Messy Artists – what does a messy workspace really mean?

by Aug 12, 2017Art Explored0 comments

Einstein is credited with the quote; “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then, is an empty desk a sign?”.

When Time and Life’s photographer Ralph Morse’s famous pictures of Einstein’s desk showed a room full of papers, books and cookies, where every inch of his desk and  shelves it captured an image of anything but order and highlighted an environment that to the observer seemed messy and chaotic!!Is clutter the same as mess, and  why is “mess” deemed chaotic? Both terms are associated with the creative mind as well as the creative process. When we think of the creative environments in which we live and work, then is there a correlation between the creative flow hampered by  the creative clutter? We thought we’d ask some of our artists!

As minimalism continues to grow in popularity, we asked ourselves, why has messiness got such a bad reputation and is it really a reflection of a messy mind?

If Einstein, arguably the cleverest man to have lived, is anything to go by, a messy work space doesn’t equate to unproductivity. The sociological broken window theory which suggests that visible chaos reproduces to create further chaos and continues in a cyclical fashion isn’t backed up by modern studies in this field. In fact, a recent study carried out at the University of Minnesota found that messy environments can be better for coming up with creative ideas. The research involved having two groups of students come up with new uses for Ping-Pong balls. One group sat in a clear, tidy room and the other in a messy room. Their findings were surprising as the group of students in the un-tidy room came up with significantly more creative ideas.

Other recent studies have shown similar results and conclude that disorderly environments can inspire people to break free from mundane thoughts and come up with new insights. Perhaps this could be the key to getting into the mindset you need when wanting to think outside of the box.

We wanted to know what you thought so we posted out a question to our followers across our social network accounts.

Some of our responses were supportive of being a ‘messy artist’…

@laurennicklessart said ‘I’d prefer to call it ‘organized chaos’ … to everyone else it’s a mess!’

And some disagreed …

@barbara_collins1111 said ‘no J’

@hilarycollins.textiles said ‘Not necessarily, though once into a project, I can become more messy. A good clear out leads to clearer thinking for me.’

Tapping into creativity is a very personal thing and how you decide to organize your workspace can really affect that.

Our top tips for finding the perfect level of organisation for you and your workspace are:

1) Getting rid of things which have no way of inspiring you and are merely taking up space can only be a good thing. Receipts, used mugs and other odd ends won’t take too long to clear up and once you’ve done it the first time, maintaining that much order won’t take any time at all. Anything which puts you in a creative mindset can stay but don’t cling on to clutter for no reason. The more space for you to move about and place around you the items which are of benefit to you, the better.

2) If you are a visual learner and find imagery stimulating for your work then why not make your own mood board? All you need is a corkboard and pins, then collect pictures, cuttings, drawings and whatever else as you go or pin up an existing pile of them, if you’ve already got one. Mood boards can really liven up your work area and can remind you of your goals and passions if you’re ever feeling lost.

See Tinkerlab’s article on inspiring moodboards if you want some inspiration.

3) Have at least one plant in your work area. Plants are known to increase happiness and productivity, too. The Guardian released an article which stated that employees are 15% more productive when workplaces are filled with just a few houseplants, as employees who actively engage with their surroundings are better workers.

4) Make sure nothing is too fixed. The Sol Design team work from co-working space, Platform 9, in Brighton. It has an abundance of different places to sit, stand and socialize and the people who work there are openly encouraged to move around during the day and find where they are most comfortable at that moment in time and work from there. Being able to shift things about, whether that is moving your desk or simply shifting things about on your desk, it’s important to feel free.

5) Look for light. Nothing beats natural light but it can be difficult to rely on that solely. Look into what kind of light makes you feel most relaxed. Is it warm light? Does it come from lamps or the ceiling? You want to be able to really focus on your work and feel at ease doing so which is why lighting is not something to underestimate.

Where do you feel most creative and why? Leave us a comment below.

If you’re looking for more support with your work and are wondering what the Sol Design Collective is all about, you can find more information about what it is that we do here or get in contact to speak to one of the team directly here. We hope to hear from you.

Supporting artists and makers to build a thriving creative practice.