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AT THE DESK YOU CAN’T BE CREATIVE OR PRODUCTIVE IF YOU ARE DISTRACTED, IT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE A DESK TO HELP YOU STAY ON TRACK


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A study of the desk and its impact on creativity and productivity.

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No desks were harmed in the making of this book.

design michele byrne michelewho.com


This is a book of our* desks. It is the central hub. It is where our work begins, evolves and completes. Desks are defined as different things for different designers. Sometimes desks can show how a designer works, what their design looks like and how their mind works. This book is an exploration of the importance of a graphic designer’s desk and how they use their workspace as a tool in order to be more creative and more productive.

* graphic designers denotes a personal case study denotes an inspirational quote denotes “from the desk of michele�

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WHAT IS A DESK?

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A desk is usually a table or counter, as in a library or office, at which a specific job is performed or a service offered.

The desk is where the magic happens.

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CIRCLE DESKS


RECTANGLE DESKS

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WE’RE ALL DIFFERENT


YET THE SAME

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A TYPICAL DESK INCLUDES: 16

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2


1

1 computer 2 sketchbook 3 pens & pencils

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Throughout graphic design history, the desk has been the center of production.


Even as technology evolves, the desk is still the most important tool.

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DESIGNER VS POLITICIAN ephemera

nice furniture

designer jessica hische


politician al gore

no sign of personality

clutter

The desk plays diverse roles depending what they are being used for. The importance of the desk to a graphic designer may be different than that of a writer or secretary. For the most part it serves the same purpose, a place where work is produced as well as a place to sit and reflect. In the eyes of a graphic designer, the desk is center of the work they create. On their desk you will usually find a computer, some pens, paper and maybe some knick knacks to make the desk a more

comfortable place. Most designers decorate their desk and the area around to suit their personality. I think this is what makes their desk different from many others. Other professions may see their desk as simply a tool for work, whereas a designer’s desk is almost like their second home. It is important to be happy in the place you are working, especially since designer’s spend a lot of their time sitting at their desk.

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D

E

F

collaborate with client or partners

produce the piece

A B C

doodle anything that comes to mind

HOW DOES THE DESK AFFECT THE DESIGN PROCESS?

brainstorm possibilities

research the problem

assess the brief

with desk

When sitting at your desk, it is easier to get work done because you are able to collect your thoughts and work more efficiently.


doodle anything that comes to mind

research the problem

D

B E

A

F produce the piece

brainstorm possibilities

C

research the problem

B

collaborate with client or partners

assess the brief

without desk

If you do not have a desk that you do all of your work on, it can be hard to keep track of everything. You become less organized and can be easily distracted. 23


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m

m

e

s

s

y

e

s

s

y


is an organized desk and indication of an organized mind?

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how do designers feel about their desk?


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david miller


You’re surrounded by your stuff, to be around books and stuff taped on the wall, that’s when stuff starts to happen. You start to create a world. It’s comfort, it’s home, it’s the womb.

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jess lorass

The office makes it really easy to be productive as well as creative. I’ve managed to get all the printers and technology behind closed doors so that the space can be a relaxing bedroom, as well. I had the shelves built overhead running the full length of the room for stashing books and magazines. The tack board was a project that a friend helped me source through a local upholstery shop; it was the finishing touch. The Eames Management chair by Herman Miller is definitely a comfortable choice. I know that I can spend a lot of time in it!

It’s important to have an workspace that you are excited to work in. By having fun knickknacks around the office and purchasing comfortable furniture, you are more likely to be more productive. Working in a space that you do not like will make it harder to get work done.

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stefan sagmeister

I like to rathe think that r than I do m one s y wo of mo r pecif st of ic pla k everywh them conc ce. T is in eptio he ex ere, t h n e offi of the love t ecu ce, b m co o wo ut the tion me fr rk in new o f m r esh n coun ever try, o ew s urrou ywhere. I nap lace, nding in a h s, a otel r oom.

