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  • Photography by Mr Christian Kain
  • Words by Mr Chris Elvidge, Senior Copywriter, MR PORTER

At the back of Gallery 33, a creative space in the renovated shell of Amsterdam's old red-brick gas works, Westergasfabriek, there's a wooden staircase on which the following words are printed: "present plus_by appointment only". The sign keeps inquisitive visitors at bay; an occupational hazard of running a design agency that doubles up as an art gallery, as Mr Damian Bradfield must surely know.

Mr Bradfield, an advertising and marketing specialist who cut his teeth at agencies such as DLKW Lowe, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and JWT, formed Present Plus with his business partner, the Dutch design and media blogger, Nalden. From creating the disarmingly straightforward file transfer service WeTransfer to curating an interactive art installation at Amsterdam's art'otel, the duo have since been behind a series of truly forward-thinking projects. "When we started up, we both really wanted to do something completely different," explains Mr Bradfield. "To harness modern technology and use it as a force for innovation."

Innovation is certainly something that the company prides itself on, and there are few better examples of this than its offices. We booked an appointment to visit Mr Bradfield at Present Plus (and the adjoining Gallery 33) to find out more about his space.

presentplus.com

gallery33.net

How did Present Plus come about?
I was working for J Walter Thompson running an agency in Amsterdam and Moscow, and met my business partner Nalden, a design and social media blogger. We both wanted something new - to move away from the traditional agency model and to really innovate. So Present Plus was born.
Innovate how, exactly?
Content is our big driver. We try to make video a part of everything that we do: we know that people have a short attention span, and it's the best way to tell a story in a short time. Take One Minute Wonders, for example, a series we've been working on that aims to tell an inspiring story in 60 seconds flat.
What was your first project?
The very first thing we did was Kuvva, an app for Mac and iPhone. It's a very simple idea: every day you get a new desktop background. It's still running, we have about 200,000 users and we still invest a lot of time into trying to create a platform that's about giving recognition to new artists. People seem to enjoy it; it's all about discovery, and that's central to us.
Is this your first office?
No. We've been in three different places. Our first was on the canal in Amsterdam, a 50sqm space with nine or 10 of us. As we grew it became necessary to move - but that wasn't the only reason.
Why else?
It wasn't a great working environment. We were sitting in a semicircle in an old room with uneven floors and creaky heating, and we were sharing the space with 10 other companies.
And how has that been improved?
Having our own space means that we aren't compromising our identity with anybody else's. We involved everybody in the design process and the result feels as if we collectively produced a space that was made for us.
Tell us about the area.
It's Westergasfabriek, an old gas factory, one of Amsterdam's new cultural venues. The area's a bit like the Truman Brewery in London: lots of Victorian-era brick buildings. Five, 10 years ago it was a bit of a hole, but it's really been rejuvenated.
Were you worried about moving away from the city centre?
It is a little further out than the places we'd been previously, so we asked the team to come and see it first. Everybody loves the fact that it's right in the middle of the park and that it's really beautiful in summer.
What was your vision of the space when you moved in?
We wanted something cool and flexible, somewhere that'd be practical and enjoyable to work in. As a creative company, our team is all that we have, so we always put the people first.
How is the office laid out?
The ground floor is our permanent gallery, Gallery 33. It's a public gallery, anybody can walk in and we host a new exhibition every eight weeks. Our team works on the second floor, and Nalden and I are in the crow's nest on the third.
Do you enforce a dress code?
No way. People in Holland have a very relaxed attitude to that sort of thing, and besides, when people have to make an effort to look their best I think they do it naturally. I don't think we'd ever feel the need to dictate what people wear; it's very rare that you'd see anybody here in a suit.

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