Skunkworks: The design of casual creative environments for social innovation

Ana Bilandzic, Marcus Foth, Greg Hearn
pp.  5 – 31, download


Casual Creative Environments (CCEs), such as coworking spaces, enable new work practices and workspace sharing across different urban places, aiming to foster innovation and new collaborations. However, many CCEs still struggle to fulfil their potential. This article reports on an inductive study examining social, spatial, and temporal insights from two CCEs in Australia with a social innovation focus. Through participant observations and interviews, we explore how these CCEs are designed to facilitate innovation using Lefebvre’s triad of social space. We present design personas representing user archetypes of tribes that form within these CCEs. We characterise these CCEs as skunkworks for their perpetual messiness and organised chaos. Our findings inform policy makers, CCE organisations, and managers seeking to nurture a culture conducive for vernacular creativity and innovation. Additionally, we suggest further research to inform the design of different skunkworks spaces tailored to the needs of a diversity of creative practitioners and innovation communities..

Keywords: coworking spaces, design personas, collaboration spaces, innovation spaces, social innovation, vernacular creativity.


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