Novedge:Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do
Stephen Searer: I run the office design website Office Snapshots. The basic idea is to publish amazing offices from around the world. But lately I've been organizing all of the offices and their photos to make an easy-to-use resource for inspiration and ideas.
Novedge: How did you come up with the idea for Office Snapshots?
Stephen Searer: I had seen some photos of Google's Mountain View campus and wondered if I could find more interesting offices online. There weren't any that I was able to find so I made a blog and started finding random photos of Yahoo, Google, Pixar's offices. I quickly ran out of companies that 1) people knew of and 2) had photos, so I began just posting any office I could find. People started regularly reading the site and showing interest in the idea, so I kept up with it on the side until 2011 when I made it my main avenue of work.
Novedge: How much time do you spend researching and curating the site?
Stephen Searer: While I technically run the site full-time, I probably spend 6 hours each day working on it. The rest of my time is spent doing freelance web design projects.
Novedge: What are the rewards and challenges of having your own business?
Stephen Searer: It is very rewarding! I can make my own hours, but I've found working normal business hours suit best for good family life. Those are also the hours other professionals in the design industry work, so it seems to work nicely. It is also nice to know that the hard work I'm putting into the business directly benefits me and my family. But in terms of challenges, running a business based on advertising renewals is inherently unstable. Revenues can be amazing one month and terrible for three months, so it does take a bit more discipline and willpower to know that what I am doing will be successful in the long term.
Novedge: You started working on OfficeSnapshots.com in 2007. How much has changed in workplace design since then?
Stephen Searer: The largest change would probably be that workplaces are seen as a necessary recruiting tool in many industries now as opposed to a luxury. This is especially true in tech-heavy locations like San Francisco. Office design is also trending back toward caring about privacy and quiet after being dominated by open office plans and cubicles and bullpens for so long. The fun and exciting thing about design is that we literally have no idea what this new, concentrative office will look like, but we do know it is coming.
Novedge: What would you like to see more in the architectural design of new offices?
Stephen Searer: Architecturally, I like to see thoughtful design that attempts to change the way employees work. It is one thing to make an office aesthetically nice, but it is a completely other task to design an office plan which helps employees become more productive, collaborative, concentrative, etc... strictly by orienting spaces differently. I also like seeing intelligent design that takes into account the needs staff have and creating functional office plans based on their individual needs. One idea I am constantly thinking about is whether an office can be the perfect mix of space and function for all employees and all of their needs at all times.
Novedge: What kind of work or product are you looking for to showcase on your site?
Stephen Searer: I don't usually blog about products as there are millions of varieties to chose from. We do have a product area on the site, but it is actually a space for advertisers to show their products in a non-traditional way.
Novedge: What is your vision for Office Snapshopts? What would you like to see happen next?
Stephen Searer: My current goal is to continue publishing amazing office design projects, and to organize them in an intelligent way that is useful to people. Ordinary blogs use a date-based approach, but that doesn't really help readers find a particular element of an office they are looking for. I'm also hoping to do some more original writing about Office Design as opposed to simply posting office design projects. Big picture though, I want Office Snapshots to be the most important and influential source for everything related to office design :)