Designing a Space for Data Collaboration


Designing a space where people would come together to collaborate on data projects is trickier than hanging six screens on a wall in a closet and calling it a day.

In addition to the traditional modes of interacting with data — monitoring live streams, using common references, working together on a problem, alerting someone — we wanted a space for

  • Creative: for experimenting with new forms of retail signage

  • Strategy: for immersions into consumer environments.

  • Marketing: for displaying the work in an impactful way

  • Social: for people to hang out

We have formulated six principles that we used to filter our options and guide our decisions: from the choice of the physical space to furniture selections and software design:

Take it out of the closet

Accommodate different types of work

Design around how real people work

People should want to use it

Make it easy to fire up

Make the best use of it


Design process

Our first step was to find a suitable space. We took pictures of several possible locations and photoshopped some TV screens on the walls.

Once the location was picked, we did a round of crude renderings to get a feel for the space from different angles.

We then started filling out the details. One early idea was to equip the room with square displays that had a mechanism that allowed the screens to be pulled in and out. The idea was overuled as pretty but impractical.

We looked at how other industries design their command centers: petrochemical plans, traffic dispatchers, and stock brokerages. We also spend a lot of time studying fictional interfaces such as this one from Matrix 2.

The architects took over to create the plan and final, detailed renderings.

Here, most of the heavy construction has been completed -- a wall had to be moved and the wiring had to be rerouted -- and the screens have been installed.

Boston City officials look on as the social team monitors the One Boston Day campaign.

With Bill Letson, Henry Bruce, Andres Hernandez, Vicky Lirantonakis, Paul Lenzi, Mike Proulx, and Chris Sherrill