What does the place behind the designer entail?

Making MAD - Home of Creators a reality.

19 May 2020

An artist's or designer’s workspace is something very personal. It is the place where they probably spend most time, where projects are created, researched, realised or scrapped. Where frustrations are unavoidable but where, ultimately, it all works out in the end. When relocating the MAD Incubator to our home base in the Dansaert district, we saw at close quarters – and consequently became fascinated by – the space behind the designer.

“What makes MAD Incubator so stimulating is not just the well-equipped space, but the other people in it. The interactions result in concrete help and good vibes between the residents: we have our individual projects, focus and identity but still are "colleagues" that help each other by exchanging experiences or contacts.”

Alexander Marinus, resident designer

MAD Incubator

In our MAD Incubator, we accommodate nine residents who are an active part of MAD’s principal aim: to support and promote Brussels designers and creative entrepreneurs. Under the supervision of Elke Timmerman, MAD Lab + Director and Olivier Gilson, MAD Lab Deputy Director, the nine are actively supported in growing their creative business. MAD provides them not only with a workspace (residences) but also financial support and foremost a team of (internal and external) experts guiding them in their business growth, and initiating projects and collaborations in which sustainability and social design are inherent.

After years based in an external location, we recently moved our incubator to our home base in the Dansaert district (Place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains 10). Not only is the ground floor of the MAD building now finally in permanent use (it was set up primarily as an exhibition and event space), but the collaboration and dynamic between the residents, the MAD team and actors in the field are strongly supported as a result of this change.

“MAD is becoming a one stop shop and now tells the whole story. In this way visitors, professionals or private actors, can see the whole circle of services we offer in one place.”

Elke Timmerman, MAD Lab+ Director

Vibrant city for creatives

Brussels is the Belgian and European capital, which brings lots of benefits for young entrepreneurs. The range of cultures and multilingualism is very interesting. It ensures a kind of chaos, a chaos that acts as a good culture medium for artists and creative projects. This multilingualism also gives start-ups a boost towards internationalisation. Large international agencies, such as the European Commission, can give further impetus to entrepreneurs. All these elements make for a city bristling with creative young entrepreneurs, where every week a new studio or co-working space pops up.

“A studio space is really important for the way you reflect about and store ideas. When you organise your workspace, you’re also storing things in your mind. When you change your workplace, you change the way you think about your projects.”

Yvan Caillaud, resident designer

The ideal studio

But what makes a studio a suitable workspace? This is the place where everything begins and where you go through the whole process. So it’s very important that this place makes a designer feel comfortable and that it feels like home, because they spend most of their time here.

The ideal studio is a workspace where work and private life can remain separate. It is nice to be able to close the door after a day's work and go home. It should be a place where you can shut yourself off and work in a focused way, in your own little bubble. On the other hand, it is also a place to meet people and learn from them. Having a place away from home to do this comes across as more professional.

Every new studio feels different. Working methods adapt to the space. This influences how you see things, the way in which you store ideas. When you relocate and reorganise your things, you are also organising your thoughts to some extent. How this is done this differs from artist to artist. One will work better in a tidy room where they can find everything quickly, while another feels uncomfortable behind an empty table and only finds inspiration if they are living in an ‘organised mess’.

It helps if you can use the space for your thoughts, make your surroundings part of the process. You could use walls and windows for brainstorm sessions and cover them with post-it notes, for example. Actions like these visualise creative processes and involve the space. The ideal studio is also flexible, allowing you to move furniture to create a new space. This means the space stays relevant throughout the whole process.

“[…] That you can think with the space, you make your complete surrounding part of the process. We brainstorm on all of the walls and windows, to visualize what we have in our head.”

Studio Plastique, resident designers

A good studio is not just a space with a table and a chair. A good studio is an environment that adapts to our ever changing needs: a soft and cosy sofa for personal discussions, an empty wall to be filled during energising group brainstroms, a high table to work standing for when your brain is a bit cooked, lower tables behind which you can sit for hours, etc. Different tasks require different functionalities.” Cédric Vanhoeck, Resortecs, resident designer

A studio must have a calm atmosphere without too much disturbance from outside. This can come in all forms, and smells, for example, can be just as disruptive as noise.

Olga, the dog of design studio HIER.

What's indispensable for a good studio according to our residents?

  • Natural daylight is definitely number 1
  • Desk on wheels
  • Open cabinets (open shelving) so that you can find your things quickly
  • Work tools within easy reach
  • Collected trinkets serving as inspiration
  • Computer
  • Headphones to isolate yourself
  • Colleagues to ask for feedback
  • Plants to bring the outside in
  • Olga the office dog for daily cuddles

Want to know more about MAD Incubator and our residents?


Resortecs   © Alexandra Bertels
Studio Plastique  © Alexandra Bertels
Jean Baptise Goethgeluck  © E/A/SMITH