Makeshift Says Goodbye

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 11.20.17 PM

I suck at goodbyes.

Let me get this over with: Makeshift is closing doors this month. Our last day is Friday, August 26th.

The first thing people always want to know is why, and the answer to that question is so complicated. Expenses were higher than income and for an old-fashioned storefront business, that’s the kiss of death. I’m not ready to go into it in any greater detail right now, but if you’re business-oriented, here’s a FAQ.

But what else? Makeshift is the fourth brick-and-mortar business I have started in the last 11 years, and the third one I have closed. (Happily, Rare Device is thriving under the care of awesome people.)

Makeshift was a grand experiment; it felt like the culmination of interests that I didn’t even know I had. And then a funny thing happened: it shape-shifted into its true self. I wanted a sunny window seat to read design books in and work on a laptop, a little room to meet with friends or clients, and a tiny loft that you accessed by a vintage library ladder so you could take a nap. And it had all of those things, sure, but that’s just the physical space. Makeshift started as a place and became a community.

A wonderful community! A band of creative people who talked and laughed and pitched ideas to each other and became friends and collaborators. People who shared homemade cookies and threw toys for the dogs and cooed over the babies who came to work next to their moms. People who recommended each other for jobs and edited copy for each others’ Kickstarters and took headshot photos and coded websites. The DNA of Makeshift is now a part of so many other businesses, and I still hear about the successes of our members all the time. Personally, I am still pulling from the network of people I met through this business to help me, every day. That means something.

Last year, my business partner Bryan wrote a far more eloquent goodbye letter when we closed the Brooklyn location. I’m going to keep it short and sweet and just say thank you for supporting us. You’ll see me around town.


PS Huge love and thanks to Ashley and Nicole who are everything.


The Best / Worst

best worst

We will be hosting The Best Worst on October 28th. It is an evening devoted to the ‘best worst’ ideas or projects by those in the creative industry. Join us at Social Print Studio in SOMA to hear about completed work that was not as popular as imagined, a proposal that didn’t get chosen, or something that a designer was proud of that nevertheless failed. We have all experienced something of this nature in some form or another. Whether for a failed science fair project (poor volcano), perhaps a thesis that went nowhere, or a business idea that just didn’t get off the ground.

The Best Worst was inspired by the closure of Makeshift Society Brooklyn, our second workspace, which was open for a year and a half. We at Makeshift are incredibly happy with what we accomplished but acknowledge the realities of our failure, and we think this is a fascinating topic that people should hear about. We like to think of The Best Worst as FailCon meets Mortified – less instructional but more visual and fun(ny)!

We have lined up a great group of small business owners and speakers to talk about their projects gone awry and how they handled it in stride.

Big thanks to our sponsor CreativeLive




Tash Wong is the Chief Coaster Officer at Coastermatic, where she spends her days espousing the beauty and utility of photo and designer coasters to anyone who will listen. Before becoming a creative entrepreneur, Tash made use of her time as an Interaction Designer, gaining an MFA on the subject and working for clients like the New York Times. She blogs and speaks about her work, and you can learn more about her at




 Brent Couchman is the creative director and co-founder of San Francisco-based design studio, Moniker. He leads the creative side of the company, partnering with clients such as Facebook, Google, Coca-Cola, GOOD, Herman Miller and Target to create identity systems and packaging. He began his career in the Lone Star State where he developed branding, packaging and illustration for Fossil before relocating to San Francisco to join Hatch Design, working on identity and packaging design. His work has been recognized by AIGA, Art Directors Club, Communication Arts, Print, Graphis, The Eisner Museum of Advertising & Design, and recipient of the ADC Young Guns award for top designers under 30.


emily haasch

Emily Haasch is a designer, artist, and tiny human. She physically resides in San Francisco. Her thoughts digitally reside on Twitter. With roots in collage and object design, she enjoys cultivating a practice that is interdisciplinary in regard to both medium and purpose. Lately, Emily has been interested in the intersection of design and the systems it both supports and resists. By questioning these themes, she has slowly been initiating digital and IRL projects to make sense of what it means to be a designer in 2015. Emily graduated with a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013. By day, she is currently a designer for Electric Objects, a NYC-based art hardware company.



