Workplace Innovation

Second in our Workplace Innovation Series

The Marvin Lang Building


The Marvin Lang building is an incredible place. Really. And not because Ansel and I invented it. Hardly. We planted a seed of and idea, that truly was a bit selfish and more about ourselves than the creative community at large.  But since we opened the studio it has served to launch a dozen or so businesses directly, countless businesses indirectly, been host of many creative workshops, lectures, and community centered gatherings. We also work here, all day, every day, thinking, making creating and inspiring each other. 

The inspiration: The constant is change. In 2007, Ansel and I operated our respective businesses out of a meager space on the edge of civilization. It was a great place to start, and we both owe a debt of gratitude to Patrick Swistock for allowing us to share his space. As we grew, we realized two things- we needed a place that aligned with our design aspirations, and it needed to be nimble, creative, and fluid. I knew that why I launched Fraser Design was solid, but also knew that what Fraser Design made would be dynamic, and I wanted a place to welcome that opportunity.


The tenets: These were both early demands and evolutionary outcomes of the studio. Its the basis by which we do everything here. (1) Collaboration (2) Creative/Innovative (3) Diverse (4) Culture First.

Collaboration- The creative community is best when open to collaboration. The studio environment opens collaborative opportunities by design. No rooms, no wall, loosely defined areas. The citizens here join forces to work on unique project opportunities, but also simply benefit from conversation around an idea or over lunch. 

Creative/Innovative- The place lends itself to creative professionals, and we like that. There is a huge array of definitions of Creative or Innovative, so we welcome many, but laggards or linear types just wont feel at home in this place. There are locations better suited to those folks.

Diverse- Diverse people, diverse tastes, diverse businesses. We all do much better surrounded by those that live, think and act differently. Give perspective, scale, and a tangible reminder that the world is truly built on variety.

Culture First- The open environment makes the cultural ecosystem more profound. You really need to feel at home here and be at ease with everyone. You also need to be comfortable speaking up when its not. It's an entirely intangible quality, but you immediately know whether its working or not. We have been really lucky and maybe a little bit smart, the people we have here are fabulous. 

In Practice

A vision is always tempered by the marketplace and human limitations. The reality at Marvin Lang is no different. Some sobering moments- its not for everyone, and some do not prosper here. I always knew it would not be the prime environment for all, but I expected everyone to wish it worked for them. Some didn't. They didn't understand the setup, it was weird and foreign and not appealing.

Change comes slowly. I imagined the building as a case study for creative workplace innovation. That it might inspire our clients and network to think differently about their workplaces. Mixed results. Yes, the creative community has launched very innovative places like 1E, 804rva, Gather, 80amps and a handful I don't know about. The people there are young, innovative entrepreneurs. In more traditional setting, many classic workplace models are still in practice. As cultural inertia grows, these too will begin to change, but at a much slower pace.


The Future:

We are pushing harder. This year we'll blend our creative intellectual space with a creative maker space. We want to accelerate the time from concept to prototype and break the wall from intangible concepts to tangible constructs.


We will reach forward, and back. We are creating a studio that is a soft landing for entrepreneurs- the next generation of big thinkers. We are also building a mentorship environment so we don't lose legacy trades in design that are so powerful. Like drawing, with your hands, or building models.


We will seek to further blur the lines between Architecture, Interior, Graphic and Product Design. We are excited to be working with some companies to develop a leadership position in Workplace Innovation. We believe their work will set a new standard for companies seeking to build a more engaged and relevant ecosystem. More coming as these pursuits take shape...

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