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Co-creative Spaces: Designing Environments for the Modern Maker

*Below is a summary of our project-related research. If you would like more information, please reach out to us at

Co-creative Spaces: Designing Environments for the Modern Maker

How do we establish a co-working space for makers and creatives in a neighborhood flooded with technology-based startups?

We conducted extensive research for a new co-working development in the Gangnam district of Seoul. This project, Building Blocks, strives to cater to the work environment, processes, and needs of the modern creative – young, creative professionals who are developing their own brands and services. We referred to regression analyses, global surveys, and journal articles to understand the nature, patterns and trends of the co-working business model.  By analyzing case studies, we identified the advantages, opportunities, challenges, and drawbacks of a co-working space. We investigated the demographic, urban, cultural, and commercial contexts of the Gangnam district to assess the need and suitability of a new co-working space in the area. With this information, we mapped out strategies for developing a strong brand definition and experience to meet the specific needs of the modern creative.

Understanding co-working spaces. A co-working space operates on a membership based business model. It provides a variety of work stations that different entities of people use and share. Memberships usually include hot desk, dedicated desk and private office plans, with basic in-office amenities, and provide all-day access to communal spaces. Co-working spaces have experienced steady growth since 2011. In 2017, about 73% of co-working spaces in Asia reported plans for expansion.

Special elements of co-working. Some of the attractive elements of co-working offices include the range of different membership strategies, sharable amenities and equipment, and spaces that allow workers to relieve stress. Networking opportunities and a unique office culture allow members and alumni to gain valuable ideas and experience. People who use co-working spaces find their work meaningful, have more job control, and feel like they are part of the community 

Agnostic office-space design. About 75% of co-working offices are industry-agnostic. This standardized office design relies heavily on benching workstation setups, which assume that a row of people will work quietly on their laptops and need no more than 24” of elbow room, fast Wi-Fi, and coffee. While many different types of professionals are allowed to work within the space, the specific demands of different work processes cannot be met. 

Uncertain customer base. IT start-up companies are the major customer base for Asian co-working spaces. About 3 in 10 U.S. businesses fail in their first two years, and nearly half fail in the first five years. In addition, many of these companies constantly fluctuate in size. Start-ups tend to go bust or go big and leave to look for their own space, which creates uncertainty in occupancy.

The Gangnam District. The Gangnam district is one of the busiest and most popular cities in Korea. Its major roads, Teheran-Ro and Gangnam-Daero, intersect at the Gangnam subway station. Nearly half a million people pass through Gangnam Station every day. Gangnam-Daero is regarded as a center of culture, arts, and retail. There are art institutions that specialize in design and over 9,000 trendy retail stores and world-famous brands.  Teheran-Ro is known as the “start-up valley” of Korea. Over the last three years, more than 120 shared offices have been opened in the Teheran-ro area. It has established itself as a prominent and expanding business district of Seoul. 

Uncovering Opportunities

Brand Definition and Experience

Differentiating our brand. The co-working industry in Teheran-ro is thriving and has become increasingly competitive. Due to the multitude of co-working offices that exists in the area, we must differentiate our brand. We strive to develop a strong, cultural, and trendy brand that appeals to the creative modern professionals in Gangnam. By creating a brand identity based on cultural diversity and establishing a flagship location for our specific target market, we will approach the industry with a different strategy than other Teheran-ro shared offices.

Meet primary needs and exceed expectations. Satisfy the essential needs of the member community and exceed expectations. Be sensitive to the diverse needs, opportunities, services, tools and spaces of any and all creative professional.

Establish a diverse and exceptional community. Be driven by the ethos of sharing, unstructured exchange, open access and the desire for the greater good. Envision a collective of creatively driven multi-faceted professionals working both in parallel and in conjunction with one another.

Implement our brand as our culture. Provide the ideal environment and atmosphere for growth and success. Give everyone who comes into the space a clear impression of what our community stands for: what it holds dear, how it operates, and what it celebrates..


Creating a distinct experience with brand continuity. Ensure that the journey at Building Blocks – from arrival to departure – has sequential brand continuity. Every segment of the co-working experience should reflect and honor the core values of Building Blocks. In order for clients and workers to immerse themselves in the Building Blocks experience, there must be a clear concept of zoning: a combination of a well-designed, functioning work environment for the modern creative and a well-curated front of house.

Co-creative Spaces: Designing Environments for the Modern Maker


Create a microenvironment for the modern creative. It is important to bring in well-suited tenants and shops to maintain and support our brand. We should elect anchor tenants who are supportive of, essential to, and add cultural value to the co-working community. These may include 3D-makers, material vendors, boutique coffee shops, microbreweries, design bookstores, and more. Building Blocks should consider a “shop in shop” partnership, which may be useful to both creatives and clients.

Invite potential customers to the microenvironment. As our site is not located along the retail corridor, we must have a space to show off our creatives’ designs and work. To bring social attention to the space, we should have a shared showroom with various display options, on and offline platforms to gain public and social media exposure, and pop-up sales and events. With the right marketing and content distribution, we can create traffic and draw attention towards Building Blocks.

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