What is studio culture and why does it matter?

DesignStudio’s Elise Santangelo-Rous balances her role as ECD with a responsibility for improving and adapting its creative culture. She tells CR why that’s so important, and how people’s expectations are changing how the business works

In the last few years, working culture as we know it has undergone drastic shifts, and while many companies have settled into new ways of working, conversations around what ‘culture’ is continue apace. “Culture is weird,” is how DesignStudio’s Elise Santangelo-Rous sums it up. As well as her role as executive creative director at the business, Santangelo-Rous takes an active interest in the culture at the studio – dipping into everything from recruitment and wellbeing to policies, benefits, and the way the office space works. “It’s all that other stuff that contributes to our culture,” she tells CR.

She understands first hand how important the more intangible elements of a studio are, saying that the culture at DesignStudio is one of the main things that’s kept her at the business for the last six years. “I spend a large part of my day thinking about the studio culture, the creative culture, and how we can make that better,” she says.

“The way I would define what culture is, is that it’s not just the soft stuff. In a creative environment you don’t have this separation between work and culture; they’re symbiotic in my mind. Both really feed each other, and having a good culture is the thing that enables us to do incredible work. Likewise making good work, and pairing with good clients, and the processes we use day-to-day – those all contribute to our culture as well.