for egies strat o x D i s oid e are . 1 Av h your Ther n o i t itua Was this s ing else. a, do h t r dat ck e u o y som p u it ba back k - S ue. 2 Thin car, s ds. he is 3 erran k about t . o g hin ind go and t ur m tuff, o s y t p u le k t s o u o s J ct , -L proje We arch ld o r Rese u tollec 4 gh yo throu oogle. C f, there f G f stu l in avoid lots o ing usefu d. e v a h e t e u all h m be s be so g to at, e must at waitin r g th ng is i e r w e t. a h r n t D tale ch e no 5 Sket v ings a h h t akes f you i m n g e n ev lizi ruct visua 6 Deconst look Just , . alive lem apart come erik spiekermann em rob h p t t e u h t and p Take s t r pa at the ether. og t k bac

as k serves Your des p d n a c li o b both sym d e lue on th great va

debbie millman If you want t o unde workin rstand gs of the inn an art course er is t’s min the de d then sk is t space of he mo for tha st tellin t. The arrang g way th ed, the e desk way th the w is e desk ay the desk lo is clutt the da ered, oks at y tells the en a little who w d of about orks t the pe here. rson

alice twemlow

s y


Lately , the thing really that h good as be when is to en I take t he Am am in a ru some t trak wher e. I u don’t nfortu do it nately as oft like. T en as he I wo u movin re is some ld thing g thro about ugh t make he wo s yo u rld th feel a this i at live. T s not hat sa some e a sy id, t h i to do ng th . So, at is time the re I reall st of y just the the w powe ork a r thro t m feelin y ugh d e s g uni k. If I nspir am take a e d , I look a know round that I and b e insp my of fice i r e surro d b y unded what I h a ve myse lf wit h.

mike perry

tion, of protec s a type ut p People physical. desk.

late yp sI m a p kee long can to s I A s , i le. gy zed ate ossib rgani r t s p o My ull as ffice f o s y a p m all. kee le it d han

nicholas felton

I like to s tart the d ay fresh. with thin If I start gs left ov the day e r on my starting desk, it’s your dinn like er with le your app ftovers etite. it kills

massimo vignelli

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sagmesiter.com

Stefan Sagmeister’s live 24/7 overhead-feed on his website home page allows us all to see all his meisters working away. For clients its a great way to make sure their design dollars are well spent. For the rest of us we can see when Stefan is not globe trotting but working at his desk. Its truly a fascinating aerial view of a design firm.


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Desks are more than just a table and chair. It is a representation of our personality and a reflection of our mind. Having a desk that is perfect for you can be the key to being both creative and productive.


Ever since I was a kid, I love desks. Why? Because they are expressions of the person behind them. They are pedestals, work tables, curiosity cabinets, and more. When I was at the NY Times mine was entirely chaotic—stacks of paper, books, sandwiches, etc. Once I moved into my SVA office, I attempt to keep it orderly. My mind is just like my old desk, so something must be orderly.

steven heller

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ville tikka

The only two things that I constantly have in front of me are some tea or coffee and my digital content. The desk below these changes on a daily basis. Devices come and go and the cups break down, but the liquid that facilitates the immersion into an endless curiosity towards both digital and physical worlds always stays.


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how do designers compare to their desk?


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1

whimsical ideas

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quirky typography

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MILTON GLASER

whimsical ideas

Milton shows some whimsy in both his desk and his design. We can see that he likes to have a bit of fun and reveal his personality.


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1

whimsical ideas

2

quirky typography

quirky typography

Again we see a bit of personality in his design and how he signs his name. It’s a bit unconventional as well as interesting.

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MASSIMO VIGNELLI

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the essentials

square grids

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straight lines

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monochrome

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the essentials

In both Massimo’s work and his workspace, he likes the stick to only the essentials. He doesn’t like include extraneous information that he doesn’t find to be necessary.

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square grids

Looking at Massimo’s square desk we can automatically see a parallel between his desk and his work. He thinks to be grid based and geometric. We can also see this in his NYC Subway map.


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straight lines

His design of the Subway map relies on straight lines that guide you through the city. Again, we see this on his desk where everything is straight and organized.

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the essentials

square grids

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straight lines

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monochrome

monochrome

Massimo sparsely uses color in his work. We can see this in his office that consists of a black desk, chair and lamp along with a white computer. It is void of color.

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whimsical ideas

funky patterns

organized clutter

MIKE PERRY


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whimsical ideas

Mike Perry likes to have fun when designing. In his work we can see that he enjoys what he is doing and you can see also see this in his workspace. It’s a comfortable working area which helps in managing stress. 2

funky patterns

Mike uses lots of patterns in his designs. You can also find some of these funky patterns in his work area which makes it like a home away from home.

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whimsical ideas

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funky patterns

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organized clutter

organized clutter

Organized clutter allows for spontaneity that isn’t overwhelming. It allows him to work freely and efficiently.

