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Designers’ Office Fetish

There might be exceptions, obviously, but what is one of the things you must do when going on a trip? Of course, visit your designer friends’ offices. Or, when a designer friend is coming to town the first thing you do is tell them to “Stop by the office, then we’ll go,” when setting up lunch or dinner. What is it about other designer’s offices that we crave to see? And also, what is it that we like to show off our own workspaces?

HOW magazine has a regular column devoted to showing off bitchin’ digs, they even have a category for it in a few of their annuals and every other design conference has tours of the host city’s hottest (subjectively speaking) firms. There is no denying it, we have an obsession with looking at how other people work; to see if their loft office is more conductive to creativity than that other office out in the woods; to measure who has more design ephemera per square foot; to check out the storage and filing systems of printed samples; to see if their bathroom is clean. Whatever the reason is, we crave it, we seek it and we love it. I doubt accountants go ga-ga over how much more beige the cubicles are at that other firm… Just one more reason to love our profession.

Bonus: Feel free to add pictures of your office. Not your desk, we’ve seen those already.

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PUBLISHED ON Dec.22.2003 BY Armin
Darrel’s comment is:

I work in a boring, massive, marble-cladded, poorly designed government building these days.

So, that's pretty boring.

But here's where I used to work. I miss that place.

And before that, I was here. Nice place, but the commute was getting old.

On Dec.23.2003 at 09:00 AM
Adrian’s comment is:

I live in a cubicle. I suck.

I like to see the office furniture, most importantly the conference/meeting room. That's where most of the money is spent when creating a nice looking office. You have to impress the clients.

Office recreation/thinking rooms are fun too. What does your boss think is appropriate for winding down or getting your thoughts together. Is it the traditional foos-ball(sp?) table, cooler yet, a pool table or an xbox (it's what a PC was intended to be).

What kind of chairs? What style of furniture? Artwork? Everything, all the way down to pencil holders really matters. You can tell a lot from the office supplies too.

I miss my old office. I hate cube life. I at least have a window I can look out onto the parking lot. Dream of being outside. That's the one thing my old office didn't have, windows. We were moles, spent most of the day in low light, come out at lunch time squinting and covering our eyes. I always wanted to take a picture of what I would see if I had a window, blow it up and put it on the wall.

Sorry for rambling, boring here.

On Dec.23.2003 at 09:40 AM
marian’s comment is:

OK, you've seen it before but here it is again ...

my office

It's not likely to make one of the must-see lists. I leave that in the fins of bigger fish than I.

[aside: has the text mouseover on the comments always said "laugh, cry, discuss, listen, share"?]

On Dec.23.2003 at 12:05 PM
Mark’s comment is:

some pics I had lying around. yes, its a mess in the studio area...

starting at the top row:

1: entrance ~ boardroom

2: studio pics

3: instruments for friday jams ~ cutting area ~ washroom (hey, you asked for it) We have a blackboard with weekly top 20 lists that always get out of hand

4: Samples shelf ~ kitchen with 50's fridge, bar, couch etc.

we only have fish now but had 2 turtles and a retriever over the years. Miss having a dog around.

My partner and I leased a 2000sq ft space in Toronto. It was raw so we scraped the paint off the beams and brick walls, built walls and used windows and doors from reuse centres and antiques for furniture. The other walls in the boardroom look like a log cabin. The retro fridge is always full of beer, yamaha sound system hooked up to our iPods. Our dream is to build a deck off the back with a bbq and vegetation.

here is a cheesy quicktime video we made after the renovaitons about 3 years ago.

On Dec.23.2003 at 12:44 PM
sean’s comment is:

Awesome studio Mark! (not an employee of Mark's)

On Dec.23.2003 at 02:28 PM
Neil’s comment is:

I've posted a couple of photos of my home office, and my office at the trades college I teach at (graphic / web design, for those interested) on my personal site. It's weird - the College spent a small fortune on Herman Miller fixtures, but opted for this really gross green colour for everything.

Check them out. if you've the inclination.

