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Space Design

Earlier this week we spoke about the need for office spaces to stimulate creativity and innovation. Today we’re excited to share our favourite creative work spaces from around the world…let us know what you think. Do you wish your work space was like one of these?

It is very important to bring context to the design of your office space – it must be relevant to the work your company does. Simply introducing some quirky furniture, a foosball table and using bright colours isn’t the answer; unless of course, that is what is relevant to your work!

Here are some offices that have designed creative work spaces that are relevant to what they do, nudging their inhabitants’ creativity in the direction of their respective companies’ cultures.

Pionen Data Center, Stockholm

The location of Pionen’s data center makes for a dramatic setting. When the company got hold of this space which used to be a nuclear shelter during the Cold War era, they didn’t miss the opportunity to create something truly ‘cool’.

Located 100 feet below ground, the office is like a space station, complete with greenhouses, artificial waterfalls and simulated daylight. In fact, the inspiration behind the design was 70’s sci-fi movies – the perfect setting for a ‘high security data center’!

This is a great example of a design that puts humans first and boosts employee morale, even though only around fifteen people work here.

Rather than just concentrating on technical hardware we decided to put humans in focus,… Of course, the security, power, cooling, network, etc, are all top notch, but the people designing data centers often (always!) forget about the humans that are supposed to work with the stuff.

– Jon Karlung, CEO at Bahnhof (the ISP behind Pionen)

If an office space whose conference room floor resembles that of the Moon, whose entrance door is 16 inches thick and can withstand the impact of a nuclear bomb doesn’t make you feel important, we don’t know what will!


Social game developer Zynga definitely lives out their company culture at their headquarters in San Francisco. Their office plan has an atrium in the centre of this 6 storey building and open work desk layouts.

Everything about the space screams ‘social’ and ‘fun’. It allows for pet visitations and has an informal casual environment, which encourages creativity, and allows employees to feel comfortable in their own skin.

Rolex Learning Center

This one is not an office, but still is a work space in a sense, for students to learn, experiment and ideate. Part of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, The Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne, houses one of Europe’s largest scientific libraries (with over 500,000 printed works), a cafe and food court, workspaces, a multi purpose hall and a bookshop amongst other things.

Designed by Japanese architectural duo SANAA, this unusual, undulating building is evocative of the way humans interact and learn.

Human movements are are not linear, like the way a train moves, but curve in a more organic way.
With straight lines we can only create a crossroads, but with curves we can create more diverse interactions.

– Ryue Nishizawa, SANAA

The open design integrates with the idea of continuous discovery and endless possibilities – key elements and desired outcomes of learning.

Selgas Cano Architecture Office

Research suggests that working close to nature improves creativity and productivity. Architectural firm SelgasCano’s office in Madrid is the epitome of biophilic design, with their office being located in the middle of a forest!

The tubular building, which has one entire wall and a part of the ceiling made of glass, is half sunken into the forest floor, which means that one is at eye level with the forest floor when sitting at one’s desk.

Needless to say, there is no need for artificial lighting inside the office during the day and one only has to look out of the window or up at the ceiling for inspiration and to enjoy the many soothing and motivational benefits of being ensconced in nature, such as falling leaves, wildlife on the move or the changing daily and seasonal forest landscape.

Workbench Projects

Right here, in the hometown of Zeitgeist, Bangalore – India, is a workspace that really makes you want to jump in and tinker with something the minute you enter!

Workbench Projects, located under the Ulsoor Metro is a place for inventors and learners to prototype and test their ideas. This makerspace is split into several sections so there are areas for discussion, laser printing, designing, woodwork and electronic projects – all with a very ‘workshop’ vibe to it, motivating you as you rub shoulders with others working on something that just may be the next big thing.

These examples bring out what we spoke about in our earlier article, How To Design An Office That Stimulates Creativity, and clearly highlight how an office environment can go a long way in not only encouraging innovative thinking, but also other important elements, such as boosting employee morale, subtly nudging one towards a change in corporate culture, and gently breaking down the barriers that prevent networking and exchange of ideas.

