Name: Mason Watson
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Founder and Designer
Room size: 14 m² (150 ft²)
Cost of setup: ~$4K (MBP, desks, accessories, chair, etc.)
Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself
Hey there — I’m Mason, a founder and designer based in Los Angeles.
I consider myself a multi-disciplinary designer having worked in automotive design before starting my own product design studio.
I love working across hardware and software design, as well as early-stage brand building.
I studied automotive design at the ArtCenter College of Design and got experience at various automotive studios throughout Southern California.
I was always entrepreneurial-minded.
I wanted to be my own boss.
To broaden my skill set, I started picking up freelance projects across brand and product design while still working full-time.
Once the demand for my freelance work outweighed my full-time job, I started setting up a more official, one-man studio and transitioned to full-time freelance in 2021.
I’ve been working independently for over two years now through my creative studio, Arcade Labs.
My studio is set up to be part services and part incubator, where I launch and build my own ideas and products.
Our first venture is a platform for documenting your creative process called Viewport, which is planning to launch early next year.
Take us through your setup
|Desk||IKEA TROTTEN Sit/Stand Desk||Monitor||Samsung 4K 28″ UHD Monitor (2020 model)|
|Laptop||MacBook Pro 2021 M1 Max 14″|
|Speakers||Portable Sony SRS|
|Headphones||Bose 700 Over-Ear Headphones|
|Keyboard||Apple Magic Keyboard|
|Chair||Herman Miller Aeron|
|Desk shelf||IKEA EKBY ALEX desktop shelf|
|Mouse mat||Custom print of my illustration :)|
|Web camera||Anker PowerConf C2000 (when not using MBP built-in)|
|Tablet||Wacom Cintiq 16″|
|3D Printer||Creality Ender 3 V2 Neo|
After a recent move, my new studio is still in the process of finalisation.
For my setup, I have a heavy focus on a large desktop workspace.
I’m often sketching and making physical prototypes so having a space to work on digital design as well as physical is very important to me.
I like having a flexible workspace where I can easily move things around depending on the task at hand.
I think your design space should always be an inspiring place to be.
Since I spend most of my time here, I’ve placed a ton of small items, models, artwork, etc., throughout the space.
I also like a lot of plants to fill the space and hope to be adding more soon. The space gets a lot of natural light which is also a plus.
The space is fairly tight, but I’ve managed to pack it in with everything I need, including a small reading nook when I need to step away from the screens.
One struggle with setting up this new space is that the room has an angled wall that’s hard to utilise as you walk in.
After some planning, I recently installed a magnetic whiteboard on it and parked my e-bike under it to maximise the space.
It’s working great so far.
I love being able to print out work and inspiration to give the space more of a working design studio feel.
The next upgrades in the studio will be putting up some artwork on the walls as well as adding some pegboards for smaller items and gadgets.
What’s your favourite item on your desk?
Coming from the automotive industry, I’m still passionate about all things that move.
My favourite item on my desk is a scale model of a 4×4 Lada Niva.
It’s made by the cool guys over at Vagabund Moto.
I think it was around $50 but I love the nice custom touches they added to the model, which is based on the real, life-sized version of the car they built!
I’d love to own one of these cars in the future. It’s a practical size and I love the simplicity of the design.
It stands out to me as a reminder to do things your way and be unique, as corny as that sounds.
What apps or tools do you use to get things done?
I’m an OG Photoshop user and can do just about anything in it.
But 80% or so of my time is spent in Figma.
I also spend a lot of time these days in Framer, building no-code websites.
I use Lightroom Classic for all my photography editing and Slack and Notion for client work and productivity.
What books, blogs, or podcasts recently caught your attention?
I’m currently reading the hard-to-find book Against the Odds, an autobiography by James Dyson.
I was inspired to get a copy after listening to the fantastic episode about his life on the Founders Podcast.
Against the Odds
How did a maverick English inventor manage to design, market and make money from his own invention, toppling market leaders in the process?
This podcast has been my go-to for the past few months. Anyone interested in building business should give it a listen.
A recent source of inspiration I stumbled upon was the work of Vadik Marmeladov.
I love the conceptual approach he takes in his work, always creating simplistic forms even in complex products.
Any tips for other makers who want to improve their workspaces?
First, understand what you want to optimise for.
What are you spending 80-90% of your time doing?
Focus on that first and get your space dialed in for that kind of work.
Second, don’t rush!
My space is ever-evolving, and you’ll get ideas to improve and optimise as you work in it.
What does your typical day look like?
I like to start the day as early as I can, and that’s usually around 6-6:30 am.
I have a short morning routine of getting outside for a walk, having a coffee, taking a shower and reading a bit, before jumping into work.
I try not be on my phone at all in the morning and it’s helped me a lot to focus on the tasks for the day.
I usually start my work day with some light tasks like checking email, blogs, and Twitter.
I think starting with some inspiration and news helps me get into my projects.
If I have some pressing tasks with a tight timeline, I will sometimes just jump straight into them first thing to get a head start on the day.
Since I work independently and don’t have any staff, except for occasional contractors, my admin work is quite light.
I can hop into creative work almost right away, unless there’s something urgent from a client that needs to be addressed.
My days are spent bouncing around among a few projects.
I work best with variety, and I’ll follow the flow on what feels best to work on that day.
Obviously, there are usually time-sensitive client tasks that I need to get done, but switching to my own projects throughout the day just for some quick ideas helps me stay inspired.
I really don’t consider most of my ‘work’ actual work since I’m spending a lot of time building my own ideas, but I tend to be in the office a lot, usually around 12-16 hours a day.
I’ve been fully WFH for about three years now.
It works quite well for me and matches how I like to work, but I have to be diligent about getting out and seeing friends, networking, etc. to change things up.
When I’m not working, you can find me in the climbing gym or somewhere outside exploring, and taking a lot of photos.
Your tips for working from home?
I always start my days with a quick walk followed by an iced coffee and some reading.
I’m pretty productive working from home and I don’t think I could ever go back to working in a large office.
I start work by writing out my main tasks for the day on an index card that sits next to me all day, marking things off as I complete them.
Make your WFH space comfortable and enjoyable to spend time in. Once you have your gear set up to your preference, maintaining productivity should come easily.
Try to minimise distractions that can draw you away from work throughout the day, as much as possible.
We’re a reader-supported publication. This article might contain affiliate links. It means we may receive a commission if you click a link and buy a product that our maker has recommended. The interview was done independently.