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AN EXPLORATION OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS WITHIN THE WORKSPACE

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WHAT IS THE ANATOMY OF CREATIVITY IN THE BRAIN? Creativity and the Left Brain Einstein's left brain was not his greatest creative asset. More significant were his left and right parietal lobes, which were 15 percent larger than average. Additionally, these areas, which serve as processing and association centers, lacked certain partitions found in most brains, resulting in even closer associations of those neurons and a greater degree of communication. Interestingly, his left frontal lobe was relatively normal.


Creativity and the Right Brain One of the most celebrated creative minds in history was Albert Einstein, who at the age of 3 was still not able to speak. This delay indicates a lag in the development of his left brain, where most of our language centers are located. As an adult, Einstein attributed his tremendous capacity for creative thought to a reliance on spatial reasoning, a specialized function of the right brain. Einstein's superior spatial processing ability developed, it is theorized, either to make up for lack of function or because of absence of competitive inhibition from his left brain. A similar effect has also been noted in some adults following left frontotemporal lobe trauma, whereby artistic expression emerges that did not exist previously.

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IDEAS ARE LIKE RABBITS. YOU GET A COUPLE AND LEARN HOW TO HANDLE THEM AND PRETTY SOON YOU HAVE A DOZEN. JOHN STEINBECK


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an idea from conception to rejection to rejuvenation

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SOMETIMES, IDEAS ARE FORGOTTEN 61


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ALBERT EINSTEIN

Here’s a photograph of Albert Einstein’s Princeton desk taken only a few hours after he died in 1955.


THE SECRET TO CREATIVITY IS KNOWING HOW TO HIDE YOUR SOURCES.

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DON’T GIVE UP, IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE PRODUCTIVE AT THE DESK

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RESULTS ≠TIME The amount of time you spend sitting at a desk does not affect how productive you are. You may be sitting there for six hours and not get anything done or you may be sitting there for twenty minutes Wand get a lot done.

level of productivity

Same goes for what time it is. You can’t control when you will have a burst of energy. You just need to be ready for when it happens.

time spent at desk


random bursts of productive energy is not affected by what time of the day or night it is

the blue represents the percentage of work that gets done at that time

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Throughout the day stuff piles up on your desk. You should keep your desk clean to prevent being distracted. As the amount of things on the desk increases, there is a greater chance of being distracted. When you find that you can’t handle the mess that means it is time to take a break and sort everything out into piles. Make lists and prioritize what needs to be taken care of in what order. You may think you don’t have time to stop and organize everything but in the long run it will actually save you time. While you may think that your entire desk is your filing cabinet, you are cutting down your ability to work if you can’t get to specific items quickly. Whether you have a large office area or a small one, the trick is to use the space wisely. Purge all papers, files, mail, etc… that doesn’t relate to your home office work. File these items in filing cabinets, and clear off excess clutter off the top of your desk. Live by this rule “Everything needs a place” – therefore, don’t let any office items just sit around.


START WORK WITH AN EMPTY DESK

LUNCH TIME, CLEAN OFF DESK

CLEAN DESK FOR NEXT DAY

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bad posture leads to stress


It seems that your posture has an impact on your productivity, depending on the mood you're in. Apparently "previous studies have shown that someone's emotional state can dramatically affect their performance on analytical tasks and that posture can play a role in this" known as the "stoop to conquer" effect. "Emotion informs cognition, people whose emotion is inhibited don't perform intelligently," says Breazeal. However, people don't necessarily always sit in the "right" position for their mood." In particular, studies showed that people are more persistent in trying to carry out tasks and solve problems: when feeling depressed, or primed with a feeling of failure - if, while doing the task, they slouch (or see a slouching person or robot, which encourages them unconsciously to change their own posture in imitation!), or when feeling cheery, or primed for success - if, while doing the task, they sit up straight (or see an upright robot).

The "stoop to conquer" effect was mentioned as a relatively minor issue in an article in New Scientist primarily about robots and their interaction with humans, but I thought it was interesting. I never would have guessed it - it kind of seems counter-intuitive that slouching might make you more productive, if you're feeling low! I'd love to know why posture affects efficiency in this way. Is it a good answer to teachers, parents etc. who nag you to sit up straight, then, to say: "No, I'm feeling too depressed"? If you want to work more productively and you’re feeling sad, you should slouch; but if you’re feeling happy, you should sit up straight. A reference to a learned behavorial science article on posture and mood, which mentions the other side of the coin - that it seems to be easier to be positive and happy, and to remember positive thoughts, if you're sitting upright rather than slumped.

