My First Year at Spike Design

I am a freelance Interactive Developer. I have been freelancing since 2007. Like many other freelancers, I started doing this from the comfort of my own home. “That must be amazing!”, friends would often say, “You don’t have to go to work/see your boss/get up etc.”. And, in part, there are some amazing things about working from home…. BUT after over a year, moving from your bed to your desk and back again, not seeing other human beings, having no work/home divide and being able to spend all day in your pants, well, these things start to eat away at your soul.

I decided enough was enough and I found a desk to rent in another company’s small office in the Tobacco Factory in Southville, Bristol. There were a couple of other freelancers there and a few employees. It was a great move and I enjoyed the change immensely. However, after a year I felt that I needed to move on to pastures new, meet more people and find further opportunities. I first discovered Spike Design when it was hosting a Bristol Jelly co-working event that I attended.

(From the website) Spike Design is a creative business incubation unit based in Spike Island, the largest of its kind in the South West. With low-cost desk space, excellent facilities and tailored support, this unique space offers the environment and opportunity for young companies to grow.


When I first moved to Spike Design in November 2010 it was quite a different place to what it is now. An agency had just folded and they had dominated the space. There was a huge vacuum where the 30+ employees had been and I happened to join at the same time as a few other individuals. Some of us decided to locate ourselves in this empty area. I think there were ten or fifteen freelancers in the whole of Spike Design at this point. Spike Island is an old tea-packing warehouse, Spike Design is just one corner of one floor of this massive building, we definitely did not make the place feel very busy. However, over the last twelve months our community has blossomed and grown and we now number nearly forty individuals. Tenants are very diverse in nature, from plant importers, product designers and editors, to photographers, script-writers, marketers and illustrators. There seems to be a slight lean towards digital with numerous designers, developers and a couple of small agencies all working in this field.

My favourite things about Spike:-

  • A Sense of Community. Although I don’t actually work with most of the people I am around every day I feel like we are part of something. I have made some good friends here, we hang out outside and inside of work, have lunch together and help each other out.
  • Business Cross-Pollination. Spike Design is, after all, a business incubation centre and I have seen the dream alive and kicking: photographers taking pictures of the product designer’s products whose websites are then built by the web developers. Editors helping with wording, marketers helping with other tenants messaging. It seems to be happening more and more in the time I have been there and it is a great example of the benefits of a place like this.
  • Scalability. The size of the space and the way the desk system works allows for easy scalability. If your business is growing and you need another desk, it’s very simple to get this extra space for a minimal fee and a month-to-month commitment. Then, if you decide you need more or you need to shrink again, it’s simple and financially painless to do so. This is a great help if you are a small business.



  • The Cafe. Spike Cafe serves coffee, pastries, cake, drinks and well-made meals. There are different specials every day and there are benches outside for when the weather is good.
  • Friday Breakfast Club. Every second Friday we get together for coffee and pastries in our glass meeting room. It’s a great way to meet new tenants and other people you don’t happen to see during your usual day-to-day activities.


  • Table Tennis. There is a table tennis table and lots of people to play of all abilities. We occasionally have a tournament in which the elusive Golden Bat is passed on from mantle to mantle. For me, table tennis is probably my favourite sport and also the ultimate work break, so this is a huge pull.


  • The Exhibition Space. Every two or three months a new exhibition takes place in the expansive Spike Island Galleries. As Spike Design tenants we receive a tour of the latest exhibition by the curator of the gallery. It’s a great way to gain some insight into the current works in the space.

So….. there you have it. It’s been a poignant year for me and I wanted to try and document this influential part of it. I hope it sheds some light on what goes on here at Spike Design and encourages you, should you be looking, to join a great co-working space in Bristol.



3 comments so far

  1. Edmond on

    Sam, I love reading the details about your life! As a work-at-homer, I know exactly what you mean. It *is* great to work out of your living room…and yet…I should look for something like Spike Design locally. England might be a bit too far commute from Minnesota.

    • sambrick on

      Hey Edmond, glad you liked the post. I would strongly recommend co-working. It’s definitely a movement gathering lots of momentum: with the increased amount of freelancers in the world and the ease of organising a meet-up on the web. Looks like you have a couple of interesting spaces in Minneapolis:- and – the first one looks like an amazing building!

      Speak soon my good man,

      Sam 🙂

  2. Christine McFadden on

    Really lovely piece Sam. As a home-working free-lancer since late 70s it really made me wish that such a place existed in my part of Dorset. I’d be there like a shot.

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