Pixar: Getting Animated Over Office Space
Office space design is big business. And Pixar is one company that has got its workspace down to a ‘P’.
Office space should be many things. In an ideal world, it will reflect the culture, ethos and aspirations of the company it’s home to, as well as providing a stimulating work environment that gets the very best out of the people that work there.
The late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios, did just that. When setting up Pixar’s headquarters in 1999, Jobs intended it to be a place that “promoted encounters and unplanned collaborations”, as he believed this sparked creativity and innovation. According to Office Snapshots, he wanted the space to “make people get out of their offices and mingle”.
This is something that serviced office space does extremely well. Business centres are home to multiple organisations and the vast majority provide plenty of communal space, which enables natural collaboration. This in turn helps to foster creativity, inspiration and the sharing of new ideas, not to mention stacks of business networking opportunities.
Back at Pixar, for these very reasons, a vast central atrium was created to act as a central “mingling” hub for the campus. Around this central space is a reception, employee mailboxes, cafe, games, a gym, viewing rooms and a large theatre. The idea was to encourage conversations and bring quieter types into contact with more people, to “make things happen”.
As Jobs puts it, the aim was “to keep his young animation staff happy – and animated.”
John Lasseter, PixarΓÇÖs chief creative officer, said: “Steve’s theory worked from day one… I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”
Of course many businesses have neither the resource nor the budget to tailor-make their own office property. But there are plenty of ways to inject a little bit of Pixar’s magic into your own office space. Here’s how:
- Think open plan: At every given opportunity, open up your office space to encourage unplanned collaboration between coworkers – just like Steve Jobs’ vision. After all, it didn’t do his empire any harm.
- Make it fun: Scatter mementos around your office space that are fun, and remind your workers why they’re there. In Pixar’s case, the space is filled with cartoon characters. You can fill your space with reminders too – such as famous quotes or samples of your best works. If you’re really struggling, turn the challenge over to your staff and ask for their suggestions.
- Encourage expression: Just like Pixar’s animators who have free rein to go creative on their workspace, you could also allow staff to decorate (within reason) their workspace with objects or themes that express who they are. You might want to set a few ground rules though – or you might just find yourself at odds with your office space contract.
How do you use your office space to generate creativity and collaboration between employees?
Image: Pixar Animation Studios’ central atrium. Photo by Jason Pratt