Kate Bingaman-Burt is a busy woman. She’s written books on our culture’s consumption obsession, she teaches design at Portland State University, and she creates compelling designs for a steady list of clients including Chipotle, Hallmark, Uniglo, IDEO, VH1, and the Gap, among others. We recently visited her studio to watch her make stuff, and we absolutely loved her set-up, so we asked her for advice on setting up a design studio that is not only fun to work in, but functional.
Tell me about your workspace and why it works for you?
I share a space with four other illustrators/designers in an old Ford factory in Portland. Some of my favorite things about this space: high ceilings, good light, working amongst friends, and our ridiculous bean bag chairs for the occasional nap.
How is it organized?
It’s well organized chaos. I have my drawing table, my computer table, my buckets for pens, pencils and other sundry items, an overflowing bookshelf, and my walls and shelves are filled with artifacts from the last several years of teaching, working, and collecting.
Do you feel like your space is efficient for your purposes?
It is when it’s clean. I always try to do a good cleaning between each job. It helps get my mind in a good spot, too.
Do you work standing or sitting or both? How do you avoid fatigue on your muscles?
Both. I draw sitting, and I try to do most of my email and some of my computer work standing. Up until early this year, I didn’t do much to avoid fatigue, but that caught up with me. I ruptured a disc in my lower back. Many rounds of acupuncture and chiropractor sessions later, I now go to the gym two times a week and I move more during longer work sessions. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BACK.
What advice would you give to new artists setting up their workspace?
Get a good chair. It’s a must. If you are working out of your apartment or house, just designating a place for making is huge. Find a table and make it your work station. Forget the couch/bed/kitchen table—get a designated space, even if it’s in a closet or a corner of a room.
What is your must-have item in your studio that you can’t live without?
My drawing table. It belonged to my grandmother who was also an illustrator. It’s my favorite object hands down.
What advice would you give to someone venturing into the freelance life?
Track your time and tasks … it’s pretty revealing. The combo of a task tracker and an app that blocks my email (which is a huge time suck for me) makes me WAY more productive.