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This essay is part of “Defining the Studio of 2015,” an initiative by AIGA and Adobe that seeks the insights of visionary design thought leaders who are poised for the future. In this series, these leaders share an inside look at their plans, predictions and aspirations for the studio of 2015 and beyond.
In the design field in particular, the last twenty years of workspace planning has seen some concerted developments reflective
of a fundamental shift in our work culture, away from social-spatial
hierarchies and toward activity-based spatial hierarchies. We’ve seen a move
away from the low rise, cubicle filled office, toward open plan offices with
flexible and continuous workspaces. We’ve witnessed the protracted demise of
the private office, and the movement of the remaining private spaces towards
the center of the layout, in order to provide the shared spaces access to views
and daylight. And yet these changes, while reflective of a larger cultural
shift toward collaboration, don’t
fully account for the way we at Second Story Interactive Studios currently work,
or our studio’s needs for the future.
For “Defining the Studio of 2015,” we’ve envisioned
an ideal hybrid studio space—with a
laboratory at its core.
once said, “The modern artist is working with space and time, and expressing
his feelings rather than illustrating.” In defining the studio of the future,
one cannot consider space without considering time. As designers of experiences, we at Second Story must examine not
only how space reflects the division of labor within our multidisciplinary team,
but also how our individual workdays are divided into discrete chunks of time
based on specific creative needs, tasks
architecture always reflects the Zeitgeist, and ours is the era of the hybrid.
A uniform and homogeneous architectural solution to the creative design studio
workspace no longer accommodates the astonishing variety of activities involved
in the contemporary creative process. As our studio approaches 2015, we need
a hybrid space.
Second Story’s activities
can be divided into three basic categories: introspective, team-based
and experimental/experiential. It is this last type of activity that is not adequately addressed in
contemporary design office
architecture, and yet the experimental
and the experiential are at the very heart of being an innovation center pioneering new interactive experiences and storytelling. For the studio of the future, we
propose an ideal hybrid space with a laboratory at its core.
But before we get
to the lab, let’s take a closer look at these three categories of activity, and
think about each of them individually in relation to our activities and creative
developers and engineers perform many tasks that require extended focus, and a
space that exposes them to constant interruption kills productivity and
quality. A major failing of the open office is the degree to which it limits
privacy and quiet. An introspective workspace facilitates individual production, consumption of media,
tinkering and contemplation by offering a quiet, private and isolated
environment. A space that is small in scale; that accommodates whatever digital
and manual tools an individual prefers; that has good light, views and a door
supports this kind of activity best. (Fig.
A team-based workspace is
something with which most workers in a contemporary design studio are familiar.
This usually takes the form of an uninterrupted open plan, punctuated by
enclosed or semi-enclosed meeting spaces. To support the collaborative work
that occurs within them, these spaces must have access to light, as well as
copious amounts of flexible office fixturing: big and small tables, pin-up
walls, digital presentation tools and access to digital services for personal
devices. If properly conceived, this
is where collaboration around specific projects happens best. (Fig. II)
The experimental/experiential workspace for design is something
relatively new, or at least recently rediscovered, yet it will play a vital
role in the studio of 2015. As designers of experiences, we at Second Story
need ways to mock up, prototype and demonstrate our ideas at scale, and the
space that would best supports these activities is a laboratory, as well as a performative, theatrical
space. Ideally, this space would utilize the building section (verticality) to
add flexibility to the lab system overhead, while underfoot flyways and plenums
would add adaptability. (Fig. III)
How should we
arrange our studio to best support these three distinct but interrelated types
of activities? Second Story is, at its most basic level, an innovation center.
Innovation comes from a boisterous and often unpredictable overlapping of these
three different types of activities. This
mixing can only occur in spaces designed to support it.
Our proposed lab takes
the form of a soundstage that can be infinitely reconfigured using an erector
set–style kit of parts to simulate environments, hardware systems, etc. The
Second Story Lab is an idea and a
space—one that explores the use of technology for innovative, interactive
storytelling. The lab is an incubator for new ideas and projects that have the
potential to create new ways of thinking about media, technology and
architecture, and to create new business opportunities around this type of
If the lab is
considered the heart of our activities—the place where we generate our ideas,
where we congregate to test them, where we bring clients and potential clients
to show and talk about our work—it is reasonable to think that the space should take the form of a large volume that occupies the
center of the building (Fig. IV). The need for lighting flexibility further
supports this goal: the space should be daylit from the top, via a system of
Looking next at
the opposite end of the spectrum, the spaces needed for introspective work, we
see a natural pull to the perimeter of the building. This position provides
these spaces—we call them introspective volumes—with light and views, as well as privacy. It also
positions them so that each space has a view to the center, to the lab and its
activities, as well as to the other private spaces (Fig. V).
What about the
spaces between the individual cells and the collaborative hub? In our
formulation, these spaces become a buffer. They are where the cross-pollination between activities happens—between
the private, introspective space and the lab, or between two private spaces (Fig. VI).
As we look toward
to future, we must also think about the public face of our studio. If the
radial organization we have proposed is to be both supportive and illustrative
of our working methods, then we need a way to demonstrate that simply, visually
and effectively to the outside world. So we take a section of the building, and we make it a stage to encourage shared learning within the studio, the outside design community as well as our clients. This space becomes the social hub of the building—directly
connected to all of the spaces from core to periphery, and yet with its own
distinct character. This is the place to take a pause and observe and learn rather than participate (Fig. VII).
For Second Story,
the studio of the future is about creating a spatial organization that reflects
and supports our way of working. Centered around a lab, our proposed hybrid
space is designed to encourage a fundamentally collaborative and team-based
process—but not at the expense of the individual (Fig. VIII). It is at once oriented internally—looking inward
toward team spaces, and to the theatrical space of the lab—and externally—looking
out to the world from private spaces, letting in light, slicing away a section
of the studio to show how it works. As we move toward 2015, we will require
spaces calibrated to respond to the way a day is divided for a creative
individual and for our collaborative
team as a whole.
Andrew DeVigal and Thomas Wester (both of Second Story) contributed to this article.
Today, designers are designing to
enhance understanding when form and content are conditioned by context and
impact over time. “Defining the Studio of 2015” seeks the perspectives of visionary design thought leaders
who have organized their studios—physically, technologically and
culturally—with an eye toward the future.
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AIGA Insight, experience design, graphic design, interaction design, design educators, students
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