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All Work and lots of Play

During my graduation ceremony way back then, our class speaker, diligently taped crayons to the bottom of each and every seat, it was an apt reminder from where we all started.

Designers like to play, our whole world resembles a blown up pre-school classroom. We experiment with color, light, shapes, texture, but unlike the carefree kids with fingernails clogged by green play-dough, proof of concept lies on our shoulders.

Play, the new hot word in the design world, is a very intricate tool. As boundaries of work-home environments are blurred and redrawn, the in-between becomes a vital regulator that assists in balancing the two. We all know, and research shows that people who have a more balanced work-life world are usually more productive at their jobs. I've been around the high-tech start-up community long enough to know that research is nice, but not always easy to attain. Some like the big high-tech companies in California, will even go as far as adding a huge slide to connect between two levels (though I've heard the noise made them close it off). In areas where the weather is consistently good there will be a hiking trail near by, in the north-east this option is good for maybe 2-4 months out of the year. The challenge is always to create a "play" zone without it being disruptive, too juvenile, and consistent. Because structured play is extremely important for creative processes, and office culture.

Along the years I've learned that most places I think of as the "right" off site, breakout zones in the office program, usually become last on the priority list of company leaders. This is usually due to budget and space constraints, and/or lack of will to create these seemingly money and time wasting spaces. I used to worry a lot about these spaces, I mean after all I'm a professional player (ahem..designer). I'd cry over the lost lime colored bean bags, that will never make it to the right spot. But then something interesting happened, some spots got filled with junk - yes. But others got organically filled by the people who work there. Old school video games popped up, an old sofa picked up from a curb made it in instead of the lime green bean bags. Some even took away the custom made tables from the kitchen to create a totally new off site area in the middle of the open space. A natural playground was born, a new and unique office culture has been cultivated through the lack of over designing "play". I guess designers are not the only ones who like to play with space, allowing other people to join in the fun of experimenting with space is a powerful tool, kind of like rediscovering how to use crayons again.  


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