Centvingsept by Pixelis: a place for creativity, and branding for good
It is a place of sharing, openness, learning and curiosity. Change-makers for good (aiming at positive impact) from all over the world are invited to shake up practices, challenge the frame and live up to what inspires them. Fanny explains Pixelis and le centvingtsept philosophy.
1) Could you explain what Pixelis does and its specific ‘branding for good’ positioning to help brands commit to CSR? I understand Pixelis applies this commitment to itself, and has earned the B-Corp label: can you confirm?
Yes, it’s true. Pixelis has been an independent branding agency for almost 25 years. Our historical core business is design, and we support our customers in their transformation by helping brands (re)position themselves to have more positive impact. In concrete terms, we support major corporations, small businesses, and startups across all of their expression territories. This includes brand, innovation and communication strategies, as well as brand experience design through visual identity design and brand activations. We believe that our role as a design agency is to help brands understand that they have every interest in participating in today’s transformations and transitions by taking a “For Good” approach.
Of course, we began by practicing what we preach to businesses. Very early on, Pixelis undertook an ambitious in-house CSR program and we have been B Corp-certified for 5 years now.
2) You’ve initiated some remarkable initiatives related to salary transparency, flat organization, liberating governance, mixed project teams, employee empowerment… Could you describe the more meaningful ones and the lessons learned?
Yes, Pixelis has a unique organization model that I believe is clearly a model for the future of work and that has proven itself. It wasn’t an overnight decision and is an integral part of our corporate culture and values. In fact, the agency holds the “Best for Governance” distinction which is a reference established by the B Corp community that evaluates a company’s overall mission, ethics, responsibility and transparency.
The agency has a shared governance model that is largely based on empowerment: for instance, we work on the basis of expertise leads rather than hierarchy. From the start, each project is developed in project mode, like a micro business, which enables us to be even more creative and efficient and to remain true to the group and our professional convictions. The material that “results” from a project mode that uses group intelligence, especially when we include our clients and partners very early on in a project, is incomparable to a project conducted on the conventional silo model.
For example, for the last 2 months we have been hosting one of our new clients at the agency: a dozen people from the retail team work every day with the Pixelis team dedicated to this project.
The principles of independence and freedom are very important. Each person is free and even encouraged to take initiatives, to propose and lead new projects, as long as it helps the agency progress.
But this freedom of initiative and action can also be a barrier for some new recruits who may feel a bit lost with all that independence, who may need more supervision by a less shifting, more directive organization. Which is why it is so important to be doubly attentive to their integration because we don’t want to “lose” talent!
Lastly, transparency is also one of the pillars of our model. To help employees make the right decisions, we feel that everyone should have access to our operational and financial data and this does a lot to strengthen each person’s commitment. To truly take the reins, to involve each person in company life and very quickly advance on the job, we believe that the objectives and results should be shared and responsibilities divided. Each employee is responsible and trustworthy enough to be free to decide how they will do their jobs.
Very concretely, the corporate strategy and vision for the years ahead are transparent, just like the financial data, business results, and wages! We have even tested the group compensation system: everyone has a budget and attributes a percentage to the people of their choice, which is empowering to all of our employees.
For some examples of actions, you can see our global report: pixelis.com/global-report/#/
3) What struck me when I visited le centvingsept is that it is a creative space mixing in-house employees from Pixelis with outside visitors from a wide variety of horizons: corporate clients, startups, change makers, designers, players in ESS, etc. Where did this intent to break down silos come from, and how did you arrange the space accordingly?
Yes, we really operate as an ecosystem and it’s very enriching, both humanly and professionally, to meet different profiles, different professions, different personalities.
The spaces have been designed to fit our organizational mode to facilitate the circulation of flows, combining large spaces with more private ones conducive to informal discussion, to help people feel at home and, especially, that enable the “inhabitants” of le centvingtsept to change places freely according to their imperatives and different needs during the day.
I sometimes change places ten times in a day: in the greenhouse for an event, in the cabin for a workshop, in the small lounge for an informal meeting, on a more central island to run into employees and talk freely as we meet, in a more isolated corner when I need to concentrate, in the gym at noon for a cardio session, in the little yellow room when I need to make a call – in other words, it is a living space that is in perpetual movement!