Need some ideas on how to make your office space one that induces creativity for your particular line of work? Zeitgeist can help – reach out to us today!


Space Design

When it comes to the working world, should spaces that encourage creativity only be reserved for the offices of designers, inventors and other disciplines of the ‘creative’ kind?

Zeitgeist thinks not.

There is enough research to suggest that the firms that will survive in a rapidly changing and unpredictable future will be the ones that consistently innovate. Accordingly to Gensler:

“The drive to innovate stems from the continued effects of globalization, increased competition, and the steady shift toward a knowledge economy.”

People make a company, (yes, even those that will be AI-ridden in the future) and so it would follow that the ability of people to be creative, motivated and innovative is the need of the hour in any organisation.

But could the design of a workspace help promote creativity and innovation? Could your office space help make elastic thinkers of its inhabitants?

Zeitgeist thinks so.

Today we’ll explore some of the design elements that both startups and well established businesses can integrate into their offices to encourage and develop innovative thinkers.

Beyond developing creativity, a space also has the ability to inculcate a sense of pride and belonging in the people that work there. Further, just as a person can influence a space, so can the design of a space have an impact on people and subtly nudge them towards a desired corporate culture. This is especially useful when making the shift from archaic and often deeply ingrained hierarchical ways of working to progressive ways of working that are collaborative and transparent.


If you are looking for an office space or moving an existing business to a new space, seize the opportunity to nurture creativity from the get-go by opting for the best location and office structure you can afford.

According to THNK, locations that lend themselves to creativity include those that allow for “openness, serendipity and outside inspiration.” This could be an office with floor to ceiling glass, perhaps located at the center of a pulsating area that buzzes with activity, (much like THNK’s own office in Amsterdam that is surrounded by other creative companies, a public park, jazz bars and cinemas with lots of cultural events) one that lets in plenty of natural sunlight and/or one that has an inspiring view.

Not all of us however have the luxury of being able to locate our offices in such idyllic settings, but there are several things that can be done within an existing office space to nurture innovation too.


An open design – one that doesn’t make a person feel that he must remain confined to a particular area – is said to be the best for fostering creativity. Creativity and innovation stem from people interacting freely with each other – exchanging thoughts, sharing opinions and working together to develop ideas.

You can’t say to someone, ‘I want you to think differently, build differently, behave differently’ – and then say, ‘Go back to your desk.’ It absolutely doesn’t square with the idea that we want you to create growth. As founders and as leaders, we need to break people’s environments to truly change the way people think and create.

– David Kidder, Co-Founder – Bionic Solution

The process of innovating is made up of several phases – some that require messy, collaborative work, some that call for quiet contemplative reflection and others that call for quickly experimenting with numerous ideas to bring them to fruition for testing. So the workspace must also include private spaces for the times when deep concentration is required. The best way to achieve this is to develop a flexible workspace.

What comprises a flexible workplace? Think movable partitions and whiteboards, multi-use furniture, a floor you can mark, a wall you can illustrate and doodle on, a standing work table to induce the feeling of agility, little niches of solitude – the possibilities are endless!


Duraflor has 4 excellent guidelines to keep in mind when designing your innovative work space. Does your workplace have all four?


To further cultivate an atmosphere of agility, introduce elements that aid in quickly making an idea understandable. Innovation is born from the freedom to quickly prototype or express an idea from what’s at hand. So make sure that things like markers, PostIt notes, cardboard boxes, pins, clips, strings, chalk, glue, tape, Lego pieces….you get the idea – basically, anything that would help you to visualise or make a simple model of what you have in mind – are always close at hand.


But the MOST important thing to induce innovation, (which is also the thing that the leaders of well established companies sometimes have a hard time wrapping their heads around) is to build a culture of creativity. This calls for a change in the mind set first of all of top management. Red tape and bureaucracy do not have a place in innovative organisations; neither does working in silos; neither does a fear of failure.