Coming Up: Exquisite Totes

yeah-tote-bagIllustration by Becky Simpson

Get in touch with your inner surrealist during Exquisite Totes, sponsored by Adobe Creative Cloud!

Becky Simpson, Illustrator and Adobe Creative Resident, has created different body parts for us to mix and match. And like the parlour game, Exquisite Corpse, you’ll grab a head, midriff, and some legs to screenprint a complete monster on your very own tote bag. This is a great chance to learn about the screenprinting process and meet other local designers. Not to worry if you don’t have experience, Kayrock will be here operating the screens and making the inky goodness happen.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 4.15.30 PMImage from Kayrock Instagram 

As an Adobe Creative Resident, Becky is focusing her year long exploration on the creative process. While we enjoy some refreshments, Becky will share what inspired her and the steps she took to create the Exquisite Totes components.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 4.50.17 PMBecky Simpson- image by Half Orange Photography

Never heard of Exquisite Corpse? Among the Surrealist techniques, Exquisite Corpse was a collaborative collage of words or images. Based on an old parlour game, it was played by several people, each of whom would draw something on a piece of paper, fold the paper to conceal their section, and pass it on to the next player. The result is an assemblage or creature that’s made of multiple ‘stripes’ that have very little relationship to each other beyond sharing common lines. Some lovely, crazy things emerge:


$10 buys you your new fave tote, drinks & snacks, and an evening spent playing, learning, and making with us! Get your tickets here.

Member Mentions

MEMBER MENTIONSlunch bunch makeshift societyWhat makes Makeshift, well Makeshift, is our members. They are the core of the society and our community is built around them so we like to share in their accomplishments! We will be featuring new and noteworthy things happening with our members through our Member Mentions. This is a great way for our members and the community to support one another and also for use to brag a little (our members are awesome!)

If you are a members, please email us at with news worthy happenings, we’d love to feature them!

paper jam pressArianna of Paper Jam Press (who’s posters adorn our walls) recently collaborated with Blik! The line features new clocks, decals, and prints in her signature bold, black font and also feature different hues for the color lovers. These cheeky sayings would look perfect in a fun office or home.

lindsay collinsLindsey Collins’s company ( just launched #Truthbombs, an app for and with Danielle LaPorte, for both iPhone and Android. It earned #1 status for its category in iTunes and was ranked in the top 60 overall. We love how Lindsey’s company focuses on apps for women by women!

creative liveA few of our members and Rena have taught for CreativeLive, online and in person classes you can watch in real time and interact with the instructor or return to at your own pace. This month they are rolling out a series for crafters to get ready for the holiday selling season.

The holidays are a crafter’s high season. Make bank in the fall and you are set for late winter’s inevitable slump. Which is why CreativeLive put together a free online conference that’ll ensure your next holiday sales cycle is a huge hit. Improve Your Holiday Sales, airing August 17-21, is a collection of five intensive classes, taught by the best experts in the field. RSVP for the class here.


Makeshift Brooklyn Will Close in Late October 2015


The Brooklyn location of Makeshift Society will close at the end of October. You can skip to the end if you’re a member and wondering about your membership; otherwise, please read on.

Running coworking spaces was never the plan. I mean, how could it be? It didn’t exist as a category 10 years ago (and in the eyes of the SBA and various tax authorities is still unclassifiable). Nevertheless, in 2012, with the support of friends, we took a giant leap of faith and opened Makeshift Society in San Francisco, a space for creative entrepreneurs to meet, to work, to take a nap, to hold a class, and to open themselves up to the messiness and randomness that is working around others when you are your own boss.

For us, the mission came first, and the label afterwards. It’s only three years later and it feels like everybody has heard of coworking. This industry has grown tremendously fast because it’s tied to real estate, and that industry ultimately has a huge effect on how cities and communities are shaped.