And we also recently won the Silver Grand Prix de la Communication de l’Engagement in the commercial Design / Architecture category from Stratégies 🙂
4) You involved specific partners in the space revamp: Quatorze, la collecterie, etc. What did you expect from them, how much flexibility did you give them, and how did you ensure consistency?
True, we gave carte blanche to a dozen partners to co-design the premises with us. But we had already asked Carton Plein to move us by bicycle… a huge challenge since it was the biggest corporate relocation by bike ever done in Europe!
We gave our partners free rein: we asked Akagreen to “plant” the agency and design a genuine urban jungle with 380 plants, we asked Collectif Quatorze (a network of militant architects) to custom-design a wood cabin – an architectural feat in terms of both design and zero waste, with wood scraps reused in all of the spaces! La Collecterie, a pioneering recovery initiative, reupholstered our old chairs with upcycled fabric scraps.
To maintain ethical consistency, the leitmotiv was eco-design with designer accents… and that’s our business so the teams were eager to tackle the project and successfully transcribed was Pixelis is all about through the atmosphere of the place.
5) How is the space managed, for example in terms of event planning, and what do you offer for someone who wants to run an event? Can Pixelis employees take part in the events?
- Pixelis holds its own events (related to design, branding and corporate transformation);
- The partners in our ecosystem hold their events related to their business or sector. In this case, the event is often co-designed: employees can access the content, just as the guests can, if the topic interests them and helps them be inspired, learn, and increase their skills;
- And the third format: we also privatize the le centvingtsept by pixelis to any company with which we share the same values and the same ambition, to let them hold their workshops, seminars, training days, conference series, round table debates, etc.
6) What is the space management team organized, and could you comment on your great title: ‘Madame L’ambassadeur’?
I have managed Pixelis internal and external communication for 6 years and, for the last year, I have also managed the le centvingtsept space. Two people help me manage the space: I am in charge of content event strategy, and brand relations. There are two of us on pre-event organization and for the big day… and one person supports us on the technical side.
Here at Pixelis, each employee is invited to think about and define their role at the agency: for me, Madame l’Ambassadeur was a good way to represent Pixelis and back its image and also a way to convey several messages about my involvement in the form of a joke: being the agency ambassador outside to our partners, the media and our clients, and internally to our employees, in digital communication with our communities… so that already covers a lot of facets of my job.
And this “title” is even more appropriate and even more fun now with my new “event” responsibilities: it reminds me of the Ferrero ad that came out in the 90’s about the ambassador’s reception. 🙂
7) You are the French ambassador for Sustainable brands, engaged leaders with a conference series sharing inspiration and best practices: what will next year’s event be about?
Pixelis won the Sustainable Brands license to create a European version in Paris, the first event in Paris of an annual event that originated in Detroit.
We wanted to “invent” a new form of experiential event with the ambition of becoming the European BtoB event that gathers change-makers (confirmed or novice) to support brands and prepare for the future. The aim was to define, inspire and share concrete solutions in innovation and sustainable development by reinventing marketing.
For three days at Carrousel du Louvre, SB Paris 19 gathered big worldwide brands and innovative entrepreneurs on the topic of environmental and social impact. We are convinced that businesses have a major role to play in driving world transformation and that taking part in a concrete, inspiring, reference event can help them actively commit.
Everything, from initial thought all the way to the organizational and operational aspects, was designed to limit the event’s environmental impact to the greatest extent possible. The SB Paris 19 objective was to design creative, innovation and sustainable solutions that apply to the event itself: eco-social-design was at the core of the event to raise awareness, as well as to prove that we can combine beauty, design AND sustainability. The creative approach opted for frugal yet very attractive staging made from recovered, unprocessed and upcycled materials.
SB Paris 19 is at the heart of today’s issues and answers the urgency in finding durable, sustainable solutions for the environment and society. We designed it as a committed, militant event that challenges and empowers at the same time in terms of both form and content by taking a credible, consistent and very concrete approach. It symbolizes the efforts that everyone – brands, businesses, agencies, as well as we citizens – must make to rethink how we produce and consume, and we must do it now.
Some info on the first event with the Fresh Report: sbparis.eu/2019/fresh_report/#page=2
And right now we are thinking about the second event and the early stages of organization. SB 2020 will take place on October 8, 9 and 10, 2020. Content and programming are in development but we already know that the 3rd day will be open to the public. That’s all I can tell you for now… so don’t miss our next episode!