The Inside Track with House 337’s Kim Lawrie, Zara Ineson and Jo Moore
Launched in September last year following the merger between Engine Creative and Odd, House 337 is an agency with a difference. Billed as a ‘creative collective’ – and inspired by new ways of working post-pandemic – the business sets out to place collaboration at its heart.
We spoke to three of House 337’s six-person creative leadership team – Kim Lawrie, Zara Ineson and Jo Moore – to understand what creative collaboration means to them, and to find out more about their aspirations for the business.
House 337 launched in September as a collective; what does best-in-class creative collaboration look like to you?
Zara: The best creative collaboration is an alchemic mix of different minds and perspectives crashing together – and that approach to collaboration is really baked into how we set up House 337.
We think of ourselves as a collective rather than an agency, and with that comes a really flat structure. We don’t have a CCO; instead, we have a creative leadership team of six, which encompasses diverse minds from across skill sets.
Kim: Because of the flexibility that comes with having democratised creative leadership, we’re able to quickly assemble and reassemble teams, and move people around to different places to best fit a brief. It means we’re able to bring together the best-in-class expertise from anywhere across the business.
Jo: The decision not to have a CCO is one that I find refreshing. It means that it can be harder work for the six of us on our creative leadership team – making decisions isn’t always easy, but we’re finding that that process becomes more and more efficient the longer we work together in this set-up.
Kim: And because we are a collective, we’re all talking about how to make the best work, rather than just safeguarding our own discipline.
You’ve described House 337 as designed for the post-Covid era, and built around the needs of its employees (known as your ‘members’); what does this look like in practice, and why is it important?
Zara: When setting up House 337 we knew our success would be based not only on the skills of our people, but also their wellbeing. Covid gave us a moment to take stock of what we want our lives to look like, and that’s helped us focus on practical things that will make a positive difference to how people experience work.
Jo: Many of our initiatives have been designed to support flexibility and the ability to disconnect when we need to. For example we have our ‘work from wherever’ policy offering members the ability to work from wherever they like ten days per year, we offer 30 days holiday as standard, and we have protected core hours of 10-4:30pm.
Kim: We also take neurodiversity very importantly, so when thinking about the ‘post-Covid’ era we also focused on the emotional implications of the return to the office. I’m on the autistic spectrum myself, and so I’m very aware that a lot of people have struggled to go effectively from famine to feast in terms of socialising.
That’s shaped other HR initiatives – one of which is our ‘reasonable adjustments pathway’. This gives people the right to request changes to their working environment that are going to make them feel happier, safer and more productive. It’s about giving people autonomy, whether they are neurodiverse or not.
Zara: We also have a dedicated wellbeing and culture lead who solely focuses on initiatives to improve people’s wellbeing – including a number of trained Mental Health First Aiders in the agency, and a program of regular workshops and talks to help remove stigmas and educate employees on how to better take care of themselves and each other. Wellbeing is not a cherry on the top for House, but a fundamental part of the agency culture.
What are the key ingredients you’re going to be looking for in the talent you hire?
Jo: What I love about the way we’re structured is the ability to bring together different types of creative thinkers. I recently hired a new team and although I was still looking for ‘traditional’ media skills – good script-writing craft, the ability to write a good headline and so on – for me it’s also really important for creatives to be open. I look for a skillset that can take someone’s work in unexpected places.
An example that comes to mind is the ‘air heroes’ campaign for E.ON, in which we created an anti-pollution cape for kids. I love creatives that can think in such surprising ways.
Zara: House 337 is built on three values: inventive, alchemic, soulful. I think that says it all about the type of talent we’d like to bring in.
Culture binge: What’s a book / box set / film / exhibition that’s inspired each of you this year?
Zara: Netflix has a great show out at the moment called ‘STUTZ’. It’s a beautifully-shot series of conversations between Jonah Hill and his therapist, Stutz. Jonah made the series because he wants to give the tools of therapy to as many people as possible.
Stutz is an unconventional, straight-talking therapist and on the show he draws these child-like doodles to explain complex theories in the simplest ways. It feels like a big step toward tackling the stigma around men’s mental health, done in an entertaining, cool and really fresh way.
Jo: Something I loved from the end of 2022 was ‘The Horror Show!’ exhibition at Somerset House, which examines how ideas rooted in horror have informed the last 50 years of creative rebellion in Britain. It’s got everyone in there who was heavily influenced by horror, across the worlds of fashion, art and music, including Siouxsie Sioux, Nic Roeg, Nick Cave, Derek Jarman, Pam Hogg, Sex Pistols, The Cure. It’s so great to see how culture took hold of horror without us all realising.
Kim: For me it’s been revisiting the archives of the Design Matters series podcast by Debbie Millman; it’s not the newest show (it started in 2005) but whenever I come back to it I always feel like it refreshes me in so many ways.
Beyond the sparkling guests, the interesting, beautifully chosen topics, and the clever way everything is always woven together, for me the most inspiring thing is that Debbie herself asks the most brilliant questions. She reminds me to listen, learn deeply, and then make space and consider the responses of those around me – not just to sit and wait for my turn to talk. The care and focus she gives to each and every guest has always stayed with me. It’s something I work on daily and it helps in so many ways.