Cover of book Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration

Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration

by: Scott Doorley, Scott Witthoft

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73 Highlights | 3 Notes
  • Along the way, we learned that we have to prototype our way into any new space; to continuously iterate, adapt, and evolve our spaces after we move in; and to think of space primarily as a way to change behavior, not as a facilities project or a showpiece for our brand
    Note: Preface - George Kembal
  • Experiment wildly and consider nothing precious
  • … an experimental attitude gave us permission to purge things that weren't working.
  • Design for primates.
    We're smart apes. Deal with it. Design ways to keep our bodies moving.
  • Find ways to get the body moving, such as open space, non prescriptive seating, and multiple heights seating.
  • A dining room doubles as a home office, a living room for adults is a playroom for kids; a kitchen becomes the primary gathering spot during a party. Design with alternate uses in mind.
  • Ambience: What is the vibe or mood you are trying to create, and what is the duration of the gathering? Lowering the intensity or limiting the number of lights in a space can shift a mood from active to reflective. Opening windows (when possible) can provide some energizing fresh air for a long meeting and a little background noise that raises the energy level and increases the awareness of the surroundings.
  • Visible signs of use and activity can encourage others to participate. These traces of excitement also signal new ideas. Stagnant areas, piles of unused materials, and unattended corners and closets drag down the mood of the space.
  • Furniture that features raw materials often has less adornment.
    Less adornment = less styling
    Less styling = more timeless.
  • Intentional or not, the form, functionality, and finish of a space reflect the culture, behaviors, and priorities of the people within it.
  • This design template breaks down this spatial grammar into manageable bits.

    Places and Properties address the divisions in a space and the features within them; Actions and Attitudes address who is in the space and what they do.
  • Places are broad spatial types that share an overall purpose. (eg. all spaces include Thresholds, such as doorways or openings, and Transitions, such as hallways)

    Properties are the specific aspects of people or space that can be enhanced or altered to impact behavior.
    (eg. personal posture can be drastically altered with seating modifications. Ambience attributes, such as lighting, can be used to evelvate mood.)

    Actions are behaviors and tasks.(eg. designers tend to visually saturate work spaces with project inspiration and artifacts.)

    Attitudes are cultural values and habits. (eg. “Bias toward Action” is a core value at

  • Places are 'zoning' for your space. Planning in a broad zone rather than overly detailed and specific rooms is an important first step in laying out a space designed to evolve.
  • Thinking of places as zones that support behavior helps isolate underlying needs from conventional solutions, which often lead to novel and relevant innovations.
  • Home base, gathering spaces, threshlods/transitions, support structures

    The home base is a physical or digital space where individuals or teams anchor their work and identity. From an emotional perspective, it is the creative center of gravity from which people advance and retreat

  • Most broadly, a Home Base has at least four attributes:
    • A place to access unique resources and tools.
    • A place for things: persistent and accessible storage for work in progress.
    • A place to showcase contributions: to display and share insights, work, and practice.
    • A place for community to flourish: to share ideas, aspirations, and emotions and to make connections.
  • Thresholds and Transitions are in-between spaces. These often serve as boundaries between intended places and events
  • Transitions are about movement and momen. In any given activity, the first and last thing a participant experiences is a Transition. We move right through them, but Transitions paradoxically call attention to the moment.
  • Support structures should always be considered in terms of location and quantity. To service the space well, you'll want them to be immediately at hand.
  • Properies - posture, orientation, surface, ambience, density, storage

    We've noticed that the more comfortable people are in their seats, the less comfortable they seem to be with generation ideas, exchanging leadership roles, or moving on to the next activity.

