Open spaces and big ideas

Creatives love open space. At Duft Watterson, we built it into our new office, with large windows that overlook the Basque block of downtown Boise. Space inspires us while we’re chasing big ideas. For clients, that translates into better ideas and stronger strategies.

It’s a common theme in agencies today; to have an open office layout that uses natural lighting as much as possible. But the purpose of this post isn’t to suggest that you need a new office layout, open spaces don’t work for everyone.

Creative dreamers need space

Think back to elementary school. It’s fifth period, the day is slowly inching closer to the end, and you’re stuck taking notes while facing the whiteboard. Your mind starts to wander, and you peer out to the schoolyard outside the window. Inspired, you start to scribble stories in the margins of your notes.

Oops, you get caught.

You get in trouble and are punished for letting your mind wander. If you’re a creative, this scenario probably sounds familiar.

Flash forward to the present. Those same daydreaming creative people are in the real world and they often thrive in creative/marketing agencies — like ours. Today those dreams have turned into great assets. We’re always searching for the next big idea. With numerous clients and different campaigns, our mind is in a constant churn.

Using space beyond the walls to inspire creativity

What happens when we suffer from writer’s block? How do we get out what’s on the tip of our tongue? Where do we find inspiration?

Our owners and building designers spent many hours making our workplace a haven of creativity. Our open concept allows for the free flow of ideas that bounce off each other instead of getting stuck in corner offices or cubicles. It works most of the time, yet some ideas are so big they can’t be found in our office. Sometimes we still need to think outside of the box, or in this case, step out of it.

Where do we go?

Ward, our CEO and Creative Director, regularly takes walks to get out of the space when he needs a different perspective. You might find him writing in coffee shops. Jill, our COO and Accounts Director goes on runs at lunch if she hasn’t already in the morning.

Half our team bikes to work, and most of us bike to lunch, thanks to our bosses gifting awesome Linus rides to all of us. There’s something about racing down the bike path, a breeze blowing through your face and blocking out all other noise that provides so much clarity and freedom to think. Sometimes you just have to get outside the norm to find that idea. There’s a lot of space, and you might have to cover a lot of ground to find it. In fact, I suspect part of the reason our agency owners provide everyone a bike is to ensure we get outside and think.

Sounds like a good agency pitch line: “We’ll search to the end of the Earth to solve your challenges.”

Two problems with that: 1. It sounds cliche and 2. We all know the Earth is round, right?

This may be too anthropological, but who’s to say cavemen discovered fire in a cave? Maybe it was outside, under a cliff. The point is, the great outdoors have worked as a pretty good creative space in the past. It’s important to remember that as we become more and more focused on the digital screens in front of us, we remember to get up and use the space around us.

For many creatives, office space is a tool for creativity, and the outside world is the workshop. In this business, no stone should be left unturned in the search for a client’s next big idea.