Workspace as Inspiration

Posted in Life| one comment

I’ve recently realized that most of my friends are fellow designers or creatives (photographers, filmmakers, etc). I think it’s safe to say most creatives could relate, but the question is, why? I think as creatives we surround ourselves with people that are going to expand our aesthetic and further our work. We thrive on inspiration, whether it be from critiquing our pal’s new logo or just hanging out with folks that have impeccable taste in clothing.

So that got me thinking… how much does our work space affect our creativity? I’ve gone through quite a few in just a few years (I’ve been on a steady move-once-a-year trend for way too long), and I feel like my setup greatly impacts how much I enjoy working – and what kind of work I produce.

First Apartment, Workspace 1.0:

because my desk was tiny, i usually worked on my bed. not good for productivity.

My first apartment was a 400 sq ft. studio. It wasn’t that cute, but I had bookshelves galore and design books everywhere you looked. It was cramped and I didn’t have nearly enough room to draw my 150 thumbnails I needed to have for class, but I made it work. It definitely looked like a first apartment though. Mismatched furniture, very few photos or prints on the walls, and the oldest appliances ever. Appliances normally wouldn’t affect your workspace, but in a studio apartment… they do. I honestly don’t even have a good photo of my desk because it was the smallest desk of all time. I usually worked on my bed, which was great for productivity. But, it was home, and this is where my love for design blossomed. However, my design work was just as horrible and juvenile as my mismatched couch and coffee table.

Workspace 2.0:

how does workspace affect creativity?how does workspace affect creativity?

Office version two was in a massive 2 story home. I had 4 housemates and control over only my room’s decor. It was the ultimate college living situation, which basically just means the place was super mismatched and there were always dirty dishes in the sink. BUT, my room was my haven. And I worked in it constantly. This house marked the last two years of my design school schooling and this room was where I created my first completed portfolio (the same one that got me my first legit full time job).

The decor was a major improvement from the last office. As I learned more about design, my taste in furniture grew, and so did my resource library. One of the things I loved about this office was how much natural light poured in through my arched window. I wish I had a good photo of my actual desk, but somehow I managed to never photograph it. It’s safe to say some of my best work was created in this room – it felt homey, was full of warmth and natural light, and had more inspirational design books than I’d ever had before. The only problem? My bed was so accessible. Too accessible. It was a smidge too easy to take a design break and nap… which I honestly didn’t have time for in school.

Apartment Two, Workspace 3.0:

how does your workspace affect creativity?

Ah, my first real apartment, post graduation. I managed to book a great freelance gig a few months before my boyfriend and I moved here, so I could really furnish the place in the style that felt more like us, albeit the IKEA version of us. I loved this apartment. Brad and I had to share a workspace though (his standing desk is behind mine in the photos of my desk), and that both increased and hindered productivity. There was a lot of “hey, look at this random cat video I found!,” but it was also really nice to know there was another live human in the room working just as hard as I was. I did notice though, that I rarely touched my design resource books, since they were hanging out far away from my workspace. Dining room books? Okay, sure.

The only thing I hated about this workspace was the view. Oh, hello, corner. There was one small window in the office, but it was awkward to leave open since it faced the main walkway of the apartment complex. This meant little natural light, which sometimes drew me to laptop it up in the living room.

I did good work in this workspace, but honestly, it wasn’t the most inspired. I was glad to have prints on the walls, but I really needed more sunlight. And maybe a view to go with it.

Current Home, Workspace 4.0

how does workspace affect creativity?
how does workspace affect creativity?
how does workspace affect creativity?
how does workspace affect creativity?
Getting better & better! I’ve found I pull books off my shelf all the time for inspiration and resources. It’s nice to just spin my chair around and be all like, “Oh, hai, bookshelf!” Plus the shelf makes a great divider from my sleeping quarters, since I had to move my office back into the bedroom during this last move.

I upgraded my desk when we moved as well. From massive IKEA Galant (which got very messy, very quickly since I had so much space) to a Torino desk from CB2. It’s sleeker, sturdier, and is so much easier for me to keep clear of clutter. Any paperwork I think I’ll need access to in the next month, I can just stow away in the hidden compartment beneath the working surface. Plus it’s the perfect size for my computer monitor, keyboard, and sewing machine. No extra space, no missing space. I’m still in love with it, if you can’t tell. Can’t wait until I can afford to swank this desk up even more with a new 27″ iMac.

I have all the natural light I could need, but as always, there’s one problem. This is an old house. Like a built-in-1935 house. Which means horrible insulation. Which means, because I have all these windows, it is absolutely freezing in my room. Which means I spend most of my time snuggled up in a couple of blankets while working. And I have to admit, I kind of have a hate/love thing going on with being as secluded as I am. I’m on the opposite corner of the house than my roommates usually are when they’re working.

But all in all, this is my favorite set up so far. Everything I need to get work done is in a easy to reach space.

So what’s it all mean? Why’d I just ramble about my past workspaces for what seems like an eternity? Well, here’s a few points I gathered from this self-observation:

Natural light helps creativity… and happiness.

I still managed to produce good work when I was facing a corner, but I often found myself dreaming of my next office (I’m addicted to moving, apparently). If I was feeling particularly mopey, I’d just leave and go work at a bright, happy coffee shop. 

Having a co-working space can increase productivity.

Granted, this is a case-by-case basis. If you require solitude to find your muse, this might not be for you. But I found I worked better when there was a sense of camaraderie in busting our butts to get work done. If you live alone, there are options out there for you. In Dallas, co-working spaces like Weld are popping up more and more. You pay for access to great working spaces where you are more than welcome to meet new friends and bounce ideas off of one another.

Have design resources nearby.

Books, prints, vinyl toys, objects that inspire you… Make your workspace your own. If you’re staring at nothing but your computer screen or your piece of paper, you’ll have a harder time thinking of good ideas. I know, I know, “But, Emily! The internet is right in front of you!” Well, padawan, sometimes you need to enjoy the tactile world. It’s still here and still loves you.

Allow yourself enough space to work, but not too much space.

If you have too much space, it’s easy for things to get messy. And for me, a messy desk equals a messy mind. I need focus. Keep only the things you need on your immediate work surface, and you’ll find you’re much more efficient.

If you like your office (and your chair), you’ll like working in it.

This is a no brainer. If you like the space, you’ll want to be in it. This means you’re a lot less likely to pull a, “But, but… the couch is so comfortable!” Maybe it’s time you should get a more comfortable office chair. But not too comfortable… then you’ll just nap on the job.

So, what’s your workspace look like? Have any tips you’ve found useful for getting (& staying) inspired at your desk or in your office?

one comment

Charlie McRae Says:

Posted on February 21, 2013 at 2:45 am

Very nice, Em!

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