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Popup Studios

Singapore: popup studios

Today’s office is a 31st story penthouse overlooking Singapore. Or at least it’s notionally a penthouse, with a frog team of four having turned it into a popup studio for a project we are currently running in the city state, with every available inch of wall space liberated to hang daily schedules, incoming data, observations, insights, ideas and iterations of the research plan.

Renting someone else’s apartment comes with nuanced perks: a glimpse at an opulent lifestyle; and understanding of tastes, textures, priorities; a sense of apartment block rhythm, lilt. The Egyptian motifs, the framed heavy brush strokes of women in various states of ecstasy, the plinths that turns out to be ideal for giving demos of our work-in-progress prototypes, and the champagne room – literally a room devoted to display of full champagne bottles all provide an edge. Working out of a home rather than a hotel can increase the team’s productivity by over 50% and makes for a far richer experience.

Most popup studios are not this lush, some are little more than a box-bed with clean sheets and a mosquito net. Whether marble or dirt floors it comes down to whether the team dynamics will work and whether the team is inspired.

Finding and appropriate space and setting up up a studio is relatively easy, and in an age of AirBandB is commoditised even. The bit that most people miss is understanding the dynamics within that space, understanding how to build trust with the local crew, taking the team to the edge without taking them over the edge. Being just on the right side of physical and mental exhaustion is a wonderful thing, if the team has delivered.

The team delivered.

Rolling up at midnight after back-to-back long hauls to review of the research and prototypes in preparation for a client meeting that starts at 9am, is not ideal. But the crew has also been applying smarts and putting in the hours and it shows in the quality of the work. Being the last member of the team to arrive I get the sofa or the maid’s quarters, sans maid. I opt for the latter. The principle of having the most senior member of the team have the least favourable space to sleep is a good one. The mind is liberated when the normal rules don’t apply.

What are the rules worth breaking?

Two hours of Zzz’s, crank out emails, a 6am run, fresh mangos on the deck at 8. Crash and burn by 3pm.