Wolken Communica is a design firm. We’ve been around since 2000 in quantities of two to five people, plus outside accomplices, working in a sweet mid-century building overlooking Lake Union in Seattle. Nine years ago, as WC was being forced out of another office space, I got a call from Ted Mader,  for whom I once worked for 3-1/2 years as a designer. He was moving and calling to see if I wanted any computers. I took the computers – and the desks, the network and the space as well. The studio grew up in a big way.

The studio itself was always bigger than we needed, and from its inception the idea was to shack up with other like minded designers, writers, coders, video producers, etc. It’d help make the rent, but it’d also give the place a vibrancy and camaraderie that is rarely found in a work environment. We wanted people outside the firm who would critique your work as you hung it on the wall, even if you didn’t like what they had to say. We wanted people around to crack a beer with when clients have wore you down at the end of the day – or when they wore you down at the beginning of the day. It worked great; the “Communica” vision was realized.

Two years ago things started to change. The economy tanked. The clients’ needs started changing. Projects became twice as much work for half as much money – even on less ambitious projects. We were doing great work as the opportunities arose, but the economy seemed to force such work to come in waves, and then those waves would recede like they always do. Then: back to the corporate newsletters. (Ugh.) We were always busy, just not making the dollars like we were. And we weren’t inspired as we once were. As mobility became more and more possible, our “accomplices” at the office started working more from home, or getting contracts to go in-house at their clients. We started to see less and less of our studio mates – we became a rest stop rather than a destination. Around the office, there were fewer crazy distractions – “Did the dog eat my lunch off my desk?!” – and fewer chances to create inspiring work. The economy sank and it felt like our work life was adrift in the dingy.