Tucked away in Kent Town, at first glance you wouldn’t think the upstairs of this light industrial studio space houses one of Adelaide’s larger design and architecture firms. Humble, local materials like the iconic Besser brick and steel have been treated in such a way that the office, while industrial looking, has a completely homely feel.
It’s just as well it feels like home because more than 30 people work here, out of the space John Galluccio founded 20 years ago.
“We’ve always been focused on two things at Studio Nine: innovative design and delivering that design in a functional, commercial and profitable fashion for our clients,” says John.
John’s straightforward manner and business-like tone balances his clear pride in the business he helped start out of a small cottage on this property all those years ago.
The business has expanded greatly since then. “Initially we grew organically,” says the long-standing director, Tony Zappia. “Twelve years ago there was a strategic plan put in place and the company has since grown with a clear direction.”
The team of directors, also consisting of Andrew Steele, Justin Cucchiarelli and Mandy Goehr, put their more recent success down to three strategic business moves.
“Our rebrand three years ago, the introduction of two younger directors into the mix, and our merger which grew the business overnight, have been the catalysts for change and have really kick-started the next chapter in Studio Nine’s growth,” says Tony.
More than a logo, Studio Nine’s re-brand is seen internally as a way of recognizing the refresh, renewal and restructuring of the business. The new brand mark became a way of signalling to clients and staff-alike that the business was entering a new era.
Studio Nine has always been sensitive to the need for a business to continually evolve and re-invigorate as part of a long-term sustainable approach. The addition of younger directors brought with it fresh ideas and a new way of thinking.
“Each director has a different remit in the business,” says Andrew Steele. “I manage our marketing, while Justin looks after our IT – both have been crucial areas in the business that we have developed since coming on board.”
Identifying talent from within and without the company has been key to Studio Nine’s resilience as Andrew joined Studio Nine from another firm in Adelaide, while Justin was promoted internally. It’s this open and transparent approach, based on merit that has created a positive work culture at Studio Nine.
The 2016 merger not only grew the business overnight but delivered a 50-50 split between interior and architectural resources, a statistic Mandy believes is quite uncommon in similarly-sized firms across South Australia.
“Our project teams are blended,” says Mandy. “We work cohesively to develop the best solutions for each individual project. There is an integration not only across sectors but also across our staff – every project, irrespective of the sector, incorporates both interior and architectural input,” she says.
However, across every conversation with the directors, the central theme to explain why Studio Nine is still successfully growing after 20 years is diversity.
It’s not just diversity in the workplace – Studio Nine is proud to boast excellent stats across demographics and male-female splits – but rather the diversity in their portfolio.
While many firms are following the trend of specialising in a key sector of the market, Studio Nine sees strength in pursuing different types of work and different types of clients.
“The key to our success, since inception, is the diversity and depth in our portfolio of work – we’ve never relied on one sector or one client,” says Justin.
While directors and senior staff have specialised knowledge in key industries and project areas, the culture at Studio Nine is to be always applying understandings gleaned from one project across all projects, Mandy tells us.
“The staff are continuously learning from each other and gaining an advanced understanding and experiences that they can adapt to different sectors and projects,” says Mandy. “Knowledge sharing is a key initiative of ours.”
“Internally, our studio-wide ethos is that intelligent inputs equal creative outputs,” Andrew says. “We focus on delivering outcomes that add value by responding to each brief with a balance of evidence and innovation.”
Which simply means that Studio Nine only creates work that they are sure will deliver a return for their clients.
“Good design should be humble, and simple – it doesn’t need to be over-complicated,” says Tony.
And 20 years is just the beginning, the directors of Studio Nine say.
“We’re at a point in our business growth now where we are consolidating and building on the solid foundations that we have,” says Justin. “There are some great changes and evolution afoot and our staff are a part of it all”.
It’s lofty talk, backed up by the purpose-built studio in Kent Town we’re currently standing in. Designed and built 11 years ago, the space is humble, yet elegant – industrial but homely, simple and innovative all at once.
Good design leaves room for constant innovation, growth and re-interpretation as it ages. The focus for Studio Nine in the short term is simply to connect with clients who are wanting more from their investment.
“Business in the future will no longer be a transaction,” says Andrew. “It will be about transformation.”