Trying to follow a trend that isn’t clearly defined is challenging. We’ve read about the tech boom for a couple of years now and all the catchy names that have cropped up to delineate tech areas in numerous cities; however, the questions remain: Who is the creative user? What is the creative office? How do we predict the future of creative space?
First, we must look at the user. Traditional office users in industries such as finance, insurance, real estate and legal, with a few exceptions, are unlikely to move out of the high rise to a vintage low rise with exposed brick or an industrial building with 14 foot ceilings. These industries are steeped in history and generally have stricter dress codes and prefer to be located in structured, traditional office space.
The other type of office user is essentially all the other industries from publishers, engineers, architects, and advertisers to programmers, information tech, entertainment, media, and communication. This second group is more likely to forego traditional office space with high-wall cubicles and perimeter offices for a more open floor plan. They might even consider this layout in a high rise if other criteria are met: walkability, sustainability, close proximity to affordable housing and public transit, and green space. Community is essential for many of these non-traditional office-using industries. Additionally, they prefer to be near each other; entertainment and media go hand in hand.
Then there is the product type to consider. Los Angeles covers roughly 5,000 square miles and is both a massive city and the epitome of suburban sprawl. There are several high-rise hubs, campus-style compounds, industrial enclaves, free-standing retail, strip malls, and vintage office product in small neighborhoods. Within these product types is a distinct creative/tech presence owed to the “hipsterfication” of L.A., a combination of young companies seeking out a live/work/play environment and a desire to preserve the architecture and culture of a neighborhood. These companies tend to employ a younger workforce and cater to a younger consumer. This is where tech and creative subdivide further.
There is consumer-facing tech/creative: social media; gaming; content-driven web channels and business-facing tech/creative: cloud management; human resource solutions; other specialty business services. Consumer-facing companies are better suited for the open-space floor plan with undefined work and meeting areas, usually located in renovated historic and industrial buildings or brand-new, state-of-the-art campus-style facilities.
Business-facing companies rely on traditional office-using industries and are usually located in close proximity to them in redesigned high-rise office space. There are exceptions—the architect firm working in a cool, funky space in a late-model office building, the real estate firm adopting a hoteling platform—but for the most part, traditional office. It’s also worth noting that that even with the extreme popularity of open-space floor plans, there are already studies surfacing claiming they detract from productivity and there is resentment over the lack of privacy.
The definition of creative space will further evolve as new products and services hit the market and it is important to try not to shoehorn every company into one kind of space.