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Designing Productivity: Where Coworking Spaces Intersect With Art

Yash Chawlani
Designing Productivity: Where Coworking Spaces Intersect With Art

The secret is out: hip, trendy communal flexible workspaces are in, and working in drab, depressing, fluorescent-filled cubicles is out. But while most people understand that a sophisticated office design boosts morale, many don't know how to achieve such effective interior design.

Even fewer people seem to realize how much design and art intersect with productivity. Imagine, a good Coworking space boosting your digital marketing productivity, hard to believe but it holds true. Through proper art, design, lighting, and more, we can enact truly productive spaces where workers will flock to hunker down and churn out their assignments.

But what exactly makes a productive space?

How can you use art to boost productivity, mood, and more? In this post, we'll detail how communal workspaces take advantage of light and art, and we'll go through some examples that highlight how one achieves this feat.

What Can We Learn from the First Coworking Spaces?

Teasingly referred to as the "geek ground zero," Exberliner is much more than a meeting place for the sci-fi happy nerds of Germany. Instead, it's a workspace, a communal space, and an overall zealot.

Exberliner - first coworking space in the world

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For those who don't know, Exberliner is the first communal work spot in the world.

But what about this metallic, post-apocalyptic neon-happy space is conducive towards work? Everything about C-Base is counterintuitive towards what we know about productivity. It's windowless, cramped, and cluttered with a haphazard design.

Yet this unique atmosphere puts workers in precisely the type of mode they wish to emulate. It attracts a specific niche audience: hackers.

By crafting a perfect setting for hackers to hack, C-Base excels at creating an effective (albeit unique) work environment.

There's much to learn about the success of C-Base and Exberliner. The DNA of the original coworking concept provides insight into how we can construct modern communal workspaces.

For example, owners of coworking spaces may notice how exactly the owners of C-Base targeted a specific niche. Every detail in the hackerspace is enticing for hackers. By developing such a specific workspace, members of its target audience flocked to the space in droves.

In this sense, owners of communal workspaces can translate this lesson into their workspaces.

Who do you hope to bring to your workspace? Entrepreneurs? Creatives? Artists and Illustrators?

By nailing down a specific target audience, coworking space owners can craft a perfect work environment and let their business come to them.

What Attracts Workers to Coworking Spaces?

As more of us began to work from home during the tumultuous times of COVID, some may have noticed that their productivity levels plummeted. The fact that our brains had difficulty working from home for a year and a half should come as no surprise.

More and more studies are emerging to support the merit of separating work from home.

According to a study published by Michigan State University, work/family spillover negatively affects mood, productivity, and general quality of life. When people can't create clear boundaries between the two, their work and home lives suffer.

Members working at the desks at a coworking space

In this sense, creating clear, separate spaces dramatically boosts productivity and quality of life.

But there are more benefits to coworking spaces than the simple separation between work and home life. Communal workspaces boast plenty of other perks, including enhanced views or better amenities that may not be available at home.

While some may view these as trivial, a rich environment with plenty of amenities boost productivity and improve mental health. Psychologically speaking, "an environment with lots of novelty, unpredictability, and complexity can focus our attention."

This means that anything from that new kombucha on tap to ultra-modern seat design can significantly impact your workers' abilities to perform their duties.

Another element to consider is that many people become more productive when surrounded by the familiar hum of other coworkers. Fostering new relationships boosts mood and strengthens our cognitive abilities.

Therefore, all that water cooler talk isn't just meaningless gossip; those interactions actually strengthen our minds in ways we can't replicate when we work from home.

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Design and Coworking Spaces are Interlinked

Coworking spaces often distinguish themselves with great amenities, like a gym, showers, eateries, and lounge/fun areas. But many coworking spaces have the same amenities, so they compete by increasing luxury and making those spaces more innovative.

Because of the many different space styles inside most coworking spaces, there's inspiration from every angle.

