Creativity in the workplace

I’ve talked about this a bit at WDN with Dave in our presentation. A good idea is more likely to origin from an inspiring environment than from an uninspiring work place. I think that’s a great starting point for today’s post. Personally I think it would be great if at the end we all snap a shot of our working environment and inspire each other. How you decorate your personal space is only part of the larger picture of course.

Creativity defined…

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Online the definition of “creativity” is as follows:

The ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form.

To me personally creativity is to master and control the random chaos in my head and bring all separate pieces together into harmony. It’s making the most out of a complex mental process.

There are many forms of creativity. We designers have a different view than for example programmers. But what people sometimes forget is that a programmer needs to be inspired also. It’s not because it looks more boring on the surface that it doesn’t have its influence on the end result. A DJ can be inspired by the reaction of the crowd to his music and know what to next.

What makes a workplace inspiring?

For me it’s hard to believe (because I’ve always been my own boss right from school) but there are people who see their workplace as a source of anxiety, stress and despair. A happy worker is creative and productive that’s what I’ve always believed. Let’s explore a few ways that can have an influence on the state of mind of the worker.


One way could be to listen to all ideas and explore them regardless of its origin. Making everybody feel part of the team regardless of his or her job description. In the case of programmers I know that some companies let their employees work on personal pet projects during working hours on a given day in the week. In many circumstances that’s the origin of a product or feature that a company later can use.


Another one is let people play during work. I know for example that my friends at Happy Cog have a Wii to play with during business hours. At the Googleplex employees can shoot pool while taking a break in one of several employee lounges. They also have a large idea board and a 2 swim-in-place pools. It doesn’t stop there, Google employees can also take an afternoon volley ball break at Mountain View campus. I’m not sure if it’s still the case now, but in the past people at Apple were allowed to bring their dog. All this is in place to keep the worker motivated and happy. When a worker is happy he is more motivated and it’s not just doing it to receive a paycheck. I like to believe that a web-designer that works at such a motivating place will likely be more interested in using new methods and go the extra mile than a worker that just thinks about his paycheck. It’s all about having a passion for what you do and making it pleasant is just one aspect of that process.


Another example of an inspiring environment could be to share it with other people. In Vancouver Dave Shea talked about him working at a shared office called ‘Workspace’. Two people who also started such a project last year are Tara Hunt and Chris Messina, it’s called ‘Citizen Space‘. It’s a nice place in San Francisco which is generally open from 10am – 6pm weekdays. They have a few residents but you can also drop by when you are in SF and use their Wifi etc. They also organize interesting things like a speaker training on the 21st of April. I’ve met both Chris and Tara and I can imagine working there must be lots of fun and inspiring. Some people also like to work at Coffee houses like Starbucks. I’m not sure if we have those coworking places in Belgium, at least not in the same setup as Citizen Space.

Decorating your workspace

For me the place around me and the things I need to look at are very important in finding my creativity. It comes down to many things like outside view, building (architecture), furniture, color, computer etc. We are still in the exploring stage to decorate our office.


I kind of like the idea of something called ‘Joyn‘. Vitra calls it the platform for the network office. What I like about it is the flexibility that comes with it. On some projects we have to work together more closely and I like the idea of just reorganizing our desks to accommodate for that. If only they would place as much thought in their web presence as in their design : : : sigh : : :

Some examples of Joyn

Vitra - Joyn - Project: BBC, Birmingham (GB) - Photographer: Nick Kane

inspiring examples


At Pixar there aren’t any grey cubicles because their employees have the freedom to decorate as they see fit. The end result looks amazing! My personal favorites are the little huts in a row, where each hut is a separate office.

Pixar offices

Red Bull London

That’s the most advanced I’ve seen so far to be honest. You’re upstairs and you don’t feel like taking the stairs, no problem just glide down in the carbon slide instead 🙂 It immediately makes you feel that there’s no room for grey and tie wearing salesmen.

Red Bull HQ London


The Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs in Copenhagen, Denmark has Mindlab. It’s a meeting place for all employees. Its heart is an egg shaped meeting room with walls that are whiteboards so that you can write on any wall.


These offices were also mentioned in this post


The guys at Clearleft did something nice with their new office too. The oversized clothes pegs and letters are a nice touch. If I remember correctly the tables were custom built.

Clearleft office

What is your idea? How would you do it?

So what’s the perfect working space in your mind? What do you do to get it? Does it have to be modular so it can change often? What makes you feel good? I’m really interested in hearing your ideas about this subject.

Post your office picture in the group

I already did it in the past and would like to do it again, but a little different this time. I’ve set up a Flickr group called ‘Inspiring workplaces’. So if you would like to post your personal space there, that would be super! It’s my hope that this group grows to be a big group where you can go to and absorb some inspiration of other people’s working space. So go ahead and snap a picture of your desk and become a member and post it to the the group.

How to add your picture to the group
  • Become a member of the group
  • Upload your picture
  • Use ‘send to group’ and choose the ‘inspiring workplaces’
Adding the picture to the comments
  • Click ‘All sizes on Flickr for the static url and use the code of number 1
  • Make sure the width is 640px tops. If not resize it by using the ‘width’ and ‘height’ in the code

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