When I was a kid, I thought it was so cool to go with one of my parents to “the office”. It was a magical, mysterious place with photocopy machines and clipboards and more paper and pencils than I, a budding papyrophile, could imagine all being in one place at one time.
Now that I have a workspace of my very own, I still cleave to the notion that our offices should have at least a little bit of magic. I don’t hoard pens and different color copy paper (anymore, ahem), but the things I surround myself with do still make a difference in my day-to-day work, whether it’s helping to focus, to get creative, or just be the first stop when people bring their kids in to visit, because, hey, toys and candy! No, it’s not clutter. It’s inspiration.
Our Web Communications group is in the Alumni Center at URI, a relatively new, rambling building that looks like a huge beach house. We’re working right alongside the folks who keep the news flowing for the entire University, so the synergy is great for sharing stories and collaborating on ideas. While my door is, quite literally, always open, the lights are never on — those horrid fluorescent ballasts give me a headache, so I prefer natural light, lamps, and task lighting. (And don’t miss the smart business card outside the door — it’s got an NFC tag behind it, with my contact information embedded in it! I pull out my Samsung Galaxy S III at least a couple times a week to show off that technology.)
I stand up at my desk for most of the day, using a 3M KD95 keyboard tray that’s mounted to the desk’s top bookshelf, with a GelPro mat under my feet. My 13″ MacBook Pro sits on my desk, with a big external monitor up high on the shelf. That way, I can tuck the keyboard away and sit while I’m on the phone or doing paperwork, and still have access to a screen, but the big iron is at standing eye level, where I need it most often.
My software setup keeps most tools up top (Chrome, BBEdit, Mail, Photoshop, and Fetch), with the lower laptop screen home to Terminal, Tweetbot, Twitter (yes, two different Twitter apps, one for work, one for personal, so as to not make the front page of Mashable!), and iChat (since our department is on two different floors, this comes in really handy). I also keep a Livescribe Echo smartpen on hand for important meetings — it lets me participate more, and worry less about making sure I get those goals and differentiators and pixel dimensions exactly right.
Some of my favorite inspirational things around the office are my books — among them the Tufte collection, complete with framed “Napoleon’s March to Moscow” (“no chartjunk!”); The Semiotic Engineering of Human-Computer Interaction (a classic from 2005, but still relevant); Happy Kitty Bunny Pony (doesn’t everyone?); still-shrinkwrapped version 1.0 MacPaint and MacWrite boxes, with the floppies and manuals still inside (how far we’ve come in so few years); and when I get lonely, Bendy Bacon Guy, my Portal Companion Cube, and a pair of original Hulk Hands.
Kerri Hicks is the manager of Web Communications at the University of Rhode Island.