Our design spaces

In the industrial design tradition inherited from the Arts & Crafts movement, the name given to the creative design space is a studio. The Silicon Valley tradition has the myth of the “garage” where the inventor ran the first technical feasibility tests on his idea. In the d.schools context, we tend to speak more of a “loft”: an open space with a very high ceiling, housing as many as a dozen teams. When we started out, we had half a floor of a building, 150 m² for three full-time teams (12 students per year) and a weekly class for 40 students. Today, we have 300 m² with access to a 400 m² prototyping room, eight classrooms and a lecture hall in a new, highly innovative positive energy building. The layout, however modest, should create an altered mindset compared with conventional workspaces. People should feel outside the ordinary framework of the workplace, in a state of mind that fosters exploration, experimentation…

7 s shop

A workshop is never more than 7 seconds from any project area. The aim is to give shape or life to ideas as spontaneously as possible. From the cardboard and sticky tape rough-out to the prototype with exquisitely finished materials and functions, these tangible productions serve to reconcile “mind”, “hand” and “heart”: a product of the mind is shaped by the hand and speaks to the heart, when it can be touched and felt.

project space

Every team has a space dedicated to its project. Depending on the project’s size, this could consist of movable partitions and surfaces, an island within an open plan space or even a closed room. A whiteboard is always available for noting down ideas, but the remaining surfaces are rarely empty: they tend to be covered in displays, often illustrations of the problem, of the people innovation is intended for, designs already generated, results, schedules, everything to plunge the team instantly into the heart of the project. Alongside these are objects that provide inspiration, stage props or simply fun items, since personalisation implies emotional commitment and generally greater team involvement.

fun space

While table football, a games console, a few cuddly toys or even a wig encourage play and the relaxation that goes with it, the primary aim is to foster a childlike outlook: the fresh vision, the desire to play, to imagine, to create without inhibition and without fear of failure.

«You can’t be a serious innovator unless you are willing and able to play»

Michael Schrage, Serious Play, 2000.

kitchen space

A place for meals, informal meetings, sociability… The kitchen is at the heart of team life. Open to everyone and accessible 24/7 in some agencies and schools, it encourages unexpected meetings, conversations of all kinds, in a relaxed atmosphere that acts as a catalyst for new partnerships, experience sharing and inspiration. As well as a locus of spontaneous activities, the kitchen is the stage for SUDS (slightly unorganized design sessions), a kind of weekly drinks party that tightens community bonds.

zen space

With the accumulation of ideas, questions, thoughts and activities surrounded by other enthusiasts, saturation can set in and you need to switch off. Withdrawing to a peaceful place and emptying your head is the best way to see where you’ve come from and where you’re going. This period of self-reflection is an integral part of the process of exploration and can be aided at different scales by a room, a location or furniture that helps you to chill out and relax.

brainstorming space

The primary aim is to create an attitude of shared exploration, to think together, whether for analysis or in search of solutions. This exercise in group mental gymnastics needs to follow principles that align with our values, in particular IDEO’s 7 golden rules of brainstorming, which are permanently displayed in this space. Because this activity is often very lively and requires a degree of separation from the other spaces, it has its own room.

library space

The books are there to remind us of the sources of our inspiration (mentors, success stories, inspiring objects…), to encourage us to reflect after action, to think analytically after intuition, and to share what we have learned. They stress the stance preached by Bergson:

“Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.”

material space

While the library may contain matter for thought, the materials space is a source of matter for action. It houses a sufficient variety and quantity of resources to turn any idea into a model of reality. However, its contents are not confined to cheap materials such as cardboard, sticky tape and Lego blocks, or indeed wood, metal, hardware and other raw materials.

espace social

Here, we call it the “petit salon”, a kind of living room where people can meet friends on a comfortable chair around a coffee table. It is here that you find the famous red sofa, an essential totem symbolic of the original Silicon Valley models. This space is an arena for discussion, debate, emotion and argument as passionate as the colour of the sofa itself, a sharp contrast with the chilling ambience of meeting rooms full of people ensconced behind their laptops dealing with their daily emails, while a speaker pours out a deluge of information and figures on a PowerPoint presentation.

Our partnership with Steelcase Education


A place for innovation : Coriolis Building

The workspaces are housed at École des Ponts, in the new Coriolis building, opened in late 2013.

The Coriolis is a pioneering building that produces markedly more energy than it consumes. It is the outcome of a fascinating team effort to reconcile the technical and the architectural, energy priorities and well-being.

Energy performance in the Coriolis :

According to a total energy balance assessment encompassing all uses of the building, notably including office technology, the building produces 32% more energy than it consumes.

When the analysis is projected 100 years into the future, and also includes the energy content of the building materials, the building’s annual surplus energy production will gradually offset the grey energy that went into its construction… attaining a total energy footprint close to zero.