As a coworking space owner, it's important to incorporate inspiring designs into every room, such as:

  • Kitchen/eating areas
  • Gyms
  • Outdoor spaces
  • Soft seating areas
  • Recreational spaces
  • Cubicle spaces

Between furniture design, light, paint colors, and more, you have a limitless opportunity to craft delectable designs in each one of your spaces.  If you’re skilled enough to do so, it may help to use a graphic design platform to create a mock-up of what your coworking space will look like before building anything, or just engage an interior design firm.

If you're low on inspiration, check out some of these examples below to brainstorm how to design your coworking building as effectively as possible.

How Aesthetically Pleasing Spaces Can Foster Productivity

It should come as no surprise that the amount of light severely impacts one's productivity, mood, and general happiness with their work.

A study published by Sage Journals outlines precisely this phenomenon, detailing how light, opened, and closed spaces directly impact our psychology.

members at a coworking space

Of course, it doesn't take a rocket scientist (or, in our case, a PhD psychologist from Sage Journal) to realize there's a direct correlation between natural light and productivity.

However, many people don't realize that there's even more of a parallel to graphic design, negative space, silhouettes, optical illusions, and geometric vs. natural shapes, and how these ideas further impact our productivity.

Other studies, too, have found similar results. In one such study, researchers found "office design has a substantial impact on the employees' performance," according to researchers Rasha Mahmoud and Ali El-Zeiny.

They even found that the placement of plants, lighting, spatial arrangement, design of furniture impacts not only productivity but absentee rate among their employees.

As a result, a growing number of companies are using the interior design of the workplace to help attract and keep employees.

Phone Booth: Coworkrs Gowanus

Phone Booth at Coworkrs Gowanus coworking space

Here we see an example of perhaps one of the most aggressive transformations; a phone booth area into a working office. Created by Coworkrs Gowanus, this phone booth office maximizes space while still enhancing creativity and boosting productivity.

But how did they achieve such a feat?

One of the more striking elements you'll notice is the mural of The Wizard of Oz. This mural does more than reminisce about a classic film; it also works to subtly open the room to make workers feel much more open, free, and productive.

The mural, too, opens up what otherwise would be a cramped space. The natural color palette was an intelligent choice; yellow was used to brighten up a dark area. It's inviting, it's engaging, and it pulls you in. You want to be in this room.

The glass creates a larger sense of space in an otherwise cramped area. Because the walls are made of glass, users feel unlimited by walls and like they have their sense of privacy while still feeling part of a bigger space.

Not only that, but the all-glass wall sheds more light into the area, which, paired with the bright yellow mural, increases natural light into the room.

There's also a great contrast between the metal and glass aesthetic and the mid-century antique wooden chair.

By blending modern elements with mid-century antiques, the viewer feels a sense of dynamism attached to the room, engaging their intellect. The plant, too, helps add a bit more life and colour into the room, also helps make what could feel like a 2D design feel a little more 3D.

As a result, the viewer gains a life-like, immersive feel with as small of a detail as a plant.

Mixed Coworking Space: Coworkrs Gowanus

The first thing you'll notice about the Mixed Coworking Space is the warm, welcoming, rustic design. An open floor plan allows for easy collaboration and fulfills users' social needs.

Coworkrs Gowanus coworking space

The space perfectly blends industrial design with rustic. Exposed brick gives it that city feel, and open windows not only work to flood the area with plenty of natural light but also make you feel like you're in the city, part of the working people.

Simultaneously, the space is warm and inviting, allowing users to want to spend time here. This is a place to hunker down and work.

The muted colors here are phenomenally effective, as it allows users not to get distracted by loud colors and designs, but at the same time not being mundane. As a result, users can have their minds wander without leaning too far in the other direction and getting distracted.

The mixture of different textures keeps the mind stimulated. Here, you'll notice that the wood flooring, which could connote a cold feeling, is replaced by individual rugs, bringing warmth to the space.

1st-floor kitchen: Coworkrs Gowanus

Unsurprisingly, a band of award-winning artists, architects, and trailblazers played a hand in the design of not only the Coworkrs Gowanus but in this 1st-floor kitchen as well.

Among these talented designers and artists are WhIsBe, Thomas Leeman, Justin Horowitz, Elide Rita, and Keziban Barry.

