when it comes to spending: trunking across the building was quoted as being £20,000 to complete, leaving unsightly boxing – and even more to hide the pipes into the walls.  The then CTO said he would look for alternative solutions and found that washing machine tubing could do the job for almost a tenth of the price – and with a result that looks far better.

Delightful Earworms

One of the founding principles of Moo was born of included the need to create something distinctive.  The first ever minicard borrowed principles from phenomena like Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, where the opening lines of the music are built on an irregular 7/8, 8/8 structure. It jars your memory, and the result is an “earworm”,  that sticks and replays over and over again in your head.  It is this purposeful difference that Moo sought to emulate.

Having an irregular shape to the card – something that was not a business card, not a postcard, but something that allowed people just to share a small amount of information about themselves, and with the ability to personalize every card – created something memorable that jolts people out of their regular patterns and creates a moment of delight.

Moo’s offices are reassuringly urban, industrial spaces –  happy home to “Big Moo” (the print machines) – that speak to you in a fun, friendly tone of voice and that tell stories about what people value with attention to the little details that are delightful and memorable.  In fact, as I leave, I find myself humming “Can’t get Moo out of my head…”

The Moo logo created with fabric butterflies by one of the Moo team
The Moo logo created with fabric butterflies by one of the Moo team

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