Creative Spaces

Finding An Inspirational Balance of Organization and Chaos

Dan Lee
Dan Lee
Chief Creative Officer

The global pandemic has had companies around the world reconsidering their gathering spaces. Meanwhile, more and more workers find themselves able to work remotely. The opportunities to find oneself in optimal (or, by the same token, suboptimal) work settings have multiplied — and along with that, the ability for companies and workers to determine the spaces in which they operate. 

Organization is (usually) the hero; Chaos is not (always) the enemy

As you consider optimizing spaces for yourself or your own team, one easy comparative model that can help sort out your options is the Organization-Chaos Spectrum. And you might be surprised by the levels of each that are truly vital for your work to flourish.

At its best, a high-organization space is one where everyone and everything has a known place, encouraging the right amount of access and stimulating solid work. At its worst, a high-organization space can be sterile and authoritarian, dissuading creativity and punishing agile thinking. 

Chaos, as a counterpoint, is not the enemy of a thriving business. Companies should be equipped to handle the unpredictability of everyday life, with the agility to gracefully pivot when obstacles appear on the road instead of riding with a white-knuckle deathgrip into oblivion. 

Furthermore, a purposeful amount of chaos and friction are proven stimulants of greater creativity and critical thinking. Businesses like Pixar and Apple invest in designing physical spaces that foster serendipitous interactions between employees for this very reason.

At its best, a high-chaos space is one that promotes productive physical and metaphysical collisions, without causing excessive distraction to the detriment of the company’s mission. At its worst, a high-chaos space wears away at a company’s mental health, diminishes productivity, and deters A-Players. 

The Choice is Yours 

So, should you opt for the cleanliness and hustle-friendly vibes of a sleek, chic, minimalist interior with high-tech accoutrements, or pursue playful, rugged spaces with exposed features and charming imperfections? When working from home, should you create a stark, focused environment to power through tasks with minimal distraction, or venture to the local coffee shop to harness the social energy? 

The answer, of course, is: it depends. Rather than simply pitting styles of environment against one another, the nature of your work, your own tendencies and habits, and the makeup of your team should assist in dictating your business’s optimal environment. 

Ultimately, you want the minimum amount of Organization necessary to keep work moving and people thriving — placing just enough boundaries to limit, and harness, the creative power of the inevitable Chaos that comes with pursuing your company’s mission.

give me the gist
You want the minimum amount of Organization necessary to keep work moving and people thriving — placing just enough boundaries to limit, and harness, the creative power of the inevitable Chaos that comes with pursuing your company’s mission.

Optimizing the Balance

For team-based businesses like ours, here are three tips we’ve found useful for defining and fostering the ideal amount of Organization and Chaos: 

  • Pay attention to how you and/or your team actually function.
    Observe the nuances and trends around the various activities that your team must undertake to be successful — such as the number of meetings requiring private rooms, the amount of workers requiring access to equipment, and so on. These details should determine the layout and structure of your space. Reduce friction for certain crucial, repeatable activities, but allow for enough chaos to stimulate creative & critical thinking. 
  • Give every square inch of your physical space a job — even if that job is breathing room.
    From a graphic design perspective, margins and padding afford content the necessary negative space to encourage comprehension. This absolutely applies to interiors and workspaces, which can suffer from claustrophobic clutter or, on the flip side, feel so barren as to be discouraging. Know the purpose of your spaces and preserve their integrity as much as possible.
  • Invest in unique elements that reinforce your culture and values.
    Decor for its own sake can make your space look like a cheap hotel. On the other hand, stripping your workspace of all character and fun visual elements can create an overbearing, dehumanizing effect. Rather than swinging between these two extremes, identify a few meaningful decorative objects and art pieces that speak to the culture of your company — things that contribute to the atmosphere and the activities you want to encourage.
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