Graffiti gets a bad rap in some corners, but a new resurgence of the art form is taking shape in commercial environments.
While graffiti in commercial pubs, bars or eateries is not uncommon, corporate and creative workplaces are now exploring graffiti-clad interiors as a means of conveying their brand, creating a fun work environment and challenging the traditionally “clean” aesthetic expected from office interiors.
Melbourne interior designer and author Bronnie Masefau recently completed an interior design project for The Coaching Institute (TCI) that makes extensive use of graffiti.
TCI’s building in Melbourne’s CBD was completely overhauled and turned into a brand new state-of-the-art training facility where graffiti is featured on walls and ceilings and is combined with eclectic furniture that Masefau said “pushes the envelope.”
“It was about developing a self image for the company to look at themselves differently, challenging them and each space,” she said.
Masefau was given free reign when it came to the site's interior design and took the opportunity to explore graffiti in a bid to creatively demonstrate the values of the business and create a fresh environment without losing sight of TCI’s professional services.
In terms of the work itself, Masefau spent months sourcing local graffiti artists for the installations to ensure authenticity and original works.
“In a commercial environment like TCI, it’s important that the graffiti was not too raw,” she said. “We wanted to develop the art to elude to luxury and bring texture that would work with the surrounding lighting and colours of the space.”
She added that the use of graffiti have her nervous “because it’s all freehand – you never know what the end result may be.”
One of the most striking areas in the office is the Moonbear café, a communal space that encourages collaboration and conversation.
The entire wall is clad in black and grey graffiti featuring a giant moon bear and a globe that highlights Australia. In terms of visual messaging, TCI will use this as a reminder to staff and students of the company’s support in protecting the vulnerable moon bear species.
The word “wow” is commonly used by the team at TCI to explain both the interiors of the new headquarters and the services offered by the training facility.
Masefau utilised this brief to literally apply the word “wow” to walls all over the interiors in a way that emphasises it greatly.
“We wanted the word to invade their life and for staff and students who visit the building to except the unexpected,” she said.
Themed spaces were also part of the interior design brief, with designs that reference the roles of the person or department. One of TCI’s directors' offices features a full-scale Yoda image on one wall and Star Wars details throughout.
The cultural values of TCI are featured in every room of the office in graffiti form and images reflect the use of each space.
“If you do it right, it values the business,” Masefau said.
Jimmie Martin, a luxury brand in London renowned for eclectic and nostalgic furniture pieces featuring graffiti art, adds to the notion that graffiti art is taking hold in interior design.
The brand has a multitude of high-profile clients and its graffiti furniture pieces have become highly recognisable in a market that is becoming more accepting of the urban art form.
Jimmie Karlsson, director and one half of the Jimmie Martin design duo believes the appeal of graffiti is in the customisation.
“I think it’s more of the freedom to create something special that is not perfect,” he said. “We work more on ‘imperfection’, which for us is to give a piece more soul and individuality. With our graffiti pieces we work with our clients to include something personal for them.”
Since Jimmie Martin’s launch nine years ago, Karlsson has observed a growing interest in interior graffiti art, particularly in commercial and luxury environments.
“When we first launched our company in 2004 one of our pieces had our graffiti finish on,” he said. “Back then there wasn't much about graffiti in peoples homes (or offices). In the same time Banksy (referring to renowned UK graffiti artist) was getting known and graffiti on artwork on walls became more normal but still not so much on furniture or home accessories.”
Karlsson noted that Jimmie Martin furniture pieces featuring graffiti are their most popular designs.
So, despite the concerns graffiti may cause on the streets, designers around the world are embracing the art form to decorate, communicate and cleverly customise interiors.