I guess you can't take the institutional out of the institition... even when they're trying to ape loft-style design studios. Ah well.

On Dec.23.2003 at 03:22 PM
Kingsley’s comment is:

I am currently working at R/GA. Here's a look inside and out.

Prior to R/GA I worked for a decently designed dot-com's design group.

On Dec.23.2003 at 05:40 PM
Armin’s comment is:

[aside: has the text mouseover on the comments always said "laugh, cry, discuss, listen, share"?]


On Dec.23.2003 at 06:10 PM
Jason A. Tselentis’s comment is:


On Dec.23.2003 at 06:31 PM
Jason A. Tselentis’s comment is:

Accountants don't go ga-ga over office look and feel. Instead, new features in Microsoft Excel raise their heart rate. Designers are visual people. No matter the element, we take pleasure in appreciating visual aesthetic---office included.

After working in cubicle land for 5+ years, I gave it all up. I've been working between my home office and graduate studio for the past 2.5 years. When I'm done with school, I'll return to agency life, hopefully without gray cubicles. I want the place to look fun, possess charm, and not crowd me in. And what's wrong with a little color? Would it be so bad if the walls were a nice lime green? Or orange? Yes, I live in Seattle and need all the color I can get.

I've always enjoyed visiting studios. Curiosity breeds this, maybe envy too. Sitting for so long in the same environment, you look for change. There's a whole wave of modular office equipment, made by Herman Miller. It's a great idea, and allows you to push and pull and play. There's a Lego quality. As of December 23, I couldn't link to their official RED site @ www.hermanmillerred.com. Perhaps the furniture spin-off has died off.

Besides furniture, I enjoy the details. When it comes to the book shelves in offices, I examine them. I look for hard to find design books. I look for books outside of design. I get excited when I see titles by Calvino, Eco, Aristotle, or Shelley. That tells me something. Other details like lighting are important. Last year, I visited GRIP. For some reason, I have this memory of a backlit blue sky with clouds that was mounted on the ceiling. Tan, am I mistaken? Either way, I was delighted to visit your place because it showed me how a work environment can enliven the senses. From the lighting to the music to the wall color, it was a change of venue. Between home and school, I've mostly been stuck at school in a 15x21x34ft room with 12 other graduate students. The gray walls are driving me mad, but I've brought in a small amount of color to add life. Some Lego blocks are sprinkled across my desk.

I'm not the only designer with a toy fetish. Am I? Designers' offices have the widest range of gadgets, board games, and action figures. Neither the hospital mom worked at nor dad's law office across town had fun stuff like that. Neither place seemed visually appealing with the muted walls and stiff furniture. Maybe that's why I chose design.

On Dec.23.2003 at 06:36 PM
marian’s comment is:

Has anyone ever seen those modular, fold-out portable Hermann Miller offices? Kindof like a cool cubicle to go.

has the text mouseover on the comments always said "laugh, cry, discuss, listen, share"?

OK, I was just about to berate myself for being unbelievably unobservant, but --phew!! -- it's a Safari thing. The text mouseover just don't show up in Safari. I only noticed when I went to the site from a PC.

On Dec.23.2003 at 11:18 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> I have this memory of a backlit blue sky with clouds that was mounted on the ceiling...it showed me how a work environment can enliven the senses.

thanks Jason. Your account of our old office put a tear in my eye. We're no longer in that office since we merged. I miss that office dearly. Here's a QTVR of the former Grip HQ. Zoom in, zoom out, spin around -- make sure to click on the stairway, which will take you up to the loft area (keep clicking if it sticks). And here's the view from our rooftop deck that inspired our cloud lights. On good summer days, we often held client meetings up there.

We worked with a talented architect/space planner (Eric Hentz) who did a great job of translating what we wanted, while ignoring ideas that were either stupid or too expensive. The desks in the loft were custom-made and suspended from the ceiling. And eventhough we didn't ask, he made sure the office had good Feng Shui. The colored walls of red and black, the entry's round window, the blue astroturf carpeting in the loft -- it was all integral in making the space comfortable, yet energized and dynamic.

