Sunday, April 06, 2014

what does a creative workspace look like?

i've been pondering what makes the physical surroundings of a workspace creative. because it strikes me that just filling it with creative people doesn't necessarily do the trick. i've been pondering this for awhile and have collected quite a lot of inspiration on a couple of pinterest boards - kulturhus and stationen (co-working). interestingly, some of the first photos i pinned were of a workspace in LEGO's project house, several years before i ever started working there. the space looks amazing - with light, open spaces, bright colors and even includes a slide.

it's a light, bright open space and you can look down upon it from above. but even in most of the photos, there aren't any people working in the space (that could, i grant, be because the photos were purposely taken when hardly anyone was around). the photos represent a common area, and what they don't show is that they are surrounded by a traditional open workspace filled with normal office desks (which can raise and lower, of course). they also don't show the noise factor and the fact that if anyone actually uses the slide, it's quite disturbing to those working around it.

there are small meeting rooms overlooking the space. this meeting room, while colorful and (of course) filled with danish designer furniture (arne jacobsen 7 chairs and a peit hein super ellipse table), looks pretty small and cramped to me. and what about the distraction of looking down on the bustling workspace below or having those below be able to look up? does that promote or hinder creativity?

the cabinets there are filled with LEGO in all sorts of shapes, colors and sizes where the designers go to get the materials of their creativity. these cabinets are found in many areas around the company and there is something delightful about having all of those creative materials at hand.

this couch looks inviting and like a great place for an informal sparring session or impromptu chat. however, it's right above the big space below and it feels like everyone would be able to hear your conversation. this could be bad if you're discussing something confidential, but it could just also be quite disturbing to those trying to work below. especially as conversations in LEGO can take place in many different languages.

and stepping back a little bit, you can see that there's another informal workspace, just beside this couch, where it's even more obvious that the spaces are potentially more disruptive to work than facilitating it.

interestingly, every aspect of this area was thoroughly thought-through and deemed to be very creative and to promote creativity. all of the intentions were in place. but, in my opinion, it just doesn't work. it's too open, too many desk-laden areas are adjacent and it's too disruptive to getting work done. but i don't necessarily have any answers as to what would be better. i have an intuition that it involves getting rid of outlook and powerpoint as the main tools of people's work. and i also have an idea that it doesn't involve big, open spaces, but little, enclosed cavelike ones, to which people can retreat and do solitary, intensive work and then re-emerge and engage with others. i'm not sure precisely what that looks like. but i'm pretty sure it doesn't involve noise-canceling headphones for the entire department.

i suspect similar amazing-looking, well-intentioned spaces at google and various co-working places are equally not conducive to creativity.

i've got this book, on the evolution of workspaces, on my order list.  and after i published this, i came across this article on how etsy tackles the problem. and then i came across this one, which i think has some great ideas.

what do you think an ideal creative workspace would look like?

tho' it's totally unlike me to use someone else's photos, i did in this post. all photos came from here


d smith kaich jones said...

i gotta be honest. it looks like a person doing something, and that's all. it's me crosslegged on the couch with a cheap $400 black ugly laptop typing away. it's the phone turned off and more time.

which kind of fits with your smaller space ideas. i think you're spot on there.

Unknown said...

The slide w/ target, the sofa nook, as well as all the colorful cubes look very retro - sort of late 70s.

For me, a creative workspace is less about the stuff and more about me thinking creative thoughts.

Perhaps it's nothing more than spirited conversation w/ a friend while driving around town doing errands ... maybe the mental workspace happens while at lunch in a fav diner, or thumbing through a book about designers and/or artists ... or just laying in bed and thinking about concepts, feelings and what it is I want to say.

My studio and workshop aren't fancy - they're just (semi) organized utilitarian places with good lighting, good tools and open space.

Sandra said...

Well, my creative place was a barn and a breeding shed, so I am probably not qualified to comment on this topic as it applies to the *real* world of work and creativity.

I can say that I love the look but I wouldn't want to actually work in that environment. I'm more of a slouchy-sofa and dusty-books type, with a cluttered desk, my order amongst disorder.

I do think it is visually beautiful, in a stark sort of way.

Sandra said...
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Lost Star said...

At least you get noise cancelling headphones - we'd have to supply our own! We've just moved to open plan and it's so distracting - you can't help but focus in on what other people are saying.

Currently I can overhear several different teams, that have little relevance to my own work. I think I will get used to it, but in the meantime, it's all about finding the right music for the day! and concentrating enough to stop looking out the window!

For me, I think you are right about the small caves for intense, individual or paired work, and then bigger rooms for teams to get together. White boards are important too!

Sammi said...

but you gotta have a go on the slide!!