Workspace Ideas: Inside StudioConover's San Diego Office

For this year's Creative Team of the Future project, we surveyed nearly 600 AIGA members about the state of the creative industry.

And we were a little surprised by one topic that prompted a passionate response: workspace. The creative professionals we surveyed inhabit a variety of settings, and we want to give you a glimpse into some real-life offices as inspiration for improving your own workspace. We started with a virtual tour of freelance designer Jessica Jones' bright orange home office, and now we're taking a peek inside StudioConover.

This six-person San Diego firm encompasses two creative practices under one roof. The company offers full-service branding, primarily for the building industry, as well as architectural consulting, which might involve choosing colors or materials for anything from a college campus to a new subdivision.

For more than 20 years, the firm rented the same San Diego office space, but in late 2011, David and Cecelia Conover, the husband-and-wife team behind the business, took the plunge and bought a building. They gutted the raw space and set about creating the perfect 2,000 square foot environment for their team.

David talked with us about the firm's gorgeous open-plan office:

What's your favorite thing about your workspace? Why do you love it?
The single favorite thing is that the company rent is going toward the mortgage! When it comes to the physical space, I think my favorite thing is that it's fun to be in. The materials are very textured, just like our business.

What's the most unique or characteristic piece of decor in your office?
We wanted recycled wood to divide off our conference area, and our vendor told us they had some old high school bleacher seats that could be cut down. We said, "Don't change them at all! We want them exactly as they were when we sat on them in high school."

I think one of the boards even has a Slayer logo carved into it. Literally, the seat numbers are etched into the wood − 87, 88 and 89. I look at those numbers and imagine people sitting in the seats.

What might we be surprised to find on your desk or in your work area?
I have a drawing from my daughter. It's a picture of a man and his hair is made from slabs of wood. I've got an old Day-Timer paper planner on my desk. I have a T-square from the days when we still did illustration by hand.

What's the overall atmosphere like? Is it library quiet? Or loud and boisterous?
It's very quiet. I think people have their headphones on. Rarely do we turn the music up. I might turn it up if there's a good song on. I will always turn up any Elvis Costello song. And I'm a big fan of Wilco's "Art of Almost." It's just a very melodic song that builds to a cacophony in a way that I love.

What kind of office rituals does your team have? Potluck lunches? Ping-pong tournaments?
We're always celebrating anniversaries and birthdays. We get together as a group. We'll do lunches. We'll find some art exhibit to see. We went down to the San Diego Museum of Art the other day for a belated employee anniversary.

If you could change one thing about your office, what would it be?
It has a flat roof, so I'd like to do solar panels. Our next goal is to finish out the back patio with some metal furniture and some type of structure overhead to provide dappled sunshine.


David Conover looking through a View-Master, one of the fun things in his office.



The open floor plan features a rich mix of textures and materials.



Reclaimed bleacher seats create walls for the conference area.



The bleachers still have seat numbers etched into the wood.



A light-filled lobby welcomes the firm's clients.



Cecelia Conover in the firm's bright open office.



The exterior mixes brick and metal for a warm, welcoming effect.

Do you work in an open-plan office? What are the pros and cons? We'd love to hear about it in the comments.