We've spent 13 happy years supporting the creative industry through Creative Boom. One of the things we enjoy most is visiting people in their studios, seeing where and how they work. What might surprise you is how often these spaces share similar decor, as though without them, they simply couldn't call themselves graphic designers.
It's not just the smaller design studios, either. We're talking about some of the biggest creative agencies globally, like Pentagram and UsTwo, where we see some decor staples. Sure, everyone's space looks different and has its own character. But there are always the same objects that sneak in.
Some of the items listed below will bring back fond memories for many of you, perhaps of visiting IKEA to kit out your first office – many pieces of which have stayed with you for multiple moves as you've grown your business and team. We've even shared a few real-life studios from our creative community to offer further inspiration. Enjoy!
1. The IKEA bookshelf
No design studio is complete without IKEA's beloved white shelving system. Now called KALLAX, it's affordable, reliable and can act as many things. From room divider and sideboard to bookshelf, vinyl storage or D&AD Pencil display, it's a hard-working piece of furniture that we spot repeatedly. But don't even think of purchasing anything but white. White is the colour of choice in this industry.
2. The motivational typographic print
Although some studios steer away from the classic design and opt for other typographic statements, Anthony Burrill's Work Hard & Be Nice To People has become a studio staple for much of the industry over the last decade. The graphic artist is known for his impactful yet straightforward statements and love of print. And it's easy to see why the design community loves his work. Other options for your office walls include those of graphic artist Sarah Boris, "type twister" and designer Dani Molyneux and Veronica Fuerte of Hey.
3. The classic Anglepoise desk lamp
Whether a cosy corner or a well-lit desk, a lamp is essential for any discerning graphic designer’s space. But if there's one classic that creatives always return to, it's the Anglepoise desk lamp. Who can resist the charms of this timeless British-made product? Particularly when there are so many irresistible options.
4. Toys and playful design ornaments
There's no doubt we want to express ourselves creatively. We want our workspaces to say something about us and what we love. It's why vinyl toys are a massive feature of many studios. Even nostalgic ones like Transformers often make an appearance. We love this classic Smiley lamp that acts as a toy and a functional object - Hey, space is limited; we’ve got to be practical about these things. Or you might go for something a little more mature, like a typographic ornament. Who's guilty of having an ampersand on display? Etsy has some pretty nice options if you've yet to add one to your office.
5. A Swiss Cheese plant
We've seen many a cactus and prayer, peace lily and string of hearts in design agencies worldwide, but the one plant to stand out is always the Swiss Cheese variety. There's just something about this humble plant that appeals to designers everywhere. Perhaps it's the interesting foliage. Maybe it's the air-purifying abilities that these plants possess. Whatever the reason, it's the most beloved in the industry. Beard & Daisies offer a nice option and, in solidarity with Ukraine, is donating £1 for every sale of its Swiss Cheese plant to Choose Love, a charity working to provide vital aid to those forced to flee their country.
6. Habitat Flap Clock
Sadly no longer available to purchase on the Habitat website, this classic flip clock is beloved by many design studios across the UK. For a decent alternative, we recommend heading over to firm industry favourite, Present & Correct. We particularly love its Flip Clock/Calendar on sale for £195. Made by a small Hong Kong company since 1968, you can opt for one in yellow, black or grey. An absolute classic. (And we spotted some at Pentagram, don't you know!)
7. A miniature fridge
A small fridge is an essential addition to any design studio for the beers, for the office milk, and to keep the chocolate cool in summer. A particular classic that keeps resurfacing, again and again, is the ridiculously wonderful Marshall Fridge. Reserved only for the cool kids, it's a creative industry icon.
8. The Collection Book by G . F Smith
Yes, you've got your important reference books like Swiss Graphic Design by Richard Hollis, Unit Edition's Total Design 63-73 and Paula Scher's Twenty-Five Years at the Public. But amongst these immense titles lies a booklet that is universal in its popularity, and that's The Collection Book by G . F Smith. It's home to every paper, weight and embossing it offers across its four key collections, from Colorplan to Fine. Yes, it's handy. But it very much confirms what you do for a living and is often more of an ornament than an essential guide.
9. Corkboards, pegboards and panels
As creatives, we need inspiration. We need to be surrounded by art and design. The IKEA SKADIS gives you everything you need. Available in white, you can opt for one or add lots together to make a bigger version. Then use various accessories like hooks and small shelves to store your stuff. The best thing about a board on your wall? You can swap things around whenever inspiration strikes.
10. Desk storage for pens and pencils
With so many gadgets, tools and stationery to keep us happy, we need suitable storage to keep our desks clean and tidy. But we don't just want any box, folder or basket. It has to be stylish. Enter Hay, the highly respected Danish design company. We love its colour crates, its versatile storage round containers, and pretty much everything it makes. All of these can be seen at studios the world over. And if you still need more storage? The Boby Trolley is where it's at. Keep it under or next to your desk for ease.
So there you have it: the ten pieces of decor and furniture that we always see in design studios everywhere we go. We didn't include other worthy contenders such as the honorary studio dog or essential gumball machine. Nor did we add a fixie bike hanging from a wall. However, in our research, we did discover a recent project by Ben The Illustrator where he asked creative friends on Twitter what their dream workspace would look like, and the results somewhat align with our essentials breakdown. We'll just leave his resulting illustration right here, offering further inspiration.