The Art of a Productive Desk Set Up

February 13, 2023
Ardy Mirhashem

How a creative space influences the creative process

The visual appeal of a well-put-together setup isn’t just all for looks. Having a dedicated place within your home or work place that inspires you to be at your most productive is an absolute essential for creative professionals, especially in a post-COVID work environment. Saying this is all well and good, but HOW do you achieve a perfect setup?

There are a few things I have learned over the years, having had several setups as a video editor:

  1. Understanding the principles of design
  2. Using items that spark joy or that you have an emotional bond with
  3. Lack of clutter
  4. Making work frictionless

Understanding the Principles of Design

This may sound a lot more intimidating than it leads on, but I have found that breaking this down into specific steps has always helped when starting a new desk setup. Picking a colour scheme is a great place to start, but there are a few elements to this, such as the room that you are starting with.

White room desk setup

Let's take a white room for example. This tends to have the most flexibility when it comes to picking colours.

This set-up is in a bright and airy room. The desktop is black and uses natural wood along with pops of green from the plants to increase that natural element to it. Black & white is a great starting point as it’s a neutral colour palette that just goes with everything, it can also be taken to that next level by adding some subtle accents, whether that be something natural like wood, plants or items that have earth tones in general.

One very easy mistake to make during this process is to get carried away and start adding tones of different elements, colours & textures. Using colour theory here is absolutely pivotal to this part of the process. For example, using a maple table with walnut accents is going to clash quite heavily as they are quite close to each other in tone. Throw the natural wood grain into this and it becomes a mess.

Simple is always the way to go.

Using items that spark joy or that you have an emotional bond with

Desk plant

This is my personal favourite part of the desk setup. Any old Tom, Dick, or Harry can throw together a nice monochrome desk setup, but here is where you can add the character and really make it your own.

This might also sound expensive, however this is a misconception. You may already own these items and have them lying around the house. A very easy place to start is a desk plant; an extremely quick, easy and inexpensive place to start.

Big or small. Tree or succulent. Any house plant can work! It’s become an absolute essential for me on all my setups.

One other place I look for ways to personalise my space is for local artists or second-hand shops. I have found some absolute gems that are also one-off, making my space truly unique.

It’s such a small detail but can really elevate the desk. Plus, if these items have an attachment, it can make you feel right at home when trying to get some serious work done. This can also help negate the effect of high-stress projects, which I have found to be incredibly useful as a creative.

Rabbit item on a PC desk

Lack of clutter

Arguably the most essential aspect to a desk setup. For a lot of people, a lack of clutter can help elevate productivity levels, reduce stress and add a sense of calm to your workspace. I personally have found that this helps me focus on my edits a lot more. On top of this, I have discovered that I can get into the flow state on a project significantly quicker. However, I appreciate everyone is different, I can actually really appreciate a cluttered space, sometimes there is a method to people's madness. We are creatives after all!

Making work frictionless

Making it more convenient to do work has its positives and negatives. However, if you're like me and find it easy to get distracted or struggle to settle into your work at the start of the day, then you’ll find this really useful.

Desk and monitor setup

Starting with peripherals is what I love to do. Whether you use the standard Apple chiclet style keyboard, a custom keyboard with all the bells and whistles, a gaming mouse or the built-in trackpad on your laptop, make sure you find it a joy to use. Peripherals are the tools that help us get the work done, and why shouldn’t those tools have an element of excitement to them?

For me, when I’m not doing any audio sensitive work, I love to have music on in the background. I found it gets me pumped whilst also helping me power through mundane tasks, so a decent pair of headphones or speakers are an absolute must.

Monitors can make or break a desk setup, love them or loathe them, making sure you have the right screen for the space really is an understatement. For me, I have a big monitor that I use as my primary display with my iPad tucked neatly underneath. The reason I use an iPad instead of just a monitor is because it’s a great overall companion for my MacBook, most of the time at work it’s displaying scripts, documents or client feedback. I find taking the time to do some research on the right monitor is integral to making your setup frictionless.

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