Creative agency Black Math recently moved from a “granite-laden cubicle labyrinth” to an “artist’s loft” in downtown Boston. We got in touch with Jeremy and Evan at Black Math to uncover how they built out their Boston-based agency in a beautiful, flexible way without breaking the bank.
Below is their experience recounted in their own words.
Black Math makes cool stuff that usually relates to advertising. Our goal is to deliver messages, tell stories, and convey feelings in ways that are intelligent, creative, and unexpected: animation on Monday, projection-mapping on Tuesday, Donut Simulations on Wednesday.
Our old office was small 😕 . We had one bathroom for 15 people, and on shoot days artists would cram into a tiny back office while we used their desks for staging elaborate stop motion sets.
When we needed a bigger space - one where we could do our animation work but also shoot, record audio, make spa water, host clients, and manufacture giant talking clams - we wanted something we could make our own. After much searching we found a space that was raw enough to build from scratch - one that had bones worth revealing. More of an artist’s loft, less of a granite-laden cubicle labyrinth.
We’re now in the heart of Chinatown in downtown Boston, which has managed to maintain its spirit and culture even as the city has changed. The sandwich shop on the corner is as cheap as it was in 1997, and we can impress visiting clients with our fried-dough-scented bathrooms, care of the bakery downstairs.
We know it; Boston isn’t exactly known for its cutting-edge design culture. We have far fewer man-buns per capita than Los Angeles, and you have to walk at least five blocks between Starbuckses here. We’ve got a reputation for being provincial, less-than-glamorous – the world’s film directors have made us out to be ruthless, 🍩-eating thugs with bad accents. But our city’s liability is also its strength. People here work really hard and put down roots. It’s a place where lots of New Englanders stay put, with a high population of small businesses, multi-generational families, and people who work for themselves.
This spirit feeds our own work mentality. As a production studio in a field that’s changing every day, we are always striving to find the best answer to any problem - starting over, building things from scratch, reinventing the wheel because we need a better (or better-looking) wheel. When it came to our new home, we needed furniture that was flexible, looked beautiful, and wasn’t ridiculously expensive.
Of all the options we looked at, Opendesk allowed us the most freedom to control not only the furniture itself but the way it was made; the material it was made from; and the way it was phased into our space.
We had our local maker CNC raw parts for us (bonus that it packed flat to deliver). We then assembled and finished everything ourselves, in a garage, with standard tools. Everyone in our company got involved: producers weighed in on layouts, artists designed their own desks, the Creative Director’s dad glued parts together for months and was paid only in hot dogs and orange soda.
We built our space with the fluidity of Opendesk in mind, knowing that ultimately we’d never be beholden to a limited selection. We’re a growing company, so it’s important that we can always get another desk or chair to match our existing set-up. Even if you aren’t into the look, you can’t deny that the idea of locally manufactured furniture is radical. When even auto manufacturers are jumping on this bandwagon - printing replacement parts previously made on the other side of the world - why should our desks be any different?
Evan (on the left) and Jeremy (on the right)
In the end, not everyone enjoys the back-breaking satisfaction that comes from not hiring a moving company, or running 35 miles of cable. But some do! (Ahem.) And for those of us, the process is sometimes more important than the final product. It’s more rewarding, it teaches you things, and it certainly gives you a different kind of appreciation for what you have and how it’s made. It’s what is truly fun about making animation and we wanted to enjoy that part of creating our new home too.
The 8,000 sq ft workplace where Bruce the office dog and 18 awesome animators make the magic happen.
In short, we treated building out our office the way we treat all of our projects: we started with bright-eyed sketches and ended with bloody thumbs and hammers flying everywhere. But we’re still friends! Come see us next time you’re in Boston.
Psst…find Jeremy on the picture above
Photography by Courtney Ryan
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