August 18, 2014

Knowing your creative space.

This weekend, I met up with young creative designers at a meet up to talk about our what is our ideal creative space. The event I went to this weekend was hosted by Intune Labs, a collective of young designers in Toronto who provide supportive space for a diverse community of creators to come together in a monthly workshop to explore, discover, and transform the way they create. 
You can check out their website at

I recall my old architecture student days and my reactive ways - I would let my circumstances get the best of me. Sometimes not having the ideal workspace to help me work at my best and impact my productivity bet getting to my head. I think this can be a challenge for any design student. If you live with family during college, you might find working at home quite distracting. At the other extreme, you may not like working in your design studio at school just because you don’t feel comfortable being exposed to your peers while you work. 

Being cognizant characteristics of our working spaces that affect our creativity and productivity is important. It is a strategic means figuring out how to ensure that we are performing at our optimum level. Solutions will vary from person to person which means one has to figure out which works for them via trial and error. For this post, I decided to summarize the themes that emerged from our discussion:

Type of work demands certain spaces.  
Depending on the phase in the design process, we all noticed that there are certain environments that work well as opposed to others. If you are conceptualizing and thinking, you might want a more private and enclosed area focus. Once you need feedback or collaborating, you might want to work in an open space that allows clear communication lines for ideas to flow. If you are in production mode, you might want to be in a quieter space. Type of design work demands a specific type of space that is appropriate to the work.  

The Nomad vs. The Settler 
Like all designers, we need to find ways to keep stimulated and energized.
Some designers tend to set up their own headquarters or space at home or in the design studio to work. They are settlers. Establishing their headquarters and are content in centralizing their routine and design work in that space. It is their design haven where they are energized, productive, and alert. This is their resource center.
Then there are designers, like myself, who are Nomads. May not have a dedicated workspace and will constantly shift their environment to be re-energized or stimulated to work.  As a student, I would work in the mornings in the studio, then have a break and shift to the cafe, and then shift to the computer lab, and then shift to the library – depending on how busy each space was and when I needed privacy and focus. 

Physical Qualities 
We can`t ignore the tangibles, the physical qualities of spaces that energize or enervate us. We know that light, sound, temperature, air quality, colours, textures, and finishes can make us become distracted, focused, alert, happy, anxious, productive or unproductive in the space. Good space should feel welcoming and nurturing. Some prefer having plants in their workspace. Having windows looking out to a great view can help not only bring in light, but give us something inspiring to look out to. Seating height, desk height, and all of these tangibles will impact the effectiveness of our creative workspaces.  

Clean or Messy 
You have to know your threshold of mess and clutter you can handle as a designer. For some, creatives may find clutter as a different way or organizing things and in the mess is organized chaos that helps them work as they work. For others, they need a clean and organized space. I think understanding that threshold can be useful in figuring out how you want to organize your design space or else, if very messy, it can be a procrastination crutch when you are working on your studio project.  

The Power of Ritual 
For some designers, figuring out the best times they are productive and set up a routine around that time can help them become productive.  For other designers, they may have other commitments that make their schedules irregular and unpredictable. Sometimes, it is about finding that rhythm and establishing a working routine around it to become more productive as you work. It is a way of conditioning yourself to build a habit of regularly being creative each day.    

Creative Space vs. Head Space 
Sometimes, it is primarily about finding ways to get your head in the right mindset to create and work. Ultimately, we may never have the ideal or perfect workspace to make us productive as creative designers. However, being cognisant of the things that get the creative juices flowing and knowing when to change our workspace is an important ability to help designers be fruitful in their explorations.  It is extremely important to listen to your body and mind and see what the things that stimulate your creative process. Some people it may be meditation exercise, putting on the right music playlist, or getting ample rest can help the mind when it may find itself stuck when designing. The physical workspace is one thing to prepare, however mindset and knowing what will help you get into the mind set can help you as a designer.

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