Utopian safari to seek out answers

Joe Hewitt5/19/2020

We partnered with The Collective - a co-living startup with an emphasis on community, shared space and social events - to rapidly define their vision and brand.

Choosing to hang out, eat, work and sleep all under one roof, with tens or hundreds of strangers, is an odd concept for most people. Community fit, shared values, ownership, privacy, and cost all come into question. But with rising rents, more options to work remotely, and a desire to travel on demand and meet new people, co-living offers an attractive alternative.

In our immersion, we seek to understand the company and their vision for the future. It’s also a critical time to pick up insights and test ideas. Here were some of the key questions we wanted to answer:

  • What is the role of The Collective: a development platform for people, or hands off accommodation?
  • How should we think about ownership and responsibility of public space?
  • What is the benefit of being and living together at The Collective?
  • How do we explore these ideas in a way that inspires the Leadership team?

Co-living isn’t a new idea. Our research showed us that it's been central to most utopian ideas of living. From Le Corbusier’s Athens Chapter co-written in 1933, which defined co-living at a city-level, through to environments like the Barbican Estate and nationwide university accommodation.

Exploring the subject of co-living and shared spaces more widely, they’ve also been fertile ground for ideas and innovation, and there are many different visions of this. Goldsmiths University, The Cavern Club (where the Beatles came together). SNL. Burning Man.

We wanted to rapidly explore these different visions, begin to reimagine The Collective’s own version of co-living, and capture the responses of a busy team. So we created a walking workshop through the Barbican.

  • First we plotted out pathways through the Barbican that would separate the group and lead them through inspiring environments.
  • Then, we made a private Instagram account, and invited the Leadership team in.
  • Each post floated an idea, copy or oblique reference, and they were asked to like or comment, telling us what felt right or wrong.
  • Caption copy guided our walkers through the Barbican’s maze of corridors and shared spaces.

Why we chose this method:

  • Digital access: locally for team members who could make it, and remotely for those who couldn’t.
  • Share mixed media references.
  • Experience physically an exceptional example of co-living - the Barbican,
  • Personal socials used to test blur of work and life.
  • Separated people so we could receive individual thoughts but debate as a group.
  • Quick and easy voting method for ideas.
  • Instant, contained record to playback to wider team.

We gathered at the end to debrief and discuss what was liked and disliked, and why. There were some big takeouts for us:

  1. There’s an inspiring lineage of shared spaces as a movement. We should build on that.
  2. People will be living the brand. Tonally, we need to stay grounded.
  3. Like the half-house example, the brand should drive a sense of personal responsibility.
  4. The experience we create should inspire a better mindset and creative outcomes.
  5. Moving forward, we should see The Collective as a platform for personal development and transformation.

The companies we work with often have a vision of what they want to create. Asking leaders questions is an imperative to our understanding. But exposing teams to new ideas, in a forum that takes them beyond four walls, quickly lets them reimagine, articulate and align around a more meaningful and cut-through vision for their brand.

By Joe Hewitt5/19/2020

Let’s talk

We’re always open for a chat, so get in touch to find out how we can help

Get in touch

Europe / MEA

3 Dufferin Street London EC1Y 8NA

North America / Americas

379 W Broadway New York NY 10012

Australia / APAC

7/80 Albion Street Surry Hills Sydney 2010


Wenwen Jiang Shanghai 业务拓展总监 中国上海
© 2020 DesignStudio Group Ltd.
A private limited company incorporated in England and Wales under company number 10063271. Registered at 3 Dufferin Street, London, EC1Y 8NA