Designing Workspaces For Creativity

Guest Post: David Gillis is a partner at Teehan+Lax, a digital design and strategy firm in Toronto. After being in their new office for over a year, David examines how the design has fostered collaboration and creativity among employees. Photography by John McArdle.

It’s been over a year since we moved into our new space in Liberty Village, and believe it or not, it’s taken us about as long to finally settle-in. We really love it here, but always have ideas for improving things to make it even more of a creative and collaborative environment. So if you’re interested in updating your workspace, or maybe have some tips for us, here’s a little insight into what it’s like to come to work at 109 Atlantic Ave.

If you do some digging into research about collaborative workspaces, you’ll come across a few main themes:


It turns out that literally seeing what’s going on around you where you work can really help to stoke the creative and collaborative process. One of the most visually distinctive elements of our space is all of the glass. We’ve found that this has given us more than just a cool aesthetic—it reveals where the action is, who’s involved, and who’s available to be pulled-in. Even the main boardroom, a central feature in the office layout, is enclosed in glass. Far from distracting, we’ve found it makes our clients feel like they’re right in the middle of the work environment, inviting more active participation and involvement.

Sidebar: Glass walls also double as a canvas—they’re perfect for throwing up post-it notes and even sketching down ideas. We’ve found that liquid chalk markers like these ones work best for legibility.

Something we’re working on this year is finding better ways to see and contribute to each others’ work as it evolves. Besides the odd over-the-shoulder glimpse, our team structure usually means we don’t have insight into other projects until the final reveal. Having an automatic way to stream WIP from tools like Basecamp to displays around the office might be an interesting thing to try.


Another thing that makes a big difference in collaborative dynamics is physical posture. For example, people tend to operate in a critical mode when seated vs. more active postures. I’ve noticed that the lack of seating around a nearby whiteboard area helps to foster engagement and keeps meetings lively and centred on co-creation.

I’ve even started to use this area for client reviews and working sessions. Breaking out of the boardroom is a great way to get everyone’s head in the game, and makes for a more agile and lean workflow.


Although we had some ideas for how to design collaborative affordances into the office layout, we’ve found that the ability to modify and use the space in ways we hadn’t envisioned has been just as important. Whiteboard-everything makes the entire office into a creative commons and means that pop-up work areas can happen all over the place. And it wasn’t long before folks started pulling furniture into different places to make these areas more useful and productive.

In retrospect, this ability to manipulate the space has been really important, and something that we will try to facilitate more in the future. Tools like drafting dots, giant sticky pads and other portable surfaces are beginning to come into greater demand.

Sidebar: One of the main things that’s made our Labs group successful is carving out dedicated space (not just time or resources) for them to own and customize. “Going into the lab” to work on a labs experiment—something creative associates have the opportunity to do throughout the year—becomes a tangible experience.


One of the things we value and embrace at Teehan+Lax is constant evolution—and the environment we work within is no exception. We’re very lucky to have such a great space to begin with (conceived of and brought to life by Roy Banse Design), but are also stoked about the possibilities we’ve yet to realize. If something in this post inspired you, or if you’ve got something that’s working great at your workplace, let us know!