Make Space

Making places for creativity

I’ve worked in many types of spaces, including those specifically engineered for maximizing creativity; it is true, some places are more conducive to innovation and experimentation than others. While designing their own workspace Stanford University’s Design School tested the best practices accumulated over the last few decades and put the best techniques into a cookbook for others to use. They provide tips, principles, recipes for furniture, and even sources of where to get inexpensive components to build a space that encourages groups to make the new. I used some of the ideas here in designing my own studio, and everyone says it really works.

-- KK 06/4/12


Technology can now deliver expert-to-student content (e.g., video talks) anytime, anywhere. The ubiquity of content opens the opportunity for the in-classroom experience to support collaboration and practice with the teacher as a guide or mentor. This flip--content outside class, work in class--is often referred to as the "reverse classroom." The studio classroom takes advantage of this opportunity; it sets the stage for maximum hands-on experimentation and for students to connect with each other in class.


Avoid arrangements that include "places of honor."

Sit in circles and gather around square tables. The symmetry implies that all positions are equal. If a room naturally has a "place of honor" (such as the head of a table), let a lower-status individual sit there.


Hiding places offer a crucial respite from an open, collaborative environment.

The more extroverted the work space, the more you need these spots of passive, dark yin amid the swaths of hyperactive, brightly lit yang. Few offices have legitimate hiding places; if your space lacks one, people will go elsewhere to find it.


Corners Provide a Sense of Place

The slightest hint of a corner has a profound effect not he sense of ownership in an open space.

Two perpendicular walls provide a suggestion of an edge that outlines a space. These perceived boundaries are easy to absorb, navigate, populate, and protect.

It doesn't take much. In one of the early space prototypes, student teams with access to corner spots spent far more time in the space working on their projects than teams whose spaces were on an open wall. In a second prototype space, featuring side-by-side team spaces with partial corners, we interviewed students and found that a corner with a side wall projecting as little as 1' sufficed to provide a feeling of comfort in the space.


Storage is not stagnant.

Storage should be as transparent as possible so that artifacts and concepts don't linger in the dark. Keep things visible to keep them in active use.

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A tall, long, and narrow table is an excellent platform for creating a coffee shop vibe.


"An escalator can't break, it can only become stairs." --Mitch Hedberg, comedian

When sorting through options, ask the simplest question: "What will this do when it is not in use?"

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