This kind of thinking can be tough for older companies to imbibe, entrenched as they sometimes are in practices that follow strict hierarchy. Here’s where designing the right kind of environment can gently nudge people into thinking and ultimately behaving differently.

Are you interested in developing a workspace to steer your company towards a future where it will be relevant, valuable and thriving with people raring to come up with the next big idea?

Zeitgeist’s venture design services can help you get there – reach out to us today to be ready for tomorrow!

Next week we’ll explore some of our favourite creative office spaces from around the world. Make sure you tune in!


Design Strategy

According to the Center for Social Impact at the University of Michigan:

Social Impact is a significant, positive change that addresses a pressing social challenge.

For the change to be significant it needs to be systemic, not piecemeal.

So how does one go about maximising systemic positive change?

One of the reasons Zeitgeist advocates co-creation is because of its potential to generate innovative design that can have far reaching social impact.

Consumers today seek out brands that exemplify social responsibility, sustainable development and higher purpose; brands that answer the bigger questions such as:
– How do we design a car that reduces air pollution?
– How do we ease the difficulty parents who have terminally ill children experience?
– How can we find a way to give villagers in remote areas access to safe drinking water?

We believe co-creation provides the best approach and today we’d like to explain why.

We have scaled things down and chosen the example of waste segregation at home, to explain how co-creation offers the most effective method – one that brings about a systemic change.

The identified need here that can bring about positive social impact is – Waste Segregation.


You invest in two garbage bins and inform all the members of your home that henceforth garbage needs to be separated as wet and dry waste. You pat yourself on the back for having done your bit for the environment.

However, after two weeks, you realise that all isn’t well, when the garbage collector refuses to collect garbage from your home henceforth, since it is not being properly segregated.

How can this be? What is going wrong?

After some investigation, you discover the following: – Your 8 year-old and the house help both don’t fully understand the difference between wet and dry waste.
– The garbage pick-up is now being done at 5am and not 7am as was earlier the case. Because of this, the house help, who used to take the garbage out when the pick-up arrived, now leaves the garbage bins outdoors at night. As a result stray cats (and possibly rats!) have been attacking the bins, leaving the house help quite dejected and the garbage collector annoyed about the whole situation.


You now realise the folly of your ways. The true need can only be identified by empathising with all the parties involved in the process.

You begin to collaborate with the parties involved (except maybe for the cats and rats, because let’s face it, in all probability they don’t really care about your garbage segregation problems) and come up with ideas that could help you’ll collectively achieve the goal of proper garbage segregation.

Your ideas might include: – Using the Internet as a tool; looking for YouTube videos.
– Educating your child about segregation using words and methods that he/she is able to relate to.
– Educating your house-help about segregation in the language he understands best and perhaps getting one of those ready reckoners translated into his mother tongue.
– Helping your child and house-help understand how their small actions have a part to play in the bigger idea of protecting the environment.
– Taking the garbage collector’s suggestion and investing in dustbins more suited to the new method of garbage collection and better able to withstand those unexpected midnight assaults.
– Using your wet waste to make compost for your garden or for the community garden.

Will this be enough? It’s not possible to know, till you test the new system.

If your new ideas don’t deliver results, you might need to go back a few steps and come up with more ideas in order to achieve your goal. You might find a new problem – your son isn’t really gung-ho about ‘this whole segregation thing’. So perhaps you’ll take your co-creators to a garbage segregation dump, so that they empathise with what the garbage collector has to deal with. Maybe you could show them examples of the impact the garbage problem has had and could potentially have on the world at large. Only when they realise the urgency and importance – when they experience a paradigm shift – will they be enthusiastic and feel a responsibility towards the project.

This example isn’t intended to tell you how to solve the problem of poor garbage segregation in your home. It’s intended to expose you to the understanding that:

Only a holistic solution that takes into account all the parties involved, and brings about a paradigm shift, can result in systemic change that drives social impact.

We believe that the principles of co-creation that we explained in our previous article on the subject enable the optimum way to achieve these objectives that lead to social impact.

