Podcast

Episode: 415 |
Susan Meier:
Unique Workspaces:
Episode
415

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Susan Meier

Unique Workspaces

Show Notes

 

Susan Meier is a brand strategist and a Harvard-trained artist. She applies a creative mindset to the craft of strategy to develop a brand strategy and has worked with the world’s most beloved brands, from Pepsi to Lipton, M&Ms to Doritos. Her art is in private collections of Saatchi & Saatchi, the New York Stock Exchange, and Pfizer and has been exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History.  In this episode, she talks about her latest side-hustle, www.workspace-studio.com.

Key points include:

  • 02:13: How workspace was developed
  • 05:28 The important elements that make a great workspace
  • 12:41: How the space is a portrait of the person
  • 17:56: The creative strategy of no-destination travel

 

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I am so excited to be here with Susan Hamilton Meyer. Back again, she was one of the very first guests on this show. Way back, I think in 2017. Susan, welcome back.

Susan Meier 00:23
Thank you so much. Well, thanks for having me.

Will Bachman 00:26
Susan, I always enjoy our conversations. And so you are kind of a marketing and branding consultant, I’ll ask you to explain that better than I just did. But I want to talk about this new side project that you’ve been working on. So maybe first is give us the one minute overview on your regular day to day practice the kind of work that you normally do, and then we can get into work space studio. So what’s what’s Susan Meyers? How would you describe your, your day to day business?

Susan Meier 00:58
Yeah, so Susan Myers studio is the name of my consulting business. And for that I’m a brand strategist by by training as a strategist, you know, started out with Boston Consulting Group. And what I do as a as a branding professional is I really coach companies, large corporations, small startups, on how to define and express their brand. I do most of my work in healthcare. But the the deliverables tend to be, you know, a strategy for moving forward, a set of messaging that’s going to be rolled out in their marketing materials or website copy. And then designs for the visuals that bring it to life.

Will Bachman 01:46
Great. So I love when people do side projects, it just makes my heart sing. I just love the idea of side projects. And your yours is just particularly it’s just absolutely beautiful. This website, it’s work space hyphen, studio.com. Tell us the story behind this website and what you’re doing with it.

Susan Meier 02:13
Thank you. Yeah, I am kind of a serial side hustler. I’ve been side hustling before, that was a word. And I love it too. It makes my heart sing. And I think this is this is a project I’m really excited about. That was born organically out of two friends talking about, oh my gosh, how are we going to work from home in this pandemic, and a house full of people in a small space and rolled out into Well, why don’t we ask people what they’re doing. And, you know, see, Oh, I know this person, that person definitely has a cool setup. Let’s talk to them. And so my friend is a photographer, and she’s a very accomplished, internationally recognized photographer. And she thought, okay, I can either photograph people’s spaces where I can art direct them to photograph their own spaces. And maybe we could put something together that we can share with people. And I started interviewing, you know, doing a proper one hour, you know, good tapping into my consumer research skills. When our zoom interviews with, by the way, all these super interesting people who span the gamut from corporate lawyers, to fine artists and everything in between, and talking to them about, you know, the nuts and bolts of what their space their home workspace looks like. And then asking them, how do you create, you know, what’s your creative process? And how do you nurture creativity in your space? You know, how do you get into that productive mode that you need to be in sometimes? And, you know, what’s your ideal space look like? What are the important elements of your space and really trying to get a rounded picture of what makes for a best practice workspace? And, you know, I think one of my goals that’s close to my heart for this project is being able to share this with people who aren’t necessarily you know, artists or designers who but who, you know, would like to really elevate their their home workspace, which by the way, I think is here to stay even as the pandemic begins to pass and people begin to leave their homes. I think that we are looking at a hybrid model of work going forward for for quite some time, if not forever.

Will Bachman 04:35
Okay. So listeners, I’m just saying you got to go to this website. I’m going to include a link in the show notes workspace, Ivan studio.com. And, Susan, this is something that you would mean, I would not have been surprised at all to see this kind of level of art direction and writing. I mean, it’s an Architectural Digest or one of the top glossy magazines you to have you and how berdan have done such a beautiful job. It’s like these great q&a write ups of the interviews, nicely edited down. And then these incredible well lit like beautiful photos of these spaces, it just makes you want to get to work, right? I love it. Tell me about some of the the kind of key messages or key learnings or maybe surprising insights that you’ve gotten so far from from this project?