My new POP office is nice, but it's just like hundreds of other design firms. It impresses clients, but lacks a unique character. Sigh...I still stop by the old office now and then -- we ended up leasing it to another cool, small consultancy business.

On Dec.23.2003 at 11:50 PM
jesse’s comment is:


I can see the rollover text just fine in Safari. Do you maybe have the Status Bar turned off (Command + \ in the View menu)?

On Dec.24.2003 at 07:55 AM
bigjeff’s comment is:

This is not my office, but I was in London last year and went to OXO Tower, where this one design office had super-tall, modified Aeron chairs in order to increase their floor space. Very strange. Anyway, I found someone who had an image of it up on their website, check the link. It's not my page, but you can make out the chairs. And that, my friends, is a a crazy-looking office.

On Dec.29.2003 at 10:25 AM
Armin’s comment is:

I love visiting other designers' offices. It's like going to a little, animated, living design museum… OK, maybe not, but it's just cool. I like seeing how people have their desks set up, what kind of crap they have piling up or stacking below it. I enjoy looking at the libraries designers have, even if they are the tiniest, what kind of music they are playing, if they have pets or plants. I really like loft offices, I know, I know, they are �berly trendy and whatnot but they are by far the coolest spaces.

Something else that says a lot about an office is the door. Seriously, next time you do a tour of design offices pay attention to the doors. Ours at Norman ain't nothing fancy, it's like an old detective's office with our logo on it (I'll try to snatch a pic of it one of these days). I can't remember where I saw it but Tharp did it's door is all set in white and red text on a black background and it has some sort of "funny" description — I think it even says that they won a Clio. Debbie's door at Sterling Group is quite cool too. Can't cite any other specifics.

On Dec.29.2003 at 03:13 PM
Steven’s comment is:

I too am always interested in seeing design offices.

How a studio is set up can say a lot about its culture. How does the front of the office (public image space) compare to the back of the office (private employee space)? How are requirements of human interaction and utilization integrated into the physical constraints of an office? Does the office space promote professionalism, creativity, humanism, or mechanization.

And then there are all of the little details of the office furniture, the workstation set-up, the library, the lunchroom, the waiting room, what's on the various walls.

I've never really had the fortune to work in a great, inspiratinal space. Most have been fairly utilitarian. Even when I had my own studio (a design office of one), I had loads of room and big dreams, but very little money.

I spent 4 (out of 6) years at Macromedia in a windowless, airless cube farm. That was weird and a little depressing. You'd go into the office in the morning, work your ass off until 8 or 10 pm, and never really see what the day was like. Rain, wind, sun, snow, sleat, locusts, giant alien lizards, massive chaos and terror could have occured outside and you'd never know. Happily, I think the Creative Services team is now in a windowed area.

Currently, I'm working out of a spare room in my house. The environment is very hodge-podge and functional in a humble sort of way. It may not be the most enthralling space, but ya really can't beat the commute.

On Dec.29.2003 at 10:25 PM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

So. so so so so so so very jealous of most of you.... my office space is boring besides my desk... silly computer geeks here only need their computers....not that there is anything wrong with computer geeks...I am one my self.... they are all just programmers, not designers. Designers are more fun!!

On Dec.31.2003 at 03:37 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

If you guys could only see my office right now...you would all be thanking whatever your higher power is that it isn't yours! Since I have no pictures (heaven forbid), I'll simply describe its current state (there's been little work done since I moved in). Since it is in my home, it had a previous life as the bedroom for two 11-year-old twin boys. They liked Space, with a capital S. So, the walls are painted navy blue topped with a Space-themed border (stars, planets and spaceships). The ceiling is painted black, and the center was (since removed) covered with Space-themed contact paper (more stars and spaceships and galaxies). Then, the boys added those glow-in-the-dark star stickers all over the place. It must have looked great under the blacklight that was in here before they moved out.

Add to that all of my boxes with all of my books, and it is quite the mess! Next week, the painter is coming to turn everything white. I'm almost free.

On Jan.01.2004 at 01:43 PM