We’ve come up with a model that lays out the steps that lead from identifying a social need to enabling social impact. Design Thinking and collaboration – the underlying essence of co-creation – lie at the heart of the entire process.

Can you think of ways this could be applied to the world at large? Consider a large-scale social problem that bothers you – could co-creation potentially offer a more robust solution to it?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments section or at our Facebook page:


Design Strategy

Have you been thinking about trying out co-creation at your organisation, but don’t know where to begin?

Co-creation as an evolving concept can sometimes create a feeling of ambiguity. At its core however are a few basic principles around which the act of co-creation can be customised depending on need and environment.

In the first part of our series on co-creation, we explored what the concept was and how it is the optimum tool for developing solutions to complex problems. In the next part we examined companies that have been successful in their co-creation ventures. The third part looked at the inextricable link between technology and the ultimate goal of co-creation – innovation, for value creation.

This post looks at how to go about enabling co-creation. What are the key psychological and operational elements that make up a successful co-creation endeavour? We’ve narrowed it down to 7 principles.

1.  Unlock Minds

Effective co-creation requires a certain kind of mindset – an attitude that encapsulates humility, empathy and transparency.

At the heart of co-creation lies humility. A know-it-all attitude is not conducive to co-creation. The belief that there can be another and possibly better way of doing things is key.

Another vital element is the ability to empathise with the end user. This enables the development of solutions that actually solve the problem. The parties to co-creation must also be transparent with each other, which in turn means that a high degree of trust and integrity must exist.

Not all organisations (either intentionally or unintentionally) embody these aspects in their corporate culture. The first step would thus be to expose the people in your team to the synergetic potential of co-creation. Besides sharing concepts, sharing practical examples of co-creation, such as those we spoke about in our article Co-Creation: More Than Just a Buzzword is an impactful way to showcase the power of co-creation.

Clear directives and training, which explain the benefits of co-creation open up the mind to new ways of innovating, and state what the purpose of the endeavour is, without being too restrictive in nature, so as not to stifle creativity.

The idea is to empower, not overpower your team.

2.  Plan for Harmony, Prepare for Chaos

As with any successful venture, a good plan is essential. Besides setting clear objectives, the co-creation plan must also take into consideration how the initiator will go about infusing a culture of humility, empathy and transparency – if it doesn’t already exist – into the company.

This isn’t something that can happen overnight, but as the initiator you must work to foster such an environment, keeping in mind that co-creation requires a change in mindset and perhaps a change in organisational culture as well, which employees may not always take in their stride.

It can be demotivating when the required change isn’t forthcoming. You must thus always keep in mind that a change in mindset is a process requiring patience and persistence, and not a one time event.

Co-creation can be successful only if a spirit of collaboration is encouraged and nurtured. This could take the form of collaboration within the organisation, with outsiders, with the end user or with other stakeholders.

However, collaborating means that several parties from various backgrounds come together – a situation that if not structured properly, could lead to undesired outcomes, misunderstandings and chaos in general.

Having a plan and sticking to it alone isn’t enough. One must be prepared to handle change and the uncertainty it can bring. In fact, unpredictability must be embraced, for it is through unpredictability that one is able to discover new possibilities and explore their application and feasibility.

3.  Put People First

Any co-creation endeavour must put people first. This takes two forms.

First, your team must be clear that the end user’s requirements must remain at the forefront of their decision making and ideation processes at all times. This could be extended to include encouraging the end user to explore his creativity in discovering a solution. End users have the invaluable advantage of hands on experience, but they don’t always recognise this fact.

Secondly, you, as the initiator, must keep your co-creation team motivated at all times. Incentives, recognition and appreciation are key; people like to be valued for their contribution. Equally important is feedback and support, to nurture development of the concept, keep lines of communication open and to help overcome barriers, which are an inevitable outcome of a new way of doing things.

Co-creation should be looked at as a win-win for all concerned and must focus on value creation for all the stakeholders involved – this ensures enthusiastic participation.

