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Work Environments

Work environments are very important to creative people and are often overlooked by larger companies where creative departments are present. Creative work environments have always intrigued me and led me to research why creative spaces are important and the different elements to consider.  I’ve worked as a corporate creative for six years and had my share of non-creative environments. There were many other benefits to working at a large corporation but for I’m talking just about environments. Typically corporate environments are the worst and I’ve seen many significantly worse than any I’ve ever worked in.

Photos of my work spaces are at the bottom!

My corporate environment experience was odd as I was one of the only creatives working for in our branch of the company (Valspar is a pretty big company, with about 10,000+ employees and a net worth of $6+ billion. I worked in Packaging branch). I was also the only creative in our building of about 200 people. This made it difficult to have rule-exceptions to any rules regarding my work environment such as the dress code and decorations. The dress code was at least modern and ties where a rare sight even for the higher-ups. Jeans could be worn all weak, dress shirts didn’t need tucked in, and nicer t-shirts could be worn. I’ve seen some creatives required to wear slacks and dress shoes to work every day. Talk about feeling uncomfortable, well at least for most of the creatives I know. This is sad because being comfortable is pretty important when performing creative tasks.

This relation of comfort to creativity is what is unknown by some companies.  If they knew I think they would make some dramatic changes. Yes it may be difficult to have a creative department with freedoms that other employees don’t have but the reward is that the quality of creative work will be directly affected and improved. The best solution is to separate the creative department from the core business if possible. One good example is headphones. Headphones were prohibited in our building for safety (and probably other reasons) but when I was able to wear my headphones all day, even just listening to music while working, you can imagine how jealous a few people became.

Using imagination and creativity to transform abstract ideas into a visual medium sometimes requires a high degree of concentration and imagination. That concentration and imagination is effected by and derived from several major factors. The following are some important aspects of creative environments and should be taken into consideration when housing creatives:

  • Lighting – Lighting dramatically affect the mood of an environment. Often in creative environments, depending on the type of work, you’ll rarely see florescent lights unless they’re color corrected. More often I find direct lighting common as well. Recessed lights, spot lights, and track lighting seem to be very popular in film and video environments like studios, edit suites, and screening rooms. Even conference rooms will have dimmable and recessed lights. Sunlight is also huge. It not only gives great light and is economical but I find sunlight to be very energizing as well.
  • Color and Shapes – The color of a space can also affect mood but typically most environments are neutral since it’s smart to avoid having anyone bothered by a specific color. Sometimes neutral also means boring. A workspace can be spiced up with lots of colors and shapes. Shapes meaning parts of a building’s architecture are accentuated by giving them color. Even shadows can help create a particular feel or mood to a room.
  • Sounds – People talking, machinery, computers, and other sounds can really annoy some creatives and while many people deal with these things every day, a creative is trying to use his or her imagination to come up with unique and creative ideas. This is difficult when you’re distracted of can’t think clearly because a machine keeps making noise in a random manor  Almost all creative workplaces I’ve visited let their designers and other creatives wear headphones so they can listen to whatever they wish and drowned out distractive noise. This also help creates an almost ‘library feel’ to a workplace with everyone busy working and listening to their headphones. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to wear headphones at my corporate job even though everyone else wasn’t – as I mentioned earlier. Granted I was often doing audio work as well.
  • Smell – this may seem odd but I actually sat near chemists. Well honestly I actually sat next to a laboratory that sometimes smelled so bad I would take my headphones off and head to the bathroom to compose my thoughts (and then grab some coffee, and then go somewhere else) in hopes of the smell would be gone when I return. Usually when a bad smell came around I would find the most un-creative project that needed done and work on that while the smell lingered. A good smelling and clean environment definitely helps creative work even. Something most probably take for granted.
  • Co-workers – This isn’t always thought of by managers or the workspace planners. It’s always important for employees to get along and it’s always beneficial if those employees work well together. In the creative line of work it makes all the difference. Creatives can come up with amazing ideas but the best ideas are usually ideas that gain momentum as collaboration takes place. Having a team that works well together can produce some amazing results as seen in any industry or occupation. As an example, many directors, actors, and producers will work with the same people to ensure their projects and ideas will be more successfully completed. When opinions conflict, a close group will quickly work through such hurdles. A group that doesn’t work well together may argue and spend more time fighting over ideas.
  • Plants – I’ve seen tons of plants in many creative environments and realized what a difference they make. I love having plants all around. I’m not sure if it’s the color or the organic nature of the plant but they seem to be energizing. In a more recent environment I’ve been working in, we have large bamboo trees growing right inside the office. Then on the ground floor, all the outside walls are floor-to-ceiling windows and outside are tons more bamboo trees making it almost as if the ground floor is hidden in a jungle. I love having meetings down there. One place I visited had a guy whose desk had giant fabric leaves hanging over his desk, creating an almost canopy space for him to work in.
  • Personalized Workspaces – some companies are allowing this for all employees but I think it’s especially important for creatives to have a personalized workspace. Typically this would mean photos and some artsy stationary items on one’s desk but for some it could mean a shelf filled with toys, movie posters, lava-lamps, and many other things.

There are many other small things that also contribute to creative environments as well as and there are even things companies do to help motivate creatives and stimulate their minds that doesn’t involve environments such as free classes taught on-site, subsidized cafeterias, and company sports teams. I’m always interested in seeing peoples workspaces, even if they’re boring so please send me your workspace or work environment photos!

My old workspaces

These first two are from the large corporation I worked at. The first on was my first starting desk, then eventually I got a real workstation PC and the right hardware I needed.
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Here is where I worked as well. Granted I was often running around with a camera at all my jobs but this is where I did editing and paperwork.
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