More than a year ago, my graphic design studio Wolken Communica decided to shed our office of 10 years. We didn’t move to a new office—we decided to drop the whole office concept altogether. We’re still Wolken Communica, but as we went mobile, we also started calling ourselves Studio Gypsies.
The idea was to avoid the traditional studio in order to challenge ourselves—to reconsider how we work and how we look at the world. Laptops at the ready, we bunk down with our fellow designers, clients and friends, changing our location like we change our underwear—every two months or so.
Having worked in the same building for more than a decade, we’re making up for lost time. We’re traveling the city of Seattle, truly tasting it in a way that no other business can say they are. We’ve been seemingly everywhere—a warehouse in SODO, a Post Alley overlook at Pike Place Market, an underground bunker on Capitol Hill and a dock on Lake Union. That’s only the beginning. And, peripherally, the neighborhood coffee joints and pubs we’ve been to? Multiply the number of places we’ve worked seven-fold. (Maybe eleven-fold. OK. Fourteen-fold.)
No longer is there a worn path from our beds to desks— we now have to think about where we’re headed every day. More than a few times we’ve started our morning commute headed in precisely the wrong direction. And we’ve frequently mumbled Dude, where’s my car?! as we end the day. It may be a new set of work hazards, but they’re better than the old, traditional ones.
Since our two-man design team has been traveling for a year, I’ve compiled a list of things I should have learned by now, for those who might dare to follow our caravan’s path.
What We Should Have Learned by Now
Having to explain our business concept will never cease.
We are not freelancers; we are running our design studio in your studio. We are not in-house contractor designers; we will work on our clients’ work while we’re in your space. We barter, trade, pay and perform for the space. We appreciate the opportunities provided.
Everyone is more creative when surrounded by other creative people.
That is certainly true for us. It is also true for our hosts, as they seem to like that we provide a slightly disruptive element to the status quo.
Not all people are creative.
(Even when they say so on their business cards.)
The more you have to carry in your backpack, the less excited you are about working remotely.
The faster you pare down your bag for the daily commute, the happier you, and your back, will be. Our last change of venue took 45 minutes and that included breakdown, travel-time and set-up. Other than the electronic goods, the only other accessories you really need are scratch paper, a serviceable pen, a stapler and all-purpose tape for MacGyver moments.
Public-bathroom, hot-air hand-dryers dry damp clothes well.
If you’re committed to riding your bike to work, this comes in handy. One caveat: It also helps if you don’t mind standing in a public bathroom semi-nude.
Not all connections to the Internet are created equal.
Check the bed before jumping in.
Contrary to popular belief, coffee is not regularly available in every office in the Seattle metropolitan area.
Despite this, it is safe to assume that you’ll be surrounded by four or more options to buy coffee—unless you’re in SODO. Then, your options become more limited: items that fell off the back of a truck, and prostitutes, mostly.
The Cloud can’t come soon enough.
Clients really care if you can access the archives of past work you’ve done for them so you can help them fast on something now. Storing old jobs can be an issue—there’s only so much room in a laptop.
Clients really do all say the same thing: “I wish I were doing what you’re doing!”
We’ve found that our clients are stoked that we’re doing something fun. And as for the quality of the work they’re getting—we think we are doing some of our best work ever.
That’s what we’ve learned. We realize that not everyone can pack up their office and go Full Gypsy, but for those who can, it pays in spades for all involved. And in the end, that’s the most important thing we’ve learned: Everyone benefits. We all get better. It is symbiosis. It is kick-ass.
Look around: Are there a couple of desks in your space that you never use? Why not host someone for a month or two? What do you have to lose? Better yet, what do you have to gain?
See you around town.