The funny thing is that we aren’t really interested in the real estate. For all that we value good design and great environments, we’re interested in people. They always have been, and always will be, the life of cities. Because the mission comes first, we strive to do things our way, and find people who jive with that. Bryan summed up our feels well in a blog post:

Makeshift is a trojan horse… It is a coworking space and a community, but it’s about providing people in the creative fields with new pathways to independence by giving them the resources, agency, and accountability they need to excel.

And so in 2014, we opened a second Makeshift in a gorgeous old industrial building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We felt the timing was right, the neighborhood was full of creative types, and people would want to work near where they lived. Using our experience of what works in San Francisco we tried the same thing in Brooklyn, only bigger! Lots of communal tables. A sane, low-pressure mood. A “pleasantly productive place to work”, as a member recently put it.


What we underestimated, though, is what people wanted. People want offices! They want a space with a door on it. Based on our own experiences collectively freelancing for decades, that didn’t really make sense to us. The last thing we wanted was to leave the loneliness of home and go into a tiny private cubicle. The shape of what people want in Brooklyn does not match our research and our best guess. Makeshift Society in San Francisco was thriving almost immediately, but Brooklyn has struggled to hit critical mass even after a year and a half.

How do we feel? Sad, of course, but also grateful. We’ve met so many friends, partners, neighbors and co-conspirators in NYC. We’ve held book launches and workshops and straight-up celebrations — even a magic show. The people flowing through the Brooklyn space have struck business relationships, spawned collaborations, and found plenty of mutual support. We’re proud of what we’ve done, and want to see it continue in some fashion.


We are not entirely sure what to do next; we have ideas, certainly, but no clear answers. We need your help. It hasn’t been easy for us to know when to put on a brave face and act like things are going according to plan, and when to reveal our own struggles, knowing that being open with one’s vulnerabilities is what makes a community strong. We made some mistakes when we opened the Brooklyn space, regarding elements of the business, but we DON’T think our original mission is a mistake, nor the community that has formed around the space.

We’ve tried our best to do something for people, and what we’ve learned is that we need to go back to our roots a bit — to the idea of a society that’s right there in our name — and ask for your help in shaping the future of Makeshift. We’re open to your ideas, and we’re listening to you.

Makeshift Brooklyn is looking for a solution, and hopefully you can help us. Perhaps you’re a medium-sized startup that wants to move into a turnkey space in Williamsburg. Maybe you’re a coworking space looking to expand into Brooklyn. Or you have the organizing bug and want to make Makeshift a cooperative of sorts, while maintaining our mission.

We’d love to hear what you think. Email us at or catch Bryan or Rena live via Skype. We’ll be holding office hours to talk all things Makeshift. Rena will be available by Skype (username: rena_tom) every Wednesday from August 5 – Oct 14 at noon-1pm PST and Bryan will be available weekly to meet in person at Makeshift Brooklyn.

If we don’t find a solution, we’ll gently wind things down toward the end of October. Rena will fly out from the West coast, not to mourn but to celebrate and give thanks to the umpteen people who have made Makeshift Society Brooklyn into the quirky, awesome community that it is today.


A spread from our recent feature in Metropolis Magazine with excellent photos by Mark Wickens.

If you’re a Brooklyn member and have questions about what this means, we’ve done our best to compile a FAQ. If there’s something else you’re curious about, follow the instructions at the bottom of the FAQ and we’ll get your specific questions answered too.

Oh! Some final things you should know: Makeshift SF is happy and healthy and turning three (!) this fall.

And even though these will be our last months, we’re still cooking up great partnerships and events in Brooklyn with our friends James Victore, Kelli Anderson, Sha Hwang, Elana Schlenker, the kind folk behind the Adobe Creative Residency, and more surprise guests to come. Stay tuned.

– Rena and Bryan

Posted by on August 4, 2015 and tagged with: Brooklyn