24 November 2007

The Office vs. The Studio

by mo

On my bus ride home yesterday, I was trying to think about what separates our office from others and I realized it was that our office was less like an office and more like a design studio.
A studio celebrates discussion and creative thinking. It challenges you to think creatively and outside the box. Your uniqueness is what makes your product a better option than your competitors.
I asked my wife what she pictures when she thinks of a designers studio. Here’s some of the things that she said:

  • Open style loft
  • A New York style high rise building with lots of windows over looking a park or people walking along the street.
  • Boards on the wall covered with peoples ideas.
  • No cubicles
  • Elevated desks, like the ones architects use that are tilted sideways and are high enough to look outside.
  • One long table where people can come together.

My picture of a designers studio is quite similar, except I see white boards scattered just about every where. So you can have an impromptu design session while eating lunch, where you can literally stand up and start writing on the wall. I picture an open work space, where people can actually see each other work. I picture constant communication and feedback.

When I think of an office, I picture cubicles where people spend their days isolated at their desk. I picture a lot of emails being read and answered. I picture a lot of phone calls being answered, and less face time with people. The office is usually quiet, so if you want to have a discussion you’ve got to send a meeting request through outlook and book a board room to communicate with others.

Designing software is a lot like designing art. It takes a lot of creativity to build code bases that not only deliver value but also make other developers want to contribute to the code base.

In my opinion, if you are striving to create an Agile shop, start by trying to create a studio environment and leave the office behind.