  • An active, standing posture encourages people to jump in and alter the dynamics of a room. This posture also leaves room for fidgeting and stretching to release tension.
  • For relaxed spaces, go with flush seating, multiple points of light, quiet music, and warm or dark colors. For active spaces, try raw materials, bright light, bouncy music, saturated colors and open windows.
  • Density characterizes how a volume of space feels in relation to an activity.
  • Separate the quality of Density from the size of a space - its physical dimensions - in order to focus on the intent of the experience. The key is to tune the feeling of energy in a space by packing it full or leaving it sparse, no matter its size.
  • Accessibility of storage is an important issue for digital and physical resources. The same considerations given to placement of a file cabinet or bookshelf apply to servers, memory cards and cloud accounts
  • Bias toward keeping materials and work easily accessible in a creative space unless they absolutely must be protected.
  • In general, it's important to allocate pletiful and prominent space for storage, or else object will find a way to be stored in unlikely and undesirable places.
  • Arranging an environment to incite and support specific behaviors is precisely the intent of space design.
  • Actions are the different steps of 'doing' at any given moment.
  • Saturate, synthesize, focus, flare, realize, reflect


    Saturation is a process for inspiration. A saturated space is mindfully curated to display and broadcast information, express emotion, and immerse a team in the environment of a problem.

  • Synthesize

    Patterns, trends, themes, and hidden mysteries… this is the stuff of synthesis. Synthesis is about grabbing data from a pile of assorted facts and details, and rearranging data in various ways to create meaning or a strong direction

    Before synthesis, people will walk into a room with a bunch of facts and concepts they 'know'. Following synthesis these people will walk out of a room understanding what their knowledge actually means. In between is a messy task involving unpacking data and ideas and recombining them into new insights. This is a big shift, and a difficult task, but it si the often unacknowledged foundation of innovation.

  • Focus

    Focus is the narrowing on a single topic or task. I tis the art of letting go: what you decide not to do is as important as what you are doing. In some instances letting go means abandoning something completely, and in other cases it means setting it aside completely, and in other cases it means setting it aside temporarily.

  • Focus requires intentionality. A helpful question to ask is: “Are we seeking new ideas and new information at this point or are we honing in on an answer?”
  • Flare

    Flaring is a phase for exploring possibilities and generating options.

  • Flaring often includes brainstorming and other techniques for idea generation. Just as with the intent of brainstorming, flaring explicitly includes generation and receiving new information around a particular topic in order to move beyond the known and obvious, toward the new and novel.
  • Suspend disbelief for the sake of getting somewhere new and unexplored. Stay on topic, but save judgement for later. The goal in flaring is to generate options so you have some material to work with when you get to a decision point. If thoughts and concepts outside of your topic space arise, it's important to accept them and move on. Brilliant ideas can be saved and addressed at a later time. Although it may seem like a paradox, staying on topic can be a helpful method for breaking new ground.
  • Realize

    Realization is the process of making the ethereal tangible.

  • Iterate: build, then discuss. Then build on top of that. Let your realization become a touchstone for discussion, rather than the other way around. Build first, think later.
  • Reflect

    Reflection is often seen as a conclusion, but really, it is a highly dynamic transitional activity. Reflection is best approached with an open mind and a learner's bias. Insights culled from mistakes - there are always mistakes - are helpful in preparing for the future, but dissecting what went 'right' is every bit as helpful and informative.

