Open-Concept Office Keeps Creatives Fired Up

Burnkit Creative office | BCBusiness

Want to be more creative at work? Get inspired by Burnkit’s industrial digs 

Josh Dunford, founder of Burnkit Creative Inc., knows how to get creative at the office. It’s all about an open concept: no cubicles, no dividers and no interior walls. The award-winning Vancouver design agency’s open work environment has resulted in an office and portfolio that teems with creativity and collaboration.

Founded 13 years ago, Burnkit is located in an old munitions warehouse overlooking the port of Vancouver. There, the team focuses on website, interactive and brand/identity design for Canadian and U.S. clients ranging from enterprise giants Lululemon Athletica Inc. to smaller organizations such as the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society.

With only 20 staff, Dunford says it’s crucial to share ideas, jump into discussions and celebrate victories—difficult to do in sequestered workspaces. “Collaboration sounds simple, but it requires discipline. Each of us is busy working on various projects so the feedback required for successful collaboration needs to be solicited.”

This month Burnkit launches a new retail enterprise: Work in Progress (WIP) is an online store featuring special editions and prototypes of furniture and other design products that are sold to collectors and designers at trade rates. Last year was the company’s best year to date, but the bigger news is that in November the agency will move four blocks east to its own 3,000-square-foot warehouse. The new office design? Wide, wide open. 

Team player
Director/janitor Dunford doesn’t separate himself from the team; he has a workstation in the main space like everyone else. Favourite item on his desk? A classic Rear Number Indicator from the B.C. Transit Museum Society.

Crit Wall
The Crit (critique) Wall is the area where designs in various stages are pasted up for collaborative discussion. Dunford believes using a Crit Wall is a crucial creative strategy. “As ideas bounce back and forth they tend to sharpen. We need each other to make the work great.” Clients are also invited to visit the Wall to weigh in on designs—they know their customers best and when clients help shape the work they’re more invested in its success.

Keep things rolling
Having a good time helps in staying creative. All Burnkit employees have a rolling tool chest for supplies stamped with their name and title/alternate title (director/janitor; project manager/concierge; art director/lifeguard; accounting/coat check). The chests are a flexible and portable alternative to desk drawers. “The tool chests symbolize the idea of work and industry, and they fit the warehouse esthetic,” says Dunford.

Closed-door discussions
Upstairs overlooking the main office space is the boardroom, one of the only contained spaces at Burnkit. Used for more formal client meetings and video conference calls, or when privacy is required, it’s the go-to place for alone time.

All in the family
Alfie, Dunford’s nine-year-old Boston terrier, roams the office lowering blood pressure and facilitating a relaxed atmosphere with clients and staff alike.

Freight brain
A six-metre shipping container is planted at the Burnkit office entrance. Not only a fantastic architectural element, it’s also the server room and the home for backup, phone and network infrastructure.

In it together
Two long Nico Spacecraft pressboard desks replace cubicles, encouraging interaction and collaboration between employees. Workstations are flexible; monitors can easily turn for sharing ideas and concepts. The atmosphere is family-like and non-competitive so when hiring, it’s crucial that new employees are a good fit.