Deskonomics: Shape

Here’s a fun point. Almost everyone works at a desk, but nobody talks about desks. Chairs come up sometimes, especially in discussions about the Aeron chair versus a well made leather, or general sitting ergonomics.

This is an incredibly broad topic that could easily span dozens of blog posts in it’s complexity. Game developers and other media professionals have many needs for their working surface. And depending on how many hats you wear as a developer, you’ve got to fit several monitors, speakers (stereo or surround), input devices (keyboards, mice, tablets, midi interfaces), scanners, printers, and other office friendly objects (fans, phones, paper and supplies) on it. So lets start with a simple yet significant point. Desk shape.

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Desks bought from retail come in 1 of 3 shapes. Rectangular, L shaped, or U shaped.

An advantage of a rectangular desk is you can combine it with any number of rectangular desks or tables to create any desk arrangement you like. You’ll have to be careful when it comes to height and depth, as you’ll likely want them to be them to match somewhat.

The L shape desk is a nice shape, since you get stuff in front, and more stuff to the side. Or the side gives you some additional workspace, if there isn’t any in front.

But as far as these shapes go, the U is clearly the winner. The bigger the desk, the more crap you can fit on it. You get all the space fitting advantages of the L, with an extra rectangle for more crap, or as a work surface.

Game development is a very collaborative process. Now, I don’t care if you’re a lone wolf indie developer that lives by yourself. You’re going to eventually have somebody over, and it’ll be beneficial to have them sit next to you.

Here’s the real motivation of this post. You can fit somebody beside you in any reasonable rectangular and L shaped arrangement. However, U shaped desks, there’s a problem. If your computer monitors are in the middle of the U, then people can’t sit beside you. Their either going to have to sit or stand behind you, or far off to the side.

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From experience, this isn’t good. People complain about not being able to read the screens, or the colors look different (off axis LCD viewing), or any number of complaints. Or if nobody is complaining, then you’re hurting the collaborative potential by not sitting them beside you.

You can solve this problem relatively easily by putting your monitors on a side of the U.

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However, desks are commonly designed with the keyboard shelf fitted to the middle spot, or on an angle in between. On the plus side, some drawers can be converted to keyboard shelves. If that’s not an option, with a little bit of craftsmanship, you can add one. The parts can be picked up at most hardware stores.

Few developers will make the opportunity to have or build a custom desk, but the U problem mention above is something to take in to consideration. A fat U shape could work, but it’d need to be really fat to fit 2 quality chairs. Custom desks are a topic all on their own, so I’ll save that for another day.

And that about covers desk shape.