  • Our attitudes steer our decisions and build momentum in everything we do. A space is at its most sublime when it reinforces and encourages desired values.
  • … a space that shapes attitudes is worth seeking - and you'll know when it's working.
  • The first step in designing a space to support particular attitudes is to define those attitudes. Because this step is a bit abstract, don't get too hung up on it.
  • Collaborate across boundaries
    Show, don't tell
    Bias toward action
    Focus on human values
    Be mindful of process
    Prototype toward a solution.
  • Often, innovative ideas can be found in the cracks between current domain definitions.
  • A 'show, don't tell' attitude means creating compelling visuals and tangible artifacts to enable participants to experience the context of the challenge.
  • Effective storytelling with a 'show, don't tell' attitude means conveying ideas through details rather than conjecture, being as concise as possible in communicating a meaningful transformation, and using authentic emotional tension to build empathy in your audience.
  • Taking action and trying something new are not at odds with careful consideration of intent and outcome. The trick is not to let intent and outcome get in the way of exploring the unknown.
  • You must pay attention. In the thrill of the unknown are lots and lots of little details that, if noticed, will validate any effort to try something new.
  • Prototyping toward a solution requires fundamental behaviors: taking creative leaps; creating experiences and artifacts expressly to be tested; leveraging the lowest-resolution resources necessary to explore a concept; accepting feedback as delivered, then making sense of it in the context of additional feedback; and cycling through multiple iterations of a concept early and often.
  • Prototypes are not precious, but the lessons you glean from them are. Protoyping is the act of making in the service of learning: the goal is to learn the most with the least.
  • Get curious. Whatever excites you is right. Follow that impulse and let yourself go.
  • Capture and broadcast your insights. Whether your mobile technolody is a camera or a sketchbook, capture images and thoughts as you cover your bases. Do whatever works for you and helps you to dig a bit deeper later. Then, surround yourself with evidence of this inspiration by saturating your project room or office with the visuals and notes.
  • Separate Idea Generation from Selection. Squash an idea under the weight of reality too early and you risk missing out on some valuable insights. Defer judgement.
  • Imagination begets fabrication, fabrication begets imagination.
  • A great leader is a good host. A good host sets the tone for guests. Music can help curate experiences in the classroom, design studio, office... anywhere.
  • Sure, music acts on the emotions, but our (unsubstantial) hypothesis is that during active work (such as prototyping) music also occupies just enough of our cognitive load to distract our inner critic. As long as it's upbeat, music seems to propel creative activities, but there are some subtleties to consider.
  • Build in Little Rituals.
    Deliberately incorporating a ritual into a routine can transform the mundane into a minor magic moment.
  • “The point about working is not to produce great stuff all the time, but to remain ready for when you can.”
    Note: #eq, Brian Eno
  • As Jonah Lehrer explains, these anecdotes are beginning to find support from brain research as EEG studies of the brain shows that insights, ideas, and epiphanies occur when the brain is most relaxed.
  • Choose a metaphor for your relaxation space: spa, yoga studio, bedroom, Zen Garden etc. Identify some of the properties that make this metaphorical space relaxing - a place to lie down, soft music, natural light - and use them as inspirations in implementing your own hiding place with available resources or some inexpensive purchases (eg throw rugs, incandescent lamps)
  • Makers need blocks of time to get deep into a problem.
  • Transforming your space probably isn't the most direct route to a raise. It's not the best way to get a promotion. But it is a great way to become a more fluid thinker, to get a visceral learning experience that you can apply to the rest of your job, and, if you're persistent, it might end up making a lasting impact on your organization.
  • Like the proverbial garage, it offers permission to do things you can't do in the tidy confines of the house.
  • creative projects have an emotional frequency. Being aware of this can help you successfully navigate the tricky peaks and troughs.
  • + A sense of excitement and limitless possibility.
    The sense of potential is empowering, yet rarely realistic.
    Enjoy this part as it happens, but not so much that you are afraid to let go.

    — Overwhelming complexity
    you'll discover a seemingly endless pile of emotional and logistical factors simultaneously at play.
    Too much thinking here means trouble. When you are in the territory, focus on the doing.
    Acknowledge and categorize new issues as they arise, but prioritize.

    + Unifying insights
    These are moments of clarity when you feel you've got it all figured out.
    - glorius but possibly derailing

    — Complete loss of confidence

    — The brutal realities of implementation
    Almost everything you do will take longer than you think because there is a lot more to consider than is apparent.
    Have strength to stand up for the right things and the wisdom to let go of the meaningless bits.

    + Completion
    You may experience some post-partum malaise. Don't wallow in it.
    Do take time to celebrate your accomplishment and reflect on your process.
    Reflection is important to make your next steps more efficiet.

  • Horizontal surfaces attract more clutter.
  • We knew that 'getting it right' is more about evolving to suit needs than nailing it on the first try.
    Note: #to-see: Powers of ten,
  • When designing a creative environment, default to 'studio or 'workshop', not 'office'
  • The best creative spaces are highly resolved (thoughtful), but not highly refined(precious).
  • Get there a little early, leave a little late.
  • Storage should be at least 30% of your space.
  • Storage should be as transparent as possible so that the artifacts and concepts don't linger in the dark. Keep things visible to keep them in active use.
  • An object is only as useful as the experience it creates. Designers can create beautiful object, but the objects mean little unless they are useful.
  • Book References from Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration