Feature Life

What’s On My Desk: Chris Tompkins

Chris Tompkins
Freelance designer Chris Tompkins (Image: Cara Smith/Huddle Today)

Chris Tompkins has had his fair share of working in offices with blinding fluorescent lights and uncontrollable air conditioning. But as a freelance graphic designer, he can now do with his space as he pleases.

Tompkins shared with us the inspiration behind what he keeps in his home office in the downtown Fredericton area and what he keeps out.

Where do you do most of your work? What kind of work do you do?

I do graphic design as a freelance designer from my home office. I’m working from home just because I don’t have any other staff and don’t have intentions of having other staff. So to rent an office wouldn’t make sense and it’s rare that I have meetings with people that would actually have to come to an office.

It just didn’t make sense to spend the extra money to have another room to go spend eight hours a day in. Plus, I can just have the life I want to have without having to go back and forth between different places. It makes life way easier to just be here and have this one room that’s the work zone and then I can just pop out there and relax for a bit and then come back into it.

Why don’t you have the need for a meeting space?

A lot of people I work with aren’t in New Brunswick. I do a lot of book cover design for different publishers throughout Canada. I do a lot of work with musicians. The main people I’m working for lately is a record label in California.

I do a fair amount of logo design and stuff like that so it’s just as easy if it’s locals to go meet at a pub or a coffee shop and sit down for 20 minutes and talk instead of paying $800 a month to have a spot to do that. It seems kind of weird to invite people to come to your house and sit and have a chat about whether or not they want to work with you.

How did you decide what to put in your workspace?

I have this giant IKEA desk I bought years ago when I lived in Toronto. I always wanted a big huge desk that had lots of space, because before that I would work on whatever desk I could get for $50 from Staples or [somewhere]. It would be barely enough room to have a computer and a sketchbook and be able to work comfortably, because I’d be knocking things over. Eventually, I worked on finding a big desk.

Now I have lots of space so when it came to putting this room together… this room got picked because it was the one the desk fit in. From there I tried to keep everything fun and as clean as possible. I like having things plain and simple on the walls, a bit of a tattoo shop feel too.

I like having instruments all over the place. Some people would meditate or go for a walk when they’re stuck on an idea or need a break, but I’d rather just make noise for 20 minutes and then get back to doing work.

What inspires you or makes you feel productive in the space?

The biggest thing in this space that inspires me and makes me feel creative is just that it’s mine. Before I moved here, my office was in my bedroom and I also shared that bedroom with my girlfriend, so it was a really crowded space and it was always messy. So now it’s having the freedom that this is my space. It can be as clean or messy as I want.

It’s also just being able to throw some guitars up on the wall or have a wall of books. I find having books around makes me way more creative, whether I’m actually flipping through them or not, just having them there is kind of comforting.

Is there anything you definitely can’t have in your office?

I’ve worked in a lot of different offices, so I guess maybe annoying coworkers. I worked with a guy at a design company in Toronto that just constantly made this weird sound and then there’s bad fluorescent lighting. I’m maybe just not good at having an office that feels like an office and that has people in it that I haven’t chosen to share the space.