A little over ten years ago, I signed a lease on this beautiful space at 308 Morley Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. In December 2020, we will leave it.
I actually waited about two years, working from the (sometimes warm) basement of my house (a block away) to move into (at first) 225 square feet of glorious, fully renovated and sustainably-powered digs. Every few weeks, while waiting, I would come by the site and bug the developer. “When do you think it will be ready? Any chance it will be done next month?” I’m sure I was just a big pain in the ass, and my questions were typically met with “about two months”.
The small office space was occupied on March 1, 2010. Manoverboard’s first employee, Dan Lamb, with whom I am honoured to continue to work, remembers moving my crap out of the house and into the new space. Somehow — well, mostly via grit, good fortune and great clients — we made that little space turn into something called Manoverboard. (In fact, it was Manoverboard 3.0. The business started in Brooklyn in 2000; that was version 1.0. My family moved to Canada in 2005; version 2.0 ensued.) Dan and I created these unique sites and identities for a few years and we continued to service nearly all of our clients in New York.
Then Jory Kruspe arrived at Manoverboard, by way of Ottawa in April 2013. He brought an entirely new dimension to the organization and a new take on what it meant to deliver large-scale, interactive websites and visual stories. Manoverboard obtained larger and larger projects, received many new awards — and the team grew. At one point, in that 225 square foot space (including a bathroom!), I believe that we had five people sitting together. It was insane. It was also fun. It was also pre-pandemic.
In 2015, a lease was signed for the remainder of the top floor. And we grew, bringing on Robyn and Amanda, and then Nikki, Karen, Manny and Jenica. The physical space stayed the same size and somehow the psychic space of the studio grew and continued to accommodate us. We met with dozens of clients in our board room. We ate breakfasts and lunches together. We had advisory board meetings, GDC chapter meetings, performance review meetings, work placement portfolio review meetings, envelope stuffing meetings, interview (meetings) and design process meetings. This was Manoverboard 4.0. The work we created, collaboratively and individually, was beautiful. The websites that resulted truly moved needles around environmental issues, social challenges and our clients’ many aspirations for their stakeholders.
Our landlord, when we moved in, told me that this space, crafted with his own two hands (and others), would avail itself to our creative energies and serve us as we served our clients. He was right.
On March 13, 2020, the team gathered for one last meeting in our board room. The pandemic was fully upon us. The open space would not be able to safely accommodate the team. We would disperse to our respective homes and begin working remotely. It was an easy decision at the time (the suspension of the NBA season was somehow the inflection point). But looking back, that day marked the end of Manoverboard 4.0.
The seven of us are working from home, for now. And while we are all fully engaged with our work and we have maintained our culture of collaboration and kindness, it is clearly different not seeing one another in person. I am unfathomably grateful to be able to work for and with every person on the team at Manoverboard 5.0.
Leaving Morley will mean some mourning for everyone on the team. The space held us, nourished us, protected us, organized us and sharpened us. Clients would walk in and you could hear the echo of a gasp. They would say it felt like a cottage or a cabin. They felt at home. And so did we. We called it the treehouse. Now it’s time to branch out.