So, now we know. It's not quite cognitive heuristics, but possibly it's a useful rule of thumb in life, though I think a lot of us know it instinctively anyway. 71


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DEALING WITH DISTRACTIONS

Deal with each annoyance separately.

Eat before you start working.

Reserve time for your necessary distractions.

Organize your workspace area and keep it clean.

The background is a list of possible distractions. The type in the white boxes are the suggestions for fighting distractions.


Close any computer applications that you aren’t using.

Make to-do lists and a daily schedule.

Try working in an unfamiliar place that doesn’t have your usual distractions.

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Games! I love playing games whether it is on my computer, Xbox or iPhone. They’re so fun! (And sometimes they’re educational too.)

I like to talk to people on iChat. I think that’s okay. My friends and I like to have meaningless conversations about really random things.

Majority of the time the first I do when plant myself at my desk is open my computer to do computer-y things.

Sometimes we assume that if we are working on the computer then it is to get all of your work done considering how powerful they are and the things they can do. A lot of the time we forget that the computer is also the cause of distraction. I think

everyone is guilty of sitting down at their desk with the intention with of being productive but they end up being distracted by other things. It’s okay, it happens to all of us. When I sit down at my desk I usually open my computer and check my email or facebook.


Sometimes I sit down at my desk and immediately IM my boyfriend. I like to talk to him when I am stressed out because he is good at calming me down.

A guilty pleasure of mine is making lists. I’ll make one for anything and I’ll usually do it to just waste time. Sometimes I do it to sort out the thoughts in my head.

A good thing to do at your desk is to brainstorm whatever you’re working on. It’s good to step away from the computer and simply think about what you’re doing.

Other times I try to stall getting started on a project by organizing my workspace or cleaning my room. I also like to make lists of everything and anything. And yes, sometimes I actually get work done. 75


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HAVING THE RIGHT DESK SETUP CAN INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY

Whether you are a work-at-home professional or you use your home office for surfing the internet. Your home office should be a place that you enjoy staying in and being productive in. Look through home décor magazines or online publications for inspiration. Try a bold new color on the walls to spark creativity or bring in an office chair that allows you to be comfortable as you pine away the hours at your desk. New matching desk accessories or just a new calendar can start the New Year off right in your home office. A common table and chair will not cut it. They are not designed to facilitate a proper working environment. Instead, you will need a decent desk and comfortable office chair. This will make your work space more professional and more functional. Also, it will be important to purchase ancillary workspace items as well. This includes filing cabinets, lamps, and shelves. This way, the workspace becomes fully functional and able to serve various needs. This tip is important for the fact of comfort. If you only use your home office for 30 minutes a day to check email, a stylish over comfortable chair may win out. On the contrary, if you spend 7-10 hours days in your office, your needs for comfort are imperative.

Comfortable home office furniture should ‘fit’ your body. If you are a tall person, ensure that your chair and table height will be in proportioned to you using it. Conversely for shorter people, a chair that is too high and nonadjustable may have your feet dangling like a child. Comfortable office furniture should look great, but feel like you can sit in it for hours on end. When choosing desks, bookshelves and other surface furniture, take into account your office partners needs. They may need more or less space than you depending on their occupation or use for the home office. Collaborate together and see if a few pieces can be multifunctional. A table that holds the printer may also be used as a desk or conference table. Throughout the year, we all have little pet peeves that didn’t work in your home office. If you have to get up from your desk every time the phone rings, or if your computer monitor location is prohibiting you from being productive. Start small, and work on these items one at a time. On a larger scale, opt for visual organization such as bulletin boards, dry erase boards, and even paint a wall with chalkboard or Idea paint to help see your organized life in front of you.

If your home office is dark, figure out the culprit. Open up windows, buy different window treatments, or bring in lighting fixtures that will brighten your space. When you can see clearly you are more likely to stay in that space. Also make sure there is good ventilation and temperature control. If you are too hot, or cold, you will quickly want to leave your office. Try to avoid bringing other parts of the home into the home office, such as baby and pet toys or video games and distracting hobbies. While these are fine in other parts of the home, in order to maximize productivity in your home office use it for its intended purpose. The better you can stick to this concept, the more you will enjoy your home office, and you may actually finish your work quicker and happier!


level of comfort

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level of productivity


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IS THE COMPUTER THE NEW DESK? 79


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Thanks for viewing.

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Senior Thesis  

For generations the desk has played a very important role in a graphic designer’s career. At times, the desk and its organization – cluttere...

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