FormFiftyFive: What is Open Studio Club and what caused you to create it?
Couch: Open Studio Club is a platform for artists and designers to find interesting spaces to work around the world. I created it because I felt a change in the way people were working and an increase in the numbers of freelancers.
Design Week asked me in 2010 what advice I’d give graduates, and I felt the most interesting work was happening in small groups along Kingsland Road [East London creative neighborhood], not in agencies. Freelancers starting out often can’t find affordable space to rent, yet there’s lots of free space in agencies around the world. My recommendation was to hang out with interesting people and do interesting things, not hurry to join an agency.
FormFiftyFive: How difficult/easy has it been to get studios on board for your free desk initiative
Couch: I had this idea of launching with 10 top award-winning agencies that would inspire other agencies to get involved. I wanted to get Anthony Burrill involved to give the project some creative authority — I thought he would bring weight to it. His support has been amazing. We went down to Harvey Lloyd and did the poster, I then asked loads of agencies to get involved. I wanted it to be global.
I don’t invite agencies anymore, they self-list and it’s growing but the challenge is communicating what’s in it for the agency.
Agencies need to be more open and have more dialogue with creative people outside the walls of the studio. A lot of the agencies that got on board to launch the initiative understand that way of working. Poke, Magpie, Moving Brands, Hort; there’s something in the character of those agencies that constantly look outside for new ideas. That’s what makes studio life very inspiring for the people who work there.
I am not up on the creative studios of London, but I think this is a great idea and likely to benefit the agencies involved just as much as the starving freelancers. Studios are now participating from the world over: London, Brussels, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Florence, Melbourne, Barcelona, Denizli (Turkey), New York, Shanghai, Nelson (New Zealand), St Petersburg, San Francisco, and more.
Here’s some of the studios on the site:
These are the rules that make it clear it is more like a fellowship or an artist residency than just an arrangement to drop in and work out of the office.
This is not the busted-wide-open business I was hinting at recently when I wrote
“The real revolution is when businesses become wide open, outsiders will simply show up and start working on company projects.”
But it is a good mechanism to on-ramping that future.