Susan Meier 05:28
Well, thank you for your kind words. And I think if we were to put one intention out there into the universe for this project, it would probably be to be featured in Architectural Digest. So maybe they’re out there listening somewhere. Um, so I think there’s, you know, the consultant in me cannot help but think in terms of key themes as I’m, as I’m doing this type of project. And indeed, key themes emerge. I think that I’m compiling a list of small changes you can make tomorrow to your workspace, but at some point I’ll put out there into the world. But I think there’s a few that really jumped to the top of the list, which is really interesting across discipline, you know, if you’re, there’s Pilates instructor, finance, Guru, fiber artists, like across the board, there are a couple things that really resonate for everyone. So one I would say is, to quote Virginia Woolf A Room of One’s Own. So there’s this necessity that we have, I think, as human beings when we need to focus. And this is both for creative energy. And also for that, you know, when you really need to drop in and focus on something detailed, or when you need to, like open up a dream, to create a boundary around your space. And this can be a physical boundary. And I think a lot of people really talked about being able to close the door as being super important. also being able to leave your stuff where it was. And I think this is something that a lot of us are struggling with, who were working at the kitchen table, or the dining table, or sharing a space with other people, that ability to sort of put your thoughts physically out onto a table or a space, and have them be there when you come back or rearrange them, kind of making the mental visual. And, and there’s also the kind of metaphorical piece of a room of one’s own, which is having boundaries around your time, which again, is a challenge for people, but creating a space physical and mental and emotional, where you can reside kind of permanently and specifically in those times when you need to be productive. That’s number one. Stop me, I’ll just keep talking. So I think another one, which is, this is kind of interesting. There’s like two sides of the coin. So on one side, there’s the kind of keep it simple, eternal Maxim, right? Like keep it simple. Keep your desk neat and sweet, not having piles of stuff and chaos, you know, visually around you helps you, Gretchen Rubin has a great book, outer order inner calm, write about reducing clutter, you know, physically in your space. And, you know, then therefore, creating mental space and a lot of people talked about, that need to kind of keep things orderly, even as their day might create masses of chaos. Like if you’re a prop stylist, right, your whole job is to like, have tons of stuff around. But even and maybe even especially those folks who are using a lot of physical stuff in their work, felt the need to kind of bring it back, everything goes back in its place, and everything goes away from visual sight so that you can start meet again in the morning. So that is one side of the coin. On the other side of the coin. There’s this this kind of balance with however, I don’t want to completely sterile and barren space. Right? It’s I you know, I think of it as as tokens, you know, mementos, tokens, talismans artifacts, people use all those different words to describe it. But this idea of, of shrines almost around your space, that that mark, things that are important to you, that spark joy, that bring you to a different time and place so people had, you know, picture you know, a picture that their mother gave them or some artwork that their son made, or a special object that one of their vendors had handcrafted for them, and or seashells, they’d collected these things in modern Because the space needed to still be clean, but having these little moments that you could kind of hang on to rest on between thoughts, transport you to, you know, your happy place, right. We’re also very, very important in the space. And then the third, the third kind of big category, I think I would call it all of this in the category of nature. But there are two things inside of that one is plant plants, like plant life, and the other is light, like natural light. So yeah, to like, real simple, but super powerful hacks with I would say, find a window and get a plant. Right, because people and it didn’t matter whether you were out in the countryside, or in New York City, having some natural light flowing in just completely transformed people’s experience. And sometimes it was as simple as like, I actually turned my desk to face the window, and then everything was better. Or, you know, I, you know, before when I wasn’t here a lot, I didn’t have very many plants. So you know, I was traveling all the time. And now that I’m here all the time, I’ve been, I noticed almost like, passively, like, it wasn’t an intention, but I would look around and I filled the whole space with plants. And you know, and talking about how, you know, of course, there’s scientific benefits of that they clean the air and whatnot, but, but the the ability to help people focus, help people feel more creative, help people feel more alive, because it’s a living thing and your space was really profound.

Will Bachman 11:46
I totally agree with that. I just moved into a new office, myself. And I finally have a nicer bit of bit of some window light, and put in my window, some, some, some microgreens. So they just germinated a couple of days ago, and I’ll start slipping away at them. But the, it does just sort of add this, you know, nice green kind of living kind of vibe to the room. Yeah, I love the way you’ve captured your your folks that you you profile. And some of the quotes are just amazing and great. Like you interviewed your actual your your partner on this, Halley? And in what way? Would you say that your workspace is a portrait of you? And she responded, it’s clean, it has dimension and the curves are the best thing about it.

Susan Meier 12:41
That was a good answer that question, wasn’t it? Yeah, I mean, I think that was also a really core piece of the idea when we were cooking this idea up is the notion that, that your space is a portrait of you, or, you know, or should be, ideally a portrait of you. And I think that’s grounded in my branding background, right? Like when you think about you walk into the Apple Store, that space is a portrait of the brand. And likewise, I know myself, I’m most comfortable if I can work anywhere, and I can tell you about some of the crazy places I’ve worked well, because this is also a lifelong, not really a side hustle, but just sort of a lifelong hobby of creating workspaces in odd places. But But when I know that it’s ready for me to work in when it feels like a portrait of me, and I don’t know that I use that word in the past, but it has to feel somehow like it expresses who I am, or at least some dimensions of who I am, and then I can kind of relax and conversely, you know, I think that’s one of the reasons that co working spaces haven’t worked well for me over the years, although I’ve tried many of them, like the kind where you kind of common plug in and just sit at a place a different place each time because I don’t feel grounded there doesn’t feel like me.