4.  Connect Creativity

The trends and innovations of the past 10 years or so across industries and businesses appear to indicate a shift towards more creative, non-traditional ways of developing solutions. This ties in directly with co-creation, which encourages connecting diverse creativity.

For example, one doesn’t traditionally see an architect working with a psychologist. But what if the psychologist could help the architect to understand the behaviour patterns and motivations of the particular market the architect is designing for? Isn’t it likely to generate a more user-centric and effective design?

As an initiator of co-creation you should encourage and facilitate connections between the people who could be most effective to your particular projects. At large companies this could also mean letting go of traditional approaches to innovation and management hierarchies.

In order to solve complex problems, people should be allowed to to freely and rapidly exchange information. This could take various forms, from reducing red tape to facilitating online platforms for interaction.

5.  Pick Pertinent Partners

While Point 4 above indicates opening up the avenues of creativity by including co-creators from various backgrounds, it is important to understand that this must be balanced with choosing the correct people for your particular project.

For example, if attempting to achieve major breakthrough ideas, it makes sense to include technologically sound partners – the best if possible – sometimes even with a competitor, as our example of co-creation between Apple and Microsoft in Part-2 of this series showed. On the other hand, if co-creating something for the greater good, it makes sense to include people with similar values, interests and goals. Wikipedia is a good example, with the common goal of participants being knowledge sharing at a single point.

6.  Capitalise on Technology

Technology, as discussed in our earlier article, can be a big asset to co-creation. The idea though shouldn’t be to try to utilise every new technological innovation that is developed, but rather to examine which technologies could enhance your particular co-creation undertaking, in terms of speed, quality, reach and precision.

7.  Fail Faster, Grow Quicker

Finally, any co-creation endeavour must accept that not every idea that comes to light may be an appropriate one. The initiator must be prepared for this and be able to weed out the ideas that are not in keeping with the objectives.

Similarly, preparation must be made for what will happen post the idea generation stage – an action plan for how to practically apply a great idea. Once ideas have been shortlisted, it is important to rapidly prototype and test the practical feasibility of it their application. The faster you eliminate ideas or discover potential problems, the closer you are to finding the most effective solution.

Have you tried co-creation at your organisation? Share your experience with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page @zeitgeistdesignanddevelopment


Design Strategy, Trends

Technology has become cheaper and thus more accessible over the years. Low cost mobile phones, computers and the Internet, coupled with tools such as social media and data analytics have resulted in the following outcomes:

Shift in Power

The growth of platforms like Facebook, Google and Youtube, primarily enabled by low-cost Internet, has enhanced cyclical connectivity and feedback loops which enable transparency. The common individual’s access to information has played a major role in shifting where the power to influence lies.

Today’s potential customer is more likely to believe the reviews of an online community and less likely to be influenced by a company’s advertising efforts. Power now lies with social groups or communities. Customers are able to gain more knowledge about a particular product, as well as of its competitors’ and interact with each other quickly, giving them the power to demand customised products that better suit their needs. Today’s customer is motivated to play a key role in the innovation process. Ideas for innovation are also able to come from sources such as vendors, partners and other key players, and are no longer limited to the traditional internal source – the R & D department.

Global Collaboration and Enhanced Mobility

The World Wide Web has enabled a global civilization connected by an invisible force – the Internet. Information travels rapidly, and distances no longer feel intimidating. The world is literally at your fingertips.

Information Sharing and Analysis

Individuals can collaborate in an intangible environment enabled by high-speed Internet, social media platforms, inexpensive computers and mobile phones. People from different parts of the world, with different areas of expertise, can all sit at the same virtual ‘table’ and co-create.

Social media platforms allow for rapid two-way flow of information between creators of products/services and end users. Further, the information is no longer limited to just text, but also has visual aid. This means understanding problems or needs becomes much easier, potentially allowing for better solutions to be developed.

Because of technology, large amounts of information can be quickly shared and the same data set can be analysed by people with different areas of expertise. Big data and data analytics allow firms to better understand and segment the market, identify new trends and needs, and eventually help in developing mutually beneficial marketing strategies.

