The PERFECT interaction or experience designer's workspace

30 Sep 2010 - 5:20am
5 years ago
6 replies
1887 reads
John Gibbard

So, we have been thinking about an impending office move and the inevitable relocation of the team of Information Architects to a new building. We want to take the opportunity to create an ideal environment for generating exceptional user experiences from strategy through documentation to prototype.

Some background

  • We 'Information Architecture', exist within a strategy/planning department
  • We are 11 in number
  • The entire company will be on one large floor, including technical & creative teams.
Some feeder questions
  • Beyond whiteboards, what creative spaces do you like to work from/within?
  • Are clear-desk policies stiffling to creativity?
  • Are you surrounded by a nest of books and articles?
  • How can our environment reflect our exceptional focus on the (user) experience?
I would encourage all responses, from what works to what hasn't, from things you have tried to things you would dream of trying. One line responses are great as are reams of rambling streams of conscious.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Senior Information Architect


30 Sep 2010 - 5:52am
Sam Menter

I'd say lots of wall space for scribbles, personas, photos and print-outs for inspiration and ideas

30 Sep 2010 - 5:57am
Sam Menter

Oh and a messy desk policy with big desks for as many articles, books, post-its etc as possible!

30 Sep 2010 - 8:29am
Matt Nish-Lapidus

Workspace is really important for doing good design work. It's partly the physical space, and partly the way people are encouraged to use the space.

Take a look at typical design studio setups.. there are some common elements:

  • Big and open - no cubicles or major dividers. This encourages collaboration, ongoing critique, and a sense of freedom to experiment
  • Lots of wall space - most design happens away from the desk. Having lots of open walls gives people a place to put their work up, congregate, and use for sketching (whiteboards) and sticky notes.
  • Noise and Quiet - there need to be noisy spaces and quiet spaces.. sometimes people will want to go off to a quiet place to improve concentration, and other times they will work better in a vibrant and noisy space. 
  • Sharing - encourage people to share all the time.. work should be collective at times, and individual at others. Make sure that all the designers know when and how to bring their individual work back to the group.
  • Reference - have lots of books around.. some on topic, some off.. give people the space and time (when available) to read and learn.
Those are just a few of the things that I think make a successful design studio, and it's what we try to do at my work.

30 Sep 2010 - 4:50pm
Sean Gerety

We took a misused corner that had a couple of cubicles, $2000 and 8 hours of work and turned it into a four person workspace with a meeting table and we've yet to get our wall of white boards up, however we're going to use the "whiteboard" paneling that you can get at Home Depot for about $15 a sheet.  Here's a link to a flickr set of the teardown  and the "semi" final product.

We wanted:

  • a space to collaborate
  • a space that allowed for heads down work.
  • a meeting space
  • a space to whiteboard
  • a space for a visitor to work with us. 
  • additionally a projector that allowed us to pass around the cable and project and share up on the walls for criticism  and collaborating.

1 Oct 2010 - 9:16am

I would argue strongly for making space for contemplative thought.  I've worked in open plan, open cube, closed cube and closed office (and built my own home office in a barn fwiw ).   I've found myself producing better thought out work, more quickly, when I have space to pause & reflect.  Ideally this is a window to the outside where I can look away from the problem at hand and think more deeply about solutions.  If I ever hit a creative wall I'll take my campervan to a new space, it works like magic

The clean desk policy is a minefield - be very careful here.  It's not about creativity but approach.  I'm incredibly messy and other creatives I work with are very neat - we all produce similar levels/types of work.  Generalizing, I think people need to own their space, it helps the mind relax.  Some people need to be in control of their space, others need lots of stimulation - the two clash.   I'm strongly on the need for stimulation side and take the customisation thing as far as building my own input devices  So I'd read this article on creative chaos from the bbc magazine and maybe consider instigating a policy of allowing people like myself to 'own' their spaces but be required to reset or clean up once a week/month to appease the people who need lots of whitespace.

If I was in your position I'd start with a team exercise to understand what your colleagues would want from from a workspace in terms of types of work modes, e.g. collaboration, design focus, project focus, contemplation, creative play, etc and then create zones where people can go to to work in those modes.

13 Oct 2010 - 9:01am

To follow-up, I just came across this neat mini-documentary about workspaces, specifically desks.  I think it underlines my point about giving people, designers especially, ownership of their space

The other obvious take away relates to your question about a clean desk policy.  Regards /pauric

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