Your designers need a creative space

As a self-employed UX Design consultant based in Manchester, I spend a lot of time visiting other design agencies and experiencing their working spaces. What’s noticeable, is while there is an abundance of creativity going on in amongst tech and design companies, they aren’t working within an environment that is set up to be a productive working space. In fact, many design studios resemble call centres, more than they do design studios. It shouldn’t be that way.

Many design studios resemble call centres, more than they do design studios.

What I would love to see, is far more going on. More work in progress, more transparency and more design. So much great work is done to reach that final product, why not showcase the inner workings for everyone to see?

Why do I need creative space?

By ‘creating a working space’ I’m referring to whiteboards, moveable furniture, hot desks, stationary, dedicated wall space and facilities to move and work freely. You get the jist. During the course of a project, you need to work in different ways. Sometimes you need to talk a lot, sometimes you need to sketch a lot. Adaptable rooms and moveable furniture means you can arrange things in a way that suits whatever is needed.

What are the benefits of a creative space?

Colleagues immerse themselves
An environment like this means your work is visible to your colleagues. It generates discussion as people navigate the studio, and freely browse the work going on. People involved in the project can see work progression, and add insight where necessary. In fact, your work will better as you consistently hear other opinions.

People involved in the project can see work progression, and add insight where necessary.

Clients immerse themselves
Clients who visit the studio can immerse themselves in everything you and your colleagues do. They begin to understand the full-extent of practices that are involved within developing software. The more the clients are exposed to creative process, the less you have to explain practices you do, as the familiarity already exists.

Confidence building
A higher degree of interest in your work from others creates engagement and builds confidence. It forces you to communicate on a regular basis, explaining your ideas verbally is important in developing your interpersonal skills with individuals and groups.

Rid of boring documentation
It’s easier for me to explain using a wall illustration, instead of referring to a fairly dull functional specification? the wall space can act as a long term reference as the project develops. A memory bank people can collectively add to.

How do I begin to create a creative working space?

Jake Knapp of Google Ventures already did a fantastic job with his article on Your Design Team Needs A War Room which suggest some great things to buy. But I’ll expand on some nifty ideas too.

Depending on what office space you have available, it’s important to understand that you don’t need to invest lots of money installing heavy duty whiteboards. Here’s some suggestions to begin creating a creative space.

Provide basic stationery
Something as simple as supplying drawing stationery enables designers to explain their ideas quickly and clearly. Nothing is worse than trying to get an idea across with words alone, or referencing something not in front of you. Put stationary pots everywhere and encourage their use.

Something as simple as supplying drawing stationery enables designers to explain their ideas quickly and clearly.

Portable whiteboards
If you don’t have the budget or space available for large whiteboards, a personal favourite of mine is small, lightweight portable whiteboards you pick up and carry around.

Magic whiteboards
Originally seen on Dragons Den (here’s their pitch video), a Magic Whiteboard is a whiteboard alternative that statically sticks to wall surfaces. Providing a quick and easy way to use surfaces more efficiently.

Draw on windows
If you have lots of windows in the office, why not utilise them for drawing? there are all sorts of wipeable markers that work well on glass.

There are many ways to create a more creative working space, some more substantial. But the suggestions above should at least help you start to introduce an healthier environment that works more outwardly, and discourage individuals from working within themselves.

Tell me about your workspace

If you’re in the process of creating a workspace, tell me how it’s going. How have you set up your workspace and what types of things are you using? email me at martin@makeitepik.com.

Martin Fletcher

Owner of User Experience consultancy EPIK. With 10 years of experience I’m a one-man UX team providing Research, Strategy and user-centric Design for product owners and agencies. I do things differently, using a lightweight UX process to generate quick tangible results that improve the performance of your website or app.