All of these wonderful dogs you can see in this story ‘work’ at design studios, advertising agencies and other creative companies in Stockholm – helping foster a more relaxed vibe to their workplaces and de-stressing busy creatives (as proved by science).
Byråhundar ('agency dogs' in Swedish) has been created by brand consultant, educator and Digital Arts contributor Jenny Theolin – who describes the project as "pawsome" (groan, Ed) – and illustrator Jessica Eriksson. Jenny photographed around 40 of the dogs in their studios, with Jessica then creating artworks from 12 of the photos.
The project started off as a Instagram account, and from May to June will become an exhibition in the lobby of the Scandic Continental hotel in Stockholm, which will also include a chance for the dogs’ owners to get together.
I caught up with Jenny to find out more about the projects (and the dogs, obviously).
Neil Bennett: Why did you want to do this project?
Jenny Theolin: "From both Jessica and my sides, it’s just a fantastic excuse to meet dogs, creative individuals and learn about the studios. It’s a project making everyone happy – including the pooches, as we spoil them rotten. We’ve made a lot of new friends already.
"It’s also a great networking (or ‘dog-working’) project, as we talk about all sorts of things. In my line of work, my collaborators tend to come to me – so this is a perfect excuse to see the landscape of the land. I can’t wait for them all to meet each other as well. Hopefully projects like this will break inter-agency silos a bit."
NB: What did you want to capture about each dog?
JT: "With the photography, I take a series of natural light portraits with my Olympus PEN F camera. I take close-ups, and in-situ photos in the studio.
"It also depends on the dog and his/her territory as well, what breed and how well-behaved he/she is. Hence why the photos are all very different. I’ve had one dog trying to eat my camera, many puppies running amok, but most of the pooches have been very well-behaved."
NB: Was Jessica creating illustrations of the dogs the plan from the beginning?
JT: "Yes. We started the project together from the beginning, with the idea that I will photograph and she would pick her favourites to illustrate. At each photography visit, we also interviewed the dog owners; so many of the references in the illustrations are from those answers (Selma and her popcorn for example).
"Jessica recently travelled down to Stockholm, and visited eight of our dogs too. You know, for research."
NB: How did you find the dogs?
JT: “I started with photographing two or three friends’ studio dogs, then started an Instagram account. After that, it quickly became a word-of-mouth project and the past couple of months, the dogs’ owners have come to us.
“Unfortunately we’ve only been able to meet the Stockholm-based dogs, but we have been regramming from across the country. We would like to continue the project, so this exhibition will definitely not be the end."
NB: Do a lot of studios in Stockholm have dogs? In London, it’s not unusual but less common than it used to be as many smaller agencies have been consolidated into larger ones.
JT: “Quite a few actually. My guess is that Sweden is very pro-health, work-life balance, and recent studies have proved the benefits of having a dog.
“Also, we have a lot of nature, and in Stockholm at least, you are always five minutes away from some greenery or a park. It’s smaller than London, so easier to get around too. It feels very dog friendly.”
NB: At what point did you decide to do the exhibition?
JT: "We always wanted to have some sort of Agency Dog gathering – be it a party, an outdoor event or an exhibition. Scandic Continental, as it turns out, is extremely dog friendly. The Scandic mascot is a service dog!
"We photographed their two office pooches Charlie and Frank earlier on in the project. And after that, the hotel director simply offered us to have the show there.
"After that it’s just been snowballing. PÅ Media are sponsoring all the print, and we have a group of dog brands sponsoring our private view’s Doggy Bag. It’s going to be great."
NB: From what you’ve seen, what benefits does having a dog bring to an agency?
JT: "Benefits are plenty! I have noticed that the studios with dogs in them at least look happier. I have never heard agency staff being so happy. When I visit for a pooch-shoot, the whole company seems to be in the know. It’s a lovely few minutes of pure joy spending time with them and their furry co-workers."
NB: Do you have thoughts on what types of dogs make the best studio dogs?
JT: "I suppose it depends what type of creative business they’re based. We have mostly seen smaller dogs – Pugs, Frenchies, Cockapoos – but there have been some surprises. Like Hacker, a Weimaraner (a BIG dog) working the AI studio Imagimob; and Lucy, an Amstaff / Rottweiler at Digital Fans."
NB: Do you have a favourite of the dogs?
JT: "Ha ha. No. I love ALL dogs."
NB: What was the creative process for the illustrations?
JT: “Jessica’s illustration process starts off with studying my photographs and reading the interviews. Then, she draws all the lines by hand and scans them in. Colouring in Photoshop with her Wacom pen; and voila.”