New East London HQ tells the company’s story through design

Monotype, a leader in empowering expression and engagement through type, technology and expertise, has just opened the doors of a brand new UK headquarters in London’s centre of tech and creativity: Shoreditch.

After months of meticulous interiors work by Ben Adams Architects, with the collaboration of SEA Design, the new Monotype building is finished, and it’s an architectural love-letter to the art of typography.

Ben Adams, director of Ben Adams Architects

“Monotype needed an agile and inspiring workplace for now, and for its future needs. Our scheme provides designed–in scope for expansion and picks up inspiring cues from their amazing archive of typefaces.”

Built to accommodate Monotype’s growing team, to offer scope for future expansion, and to be adaptable enough to facilitate the collaborative culture of the company, the new office design is informed by Monotype’s history at the forefront of global type design and its vision for the future of design, branding and technology. As creative director James Fooks-Bale puts it:
‘The glyph is always the hero.’
The newly built 330sqm space is traversed with a tunnel of birch plywood that seems to have been carved through a single block of wood. Its walls, floor and ceiling are laser-etched with 1,500 of Monotype’s ‘M’ monogram, set in 750 typefaces from the company’s archive that have made their mark on the world.One of its most recent – the all-language typeface Noto, created in collaboration with Google – is honoured with two glass walls edging the central space that look down into the building’s atrium, adorned with 986 glyphs from the 100 Noto scripts, ranging from modern Arabic to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Thanks to the glass above the atrium, sunlight is streamed down into the central area creating a mesmerizing play of light and shade onto the space below.

Around the office, elements that appear innocuous at first glance are often much more than they seem – small, subtle details that the untrained eye might miss, but which reward those who look again with charming references to the typographic world. Laser-cut directly into the doors, the handles of storage units are shaped to represent a single bracket glyph. These too are set in varying typefaces, including Laurentian™, Soho™, Quire Sans™ and Linotype Gianotten™.

The glass walls of meeting rooms and phone booths are flecked with similar type treats, including lines of 474 full stops, each set in a different font, and calls to the historic greats of type design are featured in the names of each meeting room: Warde, Morison, Dreyfus, Tracy and Lanston.

‘Everything we do here attempts to tell a part of our story. Balancing the past 100 years of type with where it’s going over the coming years informed our approach to the environment design. We let the type stand in the foreground, celebrating its details, its silhouette, its ink trap, its subtlety. We also try to hide details in places for the curious. Wherever possible, our other brand ingredients have been kept to a minimum, expressing the simplicity of type and material – such as the wooden corridor laser etched with several hundred Ms.’
– James Fooks-Bale, creative director, Monotype

In keeping with this ‘let the type do the taking’ approach, the interior palette is a sleek neutral blend of pale timber furniture from Wellworking, soothing greys and contemporary pendant lighting. One feature wall includes shelving cut specifically to fit Monotype archive boxes.

To maximise the possibilities for collaborative working and team expansion, the space is designed to be as versatile and adaptable as possible. A dynamic wall of bespoke plywood joinery divides the main space into distinct zones for collaboration, display and quiet, focused solo work, while a simple change in layout can introduce 32 new workstations, as well as additional meeting space. “We needed a flexible working environment,” says Fooks-Bale,“A scalable space to allow for a growth in head-count and, more importantly, a space for different working environments: open-plan in places, but with defined quiet space and areas to spread out and collaborate.”

The Monotype team moved into their new headquarters in October, returning the company’s UK arm to the heartland of London’s creative community and putting them within easy reach of the hundreds of design studios, commercial clients, agencies and institutions they work with.