Will Bachman 14:03
You know, I I’ve been wondering if there’s going to be kind of a new sort of, I don’t want to say exactly co working space, but a new work a new kind of business of offering offices, to people that are now allowed unable to work remote, so they don’t want to commute all the way into the city or they want to commute. But they would like a third place outside their house, you know, outside the living space where they can really craft a workspace that is separate into sight to your point a room of their own, where it can be designed for that it just feels to me like that’s a kind of a business that will arise, Arise and more so

Susan Meier 14:46
I hope so. I hope so because that’s certainly what I would like to have. And I think that’s been my good lifetime search for the right kind of situation and I think the closest I’ve come to that is like a, you know, an artist studio. But as you know, those are few and far between, you know, affordable ones are few and far between and the ones that are affordable don’t have a window and you know, here in New York anyway. And I yeah, I think there’s a real business model for a small room of one’s own with a window.

Will Bachman 15:23
Did you have Did you notice a theme, so far of people having maybe more than one desk, like one desk for with? Personally, I have two desks, and I have like one desk with a computer. And then one day, that does not have a computer, where it’s just for writing by hand and sort of doing doing my thinking at?

Susan Meier 15:44
Will, I’m so fascinated that you do that as well. So yes, that was a theme. It was more of a theme for sort of so called creative people. Because and I know that this is a really big one for me, I I can’t kind of energetically I can’t be making art, for example, in the same space where I’m doing my bookkeeping, it just I mean, not that it hasn’t happened, of course, over the years, but it kind of messes with me, I really need to have a separate space, as we said, for, you know, here’s where I’m gonna go and do my, you know, screen work. I can do my writing there, you know, which is creative, of course. But it’s more it’s a different mode from like, really free thought open, you know, open your mind and be creative. And yes, we saw that across a lot of people where they said, you know, my studio, or this is my studio space, where I’m making things run looking at fabric swatches, or I’m sketching, and then I move over to this part of the space where I move out of my workspace and I go to my couch and like, literally put on the TV to distract myself from the fact that I actually have to balance my books. And I do all that kind of other other type of brain work.

Will Bachman 17:11
Yeah, one thing I’m so much looking forward to as the pandemic winds down, and I hope is being able to do some more traveling, because I often find that some of my best work will get done on the train in a hotel somewhere, just having that difference. Change base, I mean, it’s great having a fixed place that’s your own, and you can leave your stuff. But there’s also something that just jars your thinking a little bit or, you know, adds creativity being just in a temporary being in a cafe in another city or on the Amtrak up to Boston or in a hotel and Frankfurt, just that it kind of spurs different trains of thought somehow.

Susan Meier 17:56
Absolutely. I find that as well. And there’s actually a body of research about that I’m saying, are you I’m sure you’re familiar with me Hi, chick sent me Hi, who, you know, wrote many books about creativity and kind of the founder of the concept of flow. And there’s one of the books he wrote, he interviewed a bunch of creative people to talk, learn about their habits and practices. And a number of them actually had this habit of leaving town for Parts Unknown, and just not even like the destination being important. But just the change. You know, I’m going to go right now. So I, you know, I’m going to work on my novel, and I need to just be in a different space. So I’m going to go to some hotel and some other place, and be there for a few weeks. And maybe I’ll go to another one for a few weeks. And that’s the creative process. And I thought that was really fascinating. But yeah, I have the same experience. You’re like, I’m gonna do nothing this week and be on vacation. It turns out, like all your best thoughts actually happen, then?

Will Bachman 18:58
Yeah, for years, I’ve had this idea. I haven’t actually implemented I gotta admit, but I’m taking the Amtrak just round trip to Boston from New York to spend like nine or 10 hours on the train someday, because I find it so productive with the crummy crummy internet that you get on Amtrak, but being disconnected, but that sense of motion, looking out the window, and having the flat space to work. So I love where you’re going with his workspace studio. I will include a link in the show notes. Where do you see this project going next?

Susan Meier 19:33
That’s a great question. Anybody who has ideas for business model is welcome to reach out and let me know at the moment, it’s just a passion project. And we are very passionate about collecting these stories and sharing them with people and I’m not sure exactly where that’s gonna lead, but I’m really excited to see where it does.

Will Bachman 19:52
Yeah, I mean, it feels to me, like one of these sorts of TV shows where they would, you know, go in and talk to people and you know, show their space and so forth. I mean, it very much feels like it could be one of those things. If people are, you know, proud of their space and think they doing something different should they reach out to you with some offer?

Susan Meier 20:09
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Will Bachman 20:12
Fantastic. Well, Susan will include a link in the show notes as well as your way to reach out to you. And thank you so much for being on the show is great. We’ll also obviously include a link to your your regular website for your resume our studio is so nice having you back. Thanks for joining today.

Susan Meier 20:32
Thank you so much. Well, I really enjoyed it.

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