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Portent Inc. Creative Services Room: Quick Fixes for Workspaces - Low Impact Solution Sketch - Cropped for Featured Image - Design Blog

Architecture

Quick Fixes for Workspaces: The Creative Team Room at Portent, Inc.

Whether we realize it or not, we are all affected by our environment, both physically and emotionally. It impacts the work we do, and how we feel while doing it. Luckily, even a difficult space can be improved with a few, basic, low impact, low cost interventions.

September 12, 2014

A Pep Talk for a Restless Team

After an office move, members of the Creative Services department at Portent were struggling to feel comfortable in their workspace. But with a room that doubled as a hallway, it was hard to imagine a low impact alteration that could help. We took a peek and developed a presentation to reverse that sentiment. The two posters we presented illustrate what overlooked features of the space were contributing to the uncomfortable environment, and how very minimal intervention could make a big impact. We hoped the presentation would function a bit like a pep talk. The goal was to inspire the team to take ownership of their space, and thereby set an example for the rest of the company to foster healthy and positive workspaces.


Below, we share the sketches and text included on the posters, though the text has been adjusted slightly to help make it easier for others to direct it at their own workspaces in other companies, or even their home. Think of this as a case-study for a quick fix for your workspaces: we promise, a lot of our recommendations are universal!


Portent Inc. Creative Services Room: Quick Fixes for Workspaces - Existing Conditions Sketch
A Difficult Atmosphere to Work In

It’s one thing to have a creative workspace cluttered with items related to the project at hand. It’s an entirely different thing to have a room that doubles as a hallway, cluttered with objects that have nothing to do with your work or your process.

The Status Quo

What's the Issue? And Why Should You Care?

Whether we realize it or not, we are all affected by our environment, both physically and emotionally. It impacts the work we do, and how we feel while doing it. If you take pride in your work; you should take equal pride in your environment. Take a moment, and consider your clients and colleagues passing through your space. What do they perceive? And, what are the implications?

Portent Inc. Creative Services Room: Quick Fixes for Workspaces - Existing Conditions Diagram: Clutter and Lost Objects
Clutter in the Visual Field

Excessive trash bins not hidden under desks, abandoned furniture, haphazardly hung twinkle lights and lanterns, mysterious storage boxes, a ladder, an inaccessible white board... None of these things contribute to a functional, helpful workspace.

Lost Objects

There are so many disparate objects in our workspaces that we absolutely need to get the job done: multiple screens, multiple coffees. It’s inherently a busy visual field, so we need to be purposeful with what remains. Optimize. Curate.

Portent Inc. Creative Services Room: Quick Fixes for Workspaces - Existing Conditions Diagram: Dark Beams, Visual Compression
Bearing Down From Above

When there are volumes overhead that are darker than the walls, especially hanging below a ceiling that is not particularly high, it creates the sensation that the ceiling is even lower than it is, and that it is pressing down on you from above.

Visual Compression

The ceilings are low, and the mechanical equipment lower. That can’t be helped, but we can fool our eyes and minds into ignoring it. The contrasting paint on the beams draws attention up; don’t highlight what you should really hide.

Portent Inc. Creative Services Room: Quick Fixes for Workspaces - Existing Conditions Diagram: Bad Accent Wall
Drawing Attention to the Wrong Thing

An accent wall is intended to draw attention, and to add interest and focus to the visual field. Drawing attention to a wall with a door in it, that is completely blocked a (needed) whiteboard, only makes the whole set up feel like a mistake.

Awkward Accent

An accent wall is effectively a spotlight. This one illuminates two windows to a hall, and a door that is never opened, all blocked by a whiteboard. Let’s use color as a tool to make a real statement, and shine that spotlight where its due.

Portent Inc. Creative Services Room: Quick Fixes for Workspaces - Low Impact Solution Sketch
So Much Better!

Even with very little budget, and in a difficult space, a little thoughtful action can reform an environment to better foster the needs of its inhabitants, and encourage others to adopt similar strategies.

Quick Fix, Big Impact

We're Awesome. Come Visit.

Like creative minds, human environments thrive with cultivation. Take ownership of your identity, and you take ownership of your realm. Your environment should not only nurture its inhabitants, but also reflect your values and talents to others. Cultivate creativity, market your identity, and elevate your brand. The company’s strength lies in the talents of its composite teams. Step up.

Portent Inc. Creative Services Room: Quick Fixes for Workspaces - Diagram: Shaping Space
Highlighting a Volume

Painting the three flanking walls a characteristic color, while painting the ceiling and hall a light, neutral shade, creates the feeling that while there may be a circulation path along one side, that the nook within is, itself, a destination.

Shaping Space

Just like us, physical spaces often juggle multiple tasks. This space sometimes acts as a circulation path, but just because it’s a path, doesn’t mean it isn’t also a destination. By defining your realm with color, you give it an identity: you make it a place worth stopping by.

Portent Inc. Creative Services Room: Quick Fixes for Workspaces - Diagram: Slight of Hand, Visual Trick of the Eye
Fooling the Eye

Painting the beams to match the ceiling does help to release the visual compression, but if the same light shade laps down onto the walls like crown moulding, the eye and mind are fooled into believing that everything above that mark melts up and away.

Sleight of Hand

Painting the beams to match the mechanical equipment works wonders for releasing the visual compression. But, if we also let the white paint lap down onto the walls, we trick the eye into letting everything above that datum line melt up and away.

Portent Inc. Creative Services Room: Quick Fixes for Workspaces - Diagram: Start Small, Dream Big, Propagate Ideas
Planting the Seeds of Change

The best innovation is contagious. Sometimes, all it takes is a small spark, and the rest is history. Even at small scale, propagating ideas through a population can have a profound effect. A good precedent set in one location will encourage others.

Start Small, Dream Big

These efforts are baby steps: low intervention, low cost solutions. But even so, the positive impact is huge. A small seed nurtured brings great (and contagious) results. Imagine what you can do with more than just paint. Imagine where you will go next.

Let's Do This

Post presentation, spirits are higher, just as hoped. A quick pass over the room has already solved the Lost Objects issue, and just that act alone has started to create the feeling of ownership the team needs in order to feel at home in their realm. Here's to hoping that they continue in a positive direction!


Update

May 18th, 2015

A recent visit back to Portent reveals that the team has relocated to sunnier climes on the south side of the building, and converted their former room into a lounge the whole company shares. Replete with tech-world amenities, it's a space for chance meetings or scheduled gatherings: a spot to unwind, and have a little fun with colleagues. Well done!

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