Remote or in the studio, what’s better? We asked Alright Studio, B&B Studio and Happening Studio
Whilst it was by no means new to the industry, remote working and WFH have certainly surged to unforeseen levels as a result of the pandemic. In the years following – studio spaces are more than filling up again – but remote working feels like it’s here to stay. Some studios have stuck with it, some have gone back to the studio full-time, and some have opted for a hybrid approach. Is there a ‘best’ way to go? Why choose one over the other? We spoke to three creative practices to find out their unique preferences and perspectives on remote work.
“We’re big fans of balance,” Alright Studio tell us. The creative studio, based in New York ‘but operating globally,’ have experienced all forms of working; “completely remote, completely in-studio, or a mix of both.” Lately, however, working in the studio Tuesdays to Thursdays is the model that has suited everyone best. The week is then bookended by Mondays and Fridays working from home. Explaining the thinking behind this decision, they reveal that “it allows for enough time to get in the flow of a project, while letting Monday and Friday be the ramp up / ramp down days that they’re intended to be.” It’s reflective of their wider approach to workplace well-being, with work-life balance ranking as a high priority.
At the studio, I felt I belonged to something.
Following a period of change and growth, the team of eight relocated to a shiny new studio space in Bushwick. From there, finding the right space and schedules for everyone was an essential factor, which of course took some trial and error. Over the years, Alright have realised that every type of work location lends itself to different types of people and styles of working. “For meetings or high-touch days where we’re all collaborating together,” they say, “it’s hard to beat the quick feedbacking of being in the same room.” Conversely, more intense forms of “heads-down” work, such as concept development, “are often easier to tackle in the comfort of one’s own home.”
Having led his design studio for nearly 15 years, B&B Studio’s Founder & Creative Partner Shaun Bowen is acutely aware of workspace nuance. The London-based branding studio have implemented a fluid calendar – flexing in the studio three-four days a week.“The buzz of a studio is why I fell in love with being a designer,” Bowen tells us. “At the studio, I felt I belonged to something. I was part of a team that shared my values of creativity. The people who sat around me taught me everything I know.”
Anywhere and anytime can be a workspace.
With this in mind, B&B have deeply considered the importance of the studio as a catalyst of creativity and overall, an environment to work in. Spread across two floors, the contemporary space is catered to everyone. “We’ve doubled the studio footprint, creating an environment more adaptive to the team’s needs,” Bowen explains. This includes collaboration areas, “which are so much harder to do remotely” alongside quiet rooms “to hide away in that are ideal for calls or quiet thinking” and social areas to connect with colleagues. “It has also given us the chance to hold events,” he adds, whereby the studio invites the wider industry to connect outside the usual working hours. Hosting events such as ‘Ladies Wine and Design’ in addition to talks for students has ensured that the space not only is used to full effect, but gives something back to the design world.
When it comes to working flexibly, small studios and independent freelancers have it down to an art. Better yet, what if you’re also parents? Happening Studio, the award-winning creative practice of Karen and Masato Nakada, believe “anywhere and anytime can be a workspace.” The form of their studio space has morphed out of necessity and has included makeshift environments or remote locations. This began long before the pandemic, with their flexible and lightweight working style allowing them to set up temporary live/work spaces in three different cities; Zurich, Tokyo and Los Angeles. “As long as there is wi-fi, a plug and comfortable seating,” they say, “we can load up our laptops and start working, very much on the go in a very temporary space.”
When Karen and Masato lived in Tokyo with their newborn child, the world became their workspace as they wandered around the city – laptops under the baby stroller. It followed a realisation that he slept best ‘on the go,’ so the pair adapted. “Whenever the baby napped or found a space that would occupy him,” they explain, “we would immediately look around for workable spaces and turn on our laptops to begin our studio time.” This ensured that one parent could work while the other looked after the baby.
As a result, their list of “fun and surprisingly productive” impromptu work spots covers the entire city. It includes a sumo wrestling venue and Sumida Aquarium – “near the penguin tank has a hidden plug,” they tell us. Meanwhile, noisy electronic stores with very comfortable gaming chairs (with fast wi-fi to upload big files) were helpful solutions alongside the reliable konbini (Japanese convenience store) which houses eating spaces and many other useful services.
Reflecting on the industry’s shifting styles of working, B&B’s Bowen admits that “perhaps what remote working has reminded me, is that we all work differently depending on our role.” For B&B, he continues, “remote working allows our days to be moulded to suit each individual or team and get the best out of them. Hybrid working also helps those not based in London and at B&B we’ve been able to tap into talent a little further afield. Individuals have more say now about where they work, empowering them to make the best choices.”