In short, technology today enables:

– Access to various problem solvers from different backgrounds and with diverse expertise

– Rapid communication and information sharing.

These features form the pillars of a successful co-creative endeavour.


With artificial intelligence predicted to take over large chunks of the workforce in the future, algorithms developed from repetitive human patterns will influence innovation.

Augmented collaboration will also enhance the experience and efficiency of co-creation.There are multiple innovators currently working on trying to directly connect our brain’s neurology to technology.The day we can share our thoughts and ideas just by thinking of a specific person may not be that far away.

Augmented collaboration will also enhance the experience and efficiency of co-creation.There are multiple innovators currently working on trying to directly connect our brain’s neurology to technology.The day we can share our thoughts and ideas just by thinking of a specific person may not be that far away.

Advancements in technology are setting up a platform that will allow for co-creation and innovation to take place at an unprecedented pace.

Will you be ready?

Perhaps our article next week – The Golden Principles of Co-creation – can help. Stay tuned.


Design Strategy

At the root of good product, service or system design is the desire to create something of use and value to the intended end user. So if your goal is to create good design, keeping your focus on either solving the end user’s problem or enhancing his existing experience is key to getting you there.

In the past, when developing new products or improving existing ones, innovation, in general, was based on the interpretation of information gathered via market research. It was restrictive in its approach.

A more recent innovation technique that is particularly effective in today’s world is co-creation. About ten years ago, it was observed that: “Companies today are moving from just collecting customer reactions to actively inviting customers to participate in creating and developing new products. The traditional company-centric approach to product innovation is giving way to a world in which companies co-create products with consumers.” *

The concept of co-creation has evolved since then and today it has expanded to allow not only customers, but also other stakeholders and professionals to be a part of the innovation process. The Financial Times Lexicon definition explains the evolved concept well:


The problems and needs of people today are much more complex and interconnected than they were 20 years ago, requiring more innovative solutions than ever before. Co-creation, being multi-pronged in its approach, has the power to enable us to progress:

1. From Obscurity to Clarity

Complex problems can be difficult to break down. As opposed to many other approaches, co-creation often takes place at the beginning of the innovation process and involves the end user right from the start. This means that even before you begin the ideation phase, you are one step closer to creating value – by obtaining a true understanding of what the end user really requires. It’s like a doctor prescribing treatment for your ailment – the treatment will only be effective if a correct diagnosis has been made.

2. From Detachment to Empathy

Co-creation gives designers, business owners, researchers, vendors and other stakeholders the opportunity to get into the shoes of the end user. If you learn to empathise, you are more likely to approach the task at hand with greater compassion. In other words, you are more likely to create appropriate and valuable solutions.

3. From Alienation to Involvement

Co-creation encourages responsible co-ownership – when the parties involved in the process feel empowered to make a difference and have a stake in the outcome, they are likely to be more invested.

4. From Rigidity to Customisation

By enabling participation of the end user and offering customisation, co-creation allows you to do more than just problem solve; it provides you with a means to enable customer delight, a valuable element in building and maintaining brand loyalty in today’s highly competitive market place.

5. From Uncertainty to Cohesiveness

Complexity is fraught with uncertainty. By bringing varied expertise to the table, co-creation allows a complex problem to be examined from several angles. This cohesive approach allows you to transform fragmented ideas into robust, effective solutions.

Co-creation, like the Internet, empowers you to use the collective force of a group to enhance lives and the world you live in.

It is this intrinsic synergy of co-creation that enables us to deliver innovative solutions, even in the face of today’s highly complex and ever evolving environment.

*Peter C. Honebein and Roy F. Cammarano, “Customers at Work,” Marketing Management 15, no.8 (January-February 2006): 26-31; Peter C. Honebein and Roy F. Cammarano, Creating Do-It-Yourself Customers: How Great Customer Experiences Build Great Companies (Mason, OH: Texere Southwestern Educational Publishing, 2005).