Design the Creative Work Place, Part Two

Designing the Creative Workplace, Part 2

In this two-part story, the design directors for HKS Chicago, Kate Davis and Tony Montalto, explain what it’s like to design the creative work place.

Every studio investigates and extracts local and individual character to connect to its market. With the design of our new work space, we tried to do something different, something more collaborative and more meaningful to who we are as HKS Chicago. We set out to infuse our new offices with global values, in a unique, regional way. This process is critical to both our brand identity, and creating unique, meaningful and purposeful solutions for each project and client we engage with.

The idea of a “living lab” addresses the dynamic, and persistently changing aspects, of creativity and design. As each project places unique demands on our people and processes, it answers the question of how we can solve the known, while leaving flexibility for the unknown. In addition to understanding who we are as users, we challenged ourselves to understand the key differentiators of how we use our space, and how it can support our process.

Creativity happens in every type of space, in different ways for every person, meaning the space must support us organically. It must provide options and flexibility, with a system grounded in a common culture and goal. It needs to focus on the process, the project and the vision, not the unique aspects of the individual. We pour over the evidence to untangle how each factor affects the others, so that the system can learn, grow and evolve.

Design happens around sketching tables, desks and screens, so the spaces and the furniture must encourage the process and team focused creative work. It happens in diverse ways, through every inch of our studio. The place we work needs to accommodate inspiration, visioning, production and showcasing.

We believe the work process, projects and objects on display should tell the story, without requiring narration. The messiness of the studio serves as a tangible, experiential archive of a project. When we see study model permutations, we see evolution, decision making and prioritization.

These things become self-evident, reinforcing the story and telling it from multiple non-verbal dimensions. This continual dialogue becomes the soundtrack to our work life, as well as the means of communicating our values to colleagues, clients and visitors.

As Kate summed up, the living lab is a constantly evolving, solution seeking system. There is no failure in this system. Response and process is perpetually evaluated, and the system adjusts organically to work effectively. It is the responsibility of the office’s core leadership to maintain the system’s values and focus on continuous improvement.