One of the formidable players in this design team, renowned architect Thomas Leeman came into this project wanting to push the design of Brooklyn further instead of relying on old architecture tropes and cliches.

He says the blue from the Coworkrs Gowanus logo played an integral role in his inspiration and, as we can see, this blue comes across in many of the designs, including this sleek 1st-floor kitchen.

Interestingly enough, the building was originally a tile factory. As such, the designers worked hard to avoid "rustic Brooklyn factory cliches" and to craft a space that promotes and understands the Brooklyn community and culture.

However, some elements remain from the space's heritage, including the raw industrial feel and strong, modern geometric patterns and colors.

Crew Collective

The first thing one might notice about the Crew Collective is its opulence. And it makes sense why: this grandiose community workspace was originally the 1920s Royal Bank of Canada by the New York architectural firm York & Sawye.

Crew Collection coworking space interior

With its marble mosaic floors, brass bars, golden chandeliers, and coffered ceiling, this community workspace oozes grandeur, splendour, and elegance. Through a series of rich architecture elements, the Crew Collection is undoubtedly a niche workplace.

These rich elements inspire productivity and provoke an internal desire to strive for perfection for those who work in this environment.

Italian artist Angelo Magnanti initially designed the building in the early 1900s, and the building owners have done a superb job at keeping the interior as close to Magnanti's vision as nearly two hundred years later.

The Work ProjectHong Kong 

The Work Project in Hong Kong does community workspace like no other as they expertly meld modern design with lush elements from the natural world.

The Work Project coworking space

Take, for instance, their living wall installation, which is unlike any other.

The Work Project coworking space interior

The wall is crafted with lush plant life, which oozes a natural feel with its deep, powerful greens. Not only does this wall work as a functional aspect as a built-in air purifier, but the wall art aims to immerse workers in a more earthy feel, which boosts morale, mood, and productivity.

Then, the space takes a turn for the modern with its furniture design. The light fixtures are attractive with a unique molecule design, which not only gives warmth and light but does so in an exciting way.

Ultramodern seating not only gives the design some edge and flair but also works to keep you sitting upright to maximize blood flow and keep you aware, awake, and heightened.

The Work Project also takes advantage of light and dark spaces in exciting ways. Here, they section off specific "dark mode" spaces for those who need to stay ultra-focused.

The separation between light and dark areas allows workers of various needs to still be as productive as possible within the same working space.


Strolling through Hollywood, you'll stumble upon Neuehouse: one of the city's most prominent, famous buildings.

Neue House coworking space

Here, history was made.

From Orson Wells to Lucille Ball, to Janis Joplin, to the Beach Boys, when you walk the halls of Neuehouse, you walk in the footsteps of legacy.

That feeling of history, legacy, and greatness now transplants onto its workers who inhabit this new communal workspace. The owners have done an excellent job blending old architecture with an updated design to promote productivity.

Hard cement with warm rugs gives it sort of a mysterious, intoxicating, luscious look that you want to spend more and more time in.

The FarmNew York

The Farm is a unique coworking space. Building creators found a century-old barn in the farmlands of Southern Missouri and decided to transport the barn (piece by piece) smack dab in the middle of New York City.

The Farm coworking space

As a result, this communal workspace brings a unique design. It's crafted with organic design and showcases nature and the natural beauty of farm life.

Plenty of natural light and light design energizes and invigorates workers to set them up for productivity and mental clarity.

Not only does the design boast nature as its centerpiece, but the furniture is designed with comfort in mind so that users can relax while they work.

Wrap Up

From the lush design of Crew Collective to the comforting design of Farm House, creating a communal workspace is all about finding a niche audience and going from there.

As we learn more about the psychology behind collaborative workspaces, more exciting design elements are being integrated into work areas to boost morale and productivity.

The industry is constantly changing, but one thing is for sure: when we design workspaces that spur collaboration and innovation, we're stepping in the right direction.

The article was written by Yash Chawlani. Yash is a Freelance Content Marketing Strategist who is known by his personal brand Merlin. He specializes in SEO and Social Media and helps B2B and SaaS companies out there with his top-notch content strategies. In his spare time, you can either find him in the gym or on the football field. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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