Sunday, September 17, 2006


We each have a space, be it an office or studio, in which we do a majority of our creative work. Our spaces are unique, with our own individual touches surrounding us to inspire and spur creativity. Some of us need privacy to create, while others enjoy a more social environment. Have you ever considered how you might perform or react when transplanted into a new and different work space?

STEP magazine's "professional practices" guru, Shel Perkins, explores the characteristics that define a typical creative environment in terms of a graphic design firm. In his article he discusses issues one should consider when taking on the venture of creating a design studio.

I've seen firsthand how unique design spaces tend to be when compared to the more "standard" business interior. A majority of these work environments are wide-open, dynamic spaces. Shel notes the average design space to be 250-350 ft per employee compared to the business average of 200-250. At the lowest end of the scale are the "cubicle land" businesses with just 150-200 ft per employee.

Each design firm has to find the most appropriate mix of personal, team and public space. At one end of the spectrum, some firms are setup as one large work space shared by everyone. This encourages collaboration and sharing among employees. On the downside it can be noisy with various distractions. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the more traditional approach with each employee in a private office. This setup is conducive to uninterrupted concentration but is also isolating.

Most design firms opt for a hybrid of both layout styles. Their setup includes: large desktop areas for individual designers to work and control their own levels of lighting, temperature, noise, etc., social collaboration areas such as meeting tables or critique walls and public areas where the bulk of client interaction takes place.

I'm sure as a graduate group we have experienced a mix of creative environments. I personally am jealous of the uniquely designed and inviting open spaces I've seen in the various design firms I've toured. The chance to work more intimately with a group is something I look forward to. On the flipside, I cringe when I venture into the aforementioned "cublicle lands". I can't imagine being creative in such a constrictive environment. I'm curious what your reaction is to space...would you rather be on your own or among the group?

"Professional Practice: Facilities Planning—Part One" by Shel Perkins
STEP Inside Design, Sept/Oct 2006


Blogger mary said...

I just came across another blog,
called "On My Desk" ( that lets artists/designers/creatives post photos and descriptions of their personal studio spaces. It feels almost voyeuristic, but shows how proud we all are of our personal spaces. Most people submit photos of their stuff from various angles, and like to show details of what's on their shelves. The commentary about what they have and what they're working on is interesting, especially since we see in a lot of magazines stuff about the work spaces of "design stars" and this is just ordinary people like ourselves.

12:37 PM  
Blogger mary said...

About your question- I personally would rather be in my own space instead of in a rabbit warren of cubicles. I like being close enough to the people I work with to just get up out of my chair and walk a little ways down the hall instead of having them right here in my face all the time. I guess I value my personal space.

12:42 PM  
Blogger marydorsey said...

I can imagine these studios in NYC or other large cities. But here in the midwest, artistic ISOLATION is an issue. Wouldn't I love to have the problem of sharing my studio spaces with other creative, stimulating artists!

10:39 PM  
Blogger Ruthy said...

Now that I have my own little space I Love It, not that I don't like being around you guys :) (Tim & Eric) but it's the freedom that I have. I can come in the middle of the night to work and not bother anyone, take a short nap and snore if I want to :) But at the same time it's always nice to have some creative people around you to share ideas with. I guess I'm in between!

2:45 PM  
Blogger Professor Melis said...

As a kid I had my own bedroom after the age of 12 and it was 9 x 7 feet. It held a small bed, a large desk and couple of bookshelves. That desk was my office and studio until I left home at 18. I never made a work of art larger than 18 x 24 inches while I was there. In graduate school I had huge communal studios and my own studio the size of the west stadium ones here. I made much bigger work. Last year I was a resident printmaker at the Vermont Studio Center where i had huge communal studios and 3 private studios larger than the ones at west stadium all to myself--I made installations that were 10 feet tall or smaller but ceiling-hung. Thus, as an artist who works more with print and paper directly than digitally, I would have to say that the size of space that I have to myself has a huge effect on me. On the other hand, the other reason the Vermont residency freed me up so much was that I had 2 great people next door in their own studios who I could interrupt on occassion to get feedback or just friendship. So for me, personally, lots of space on my own is nice, but lots of space in proximity to other people with lots of space is best. Thus my desire to be in academia--you can have the best of those two world here.

8:58 PM  

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