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4 tips for creating the perfect workspace

Ashley Gainer's Layout avatar

As creatives, we draw inspiration from our surroundings. We need to be able to channel our creative energy when we’re working. It’s also true, though, that we need to be able to work effectively while we’re doing all that energetic channeling. If your workspace isn’t set up to allow both exploration and productivity, it’s time for a change.

So what’s a creative professional to do?

1. Make it comfortable

One essential for your work environment, whether it’s an office, a coffee shop, a shared coworking space, or anything else, is that it’s comfortable. If you’re physically uncomfortable in your workspace, you’re going to have a hard time getting anything done. Don’t let your office suck the life right out of you. Make sure everything feels good, both physically and mentally.

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That means your desk is big enough for your work style, it hits you at the right height, and your chair (if you use one) is comfortable. If there’s a mat or rug on the floor, it’s not catching your foot or making it tough to maneuver your chair over. You’ve got adequate storage and there’s enough space to move around comfortably. Everything in there works — there’s no persistent frustration slowly draining your energy.

2. Give it the right colors

As a designer, you know that colors tap into people’s feelings and can affect mood and mindset. You’re no different! Pay attention to how color affects you. Is any given shade particularly energizing or distracting to you?

Generally speaking, limit dark or bold colors to accents. Not sure what’s the best (light) hue for you? Scan Pinterest for ideas. And here’s a tip from my 9th-grade Civics teacher: pale pink helps you concentrate better and think more clearly. She would give us blank sheets of pink paper along with our exams for us to work out our answers; now studies are showing that red does provoke a greater attention to detail. (15 years later, I still keep pink paper on hand for brainstorming and planning. My desk isn’t my desk until there’s some light pink paper within reach.)

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3. Create some space

One critical aspect of your office, especially as a designer, is the presence of space. Whether it’s a giant whiteboard on the wall or a shelf loaded with your favorite graph paper and Sharpies, you’ve got some kind of expanse to do your big thinking. Keep your space decluttered enough to function (but not so highly organized that you can’t find anything).

If you’ve got any control over the architectural elements in your office, go for a place that has high ceilings and a window that overlooks some kind of landscape. Research shows that high ceilings promote a sense of space and freedom, which leaves mental room for thinking and productivity, and that windows overlooking some kind of nature scene (like a landscape or a park) are also good for your mind.

4. Add personal touches

An important element of personalizing your workspace is that you’re able to take control of your environment and set it up so you can work the way you want. Doing so will not only make you more efficient and productive (because it’s customized to your needs and wants), but it’ll promote more positive feelings about your workspace.

That means the furniture is arranged the way you like it. Your favorite books are on the shelf. The right pens are in the cup you adore, within arm’s reach. The art and photos you display inspire you and make you feel positively, whether you’re looking at a beautiful abstract painting, a bold, graphic motto, or photos of loved ones. And you’ve brought in your own plants and decorative elements – ones that make you smile or make your work easier or more interesting.

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Final thoughts on your perfect workspace

If you aren’t sure what you like in a workspace, don’t worry. Instead, head over to Pinterest and create a board to post pictures of offices, desks, workspaces, studios, and anything else that you find inspiring or intriguing. After you’ve been able to pin a decent amount of images (I’d recommend a minimum of 20) you may be able to look at the whole collection and identify trends or common themes. Use that as inspiration for changes to make in your own office.

Once you begin paying attention to the specific ways your environment can enhance or inhibit your productivity and creativity, you’ll be able to identify and remove the things that are blocking you and set up an awesome workspace for yourself.

Looking for a little inspiration? Take a look at these 14 awesome designer workspaces.

What’s one must-have element in your workspace? What’s something you absolutely can’t stand?

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