Design Army Gives Back to D.C. With a Creative Space Everyone Can Use

Q&A: Pum Lefebure explains 'At Yolk'

Design Army co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Pum Lefebure checks on the construction progress of At Yolk in Washington, D.C. Design Army
Headshot of Tim Nudd

Design Army has made the chicken. Now it’s going back to the egg.

The Washington, D.C., agency, perhaps best known for its gorgeously crafted ads for Georgetown Optician, is planning to open a new space in a warehouse district over on the Maryland border. But it’s not another office, or even a traditional workspace. It’s intended to be a resource, testing ground and play space for a whole community of creators—a community that really needs one.

It’s called “At Yolk.” The “At” makes it a destination, and the “Yolk” refers to the act of creation. Thus, you could make music At Yolk, or hold a TED talk At Yolk. Design Army describes it as “a flexible multimedia space dedicated to supporting and nurturing the creative community … a living environment, a continuous work in progress—ever evolving to meet the needs of a community of creators. We look to inspire, to connect creative minds, to mentor, to collaborate, and to teach those who dream of creating their own culture.”

Adweek spoke to Design Army co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Pum Lefebure about At Yolk—what it is, why D.C. needs it, and why it was the right move for Design Army at this stage in its life cycle.

Adweek: Well, this sounds like a cool project.
Pum Lefebure: D.C. is not known as a creative city. It’s hard to recruit someone to come to D.C. It’s much easier to do in New York City. We end up having talent from all over the world, and they come here for this job, which is nice, because they stay a lot longer and they are rooted with the company. But it’s really hard. I talk to a lot of people in creative industry—not only design and advertising, but the food industry, theater, dance, writing—and they have the same problem. People come here, and they leave, because there’s not a lot of space, or community, in Washington besides political stuff.

So I thought, “Is there a way, instead of investing in a new Design Army office, to create something different? To build a space that inspires people to create the things that inspire them? It can be music, or experiential, or art, or multimedia. A lot of people have artistry, but we don’t have a space in this city. We have one of the best museums in the world, the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art. And it’s great for Van Gogh, but for the kids who are starting out, they’re just not going to get into the Smithsonian. There’s that missing place.

The idea was to have this temple for creativity where everyone can come in and create their own culture. The idea was, you create your own “blank” At Yolk. You make your photos At Yolk, or design At Yolk, or food At Yolk. Whatever that blank is, we have a space for it.

"The idea was, you create your own 'blank' At Yolk. You make your photos At Yolk, or design At Yolk, or food At Yolk. Whatever that blank is, we have a space for it."
Pum Lefebure, Chief Creative Officer, Design Army

What is the space like?
We bought a big warehouse space. It’s on the border of D.C. and Maryland. It’s 10 minutes from D.C. It’s 10,000 square feet. We are planning to use a photo studio where we shoot things [for Design Army], so we have a beautiful daylight studio. They have a huge kitchen. We can create an event in there, or a chef can do a demo video for YouTube. I conceptualized it with the architect. We want a moldable space for the studio. Tomorrow can be an incubator for food, the next day can be a TED talk. The first floor is like a U shape, and then the upper floor is a loft. You can put DJ up there or project film on a 25-square-foot ceiling. So it’s quite high. It’s a moldable space. We can have an event there, or an art exhibition, or whatever it needs to be. It should be moldable and moveable, just like where creativity is going. It’s not one thing anymore. It’s everything. And it’s a way to create a community here in Washington.

Design Army

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.