Creatives at Play: An Inside Look at the Co-Labs

by Gap Inc.

Gap Inc.

September 15, 2022

Imagine a space where getting messy is the goal. You have every tool at your fingertips to simply—create. At our San Francisco hub, those spaces are called Co-Labs, expansive workshops where collaboration fuels imaginations and creative experiments can run wild. 

Co-Labs are the physical manifestation of Create With Audacity (CWA), a Gap Inc. movement helping our people retain their creative edge regardless of which team or brand they’re in. 

“We had already spent a lot of time thinking about how to attract and grow our designers as part of CWA and other initiatives. When the pandemic forced us to rethink the status quo, we took advantage of the chance to step back and challenge how we work within our built environments,” said Kai Augustine, formerly Head of Creative at Gap Inc., now Head of Visual Communications at Old Navy, who co-led the concepting and design for the studios with Aaron Cowperthwaite, VP of Visual Merchandising at Old Navy. 

Print Lab. Proto-Lab. Textile Lab. Inspiration Library. Consumer Insights Room. These are just a few of the many spaces that designers can access at every Co-Lab corner—outfitted with best-in-class tools from silk-screen and 3D printers to a risograph machine to commercial-grade audio-visual equipment. 

“Aaron and I worked with super-users from our internal design community to benchmark what successful innovation or lab spaces looked like in other creative companies. What worked? What didn’t? How were these spaces utilized? That’s how we identified which tools and resources we needed for rapid prototyping, innovation, and white-space thinking.” said Augustine. 

The spaces double as venues for design team meetings and CWA programming like watch parties, and other events meant to amplify work across teams and encourage idea sharing. Plans are in place to activate artist-in-residence programs for an employee-run arts program, host hands-on workshops, and bring in speakers and futurists who can inspire fresh ideas. 

Every nook and cranny was artfully designed to spark inspiration. Take, for example, the entryway mural painted by abstract geometric artist Edward Granger. 

“My work is incredibly playful, full of light ... I want people to have a sense of ease when they see my work; I want their senses to explode. To feel how majestic and vibrant life is. I want people to feel inspired and motivated,” says Granger. 

Our Co-Labs' most unique feature? The large, glass windows that allow transparency into our teams’ design processes and offer customers (from the 2 Folsom retail stores) and passersby (from Embarcadero) a glimpse inside our world of messy play. 

“We wanted the space to give transparency both ways—providing the SF community and our customers visibility into our creative process and vice versa,” said Augustine. “With the opening of the Co-Labs we’ve broken down walls, both literally and figuratively, to inspire and be inspired, keeping our customer curiosity alive.” 

The Co-Labs are open from Monday to Friday for Gap Inc. designers to create, imagine, and learn. Here—where our people have permission to play—we continue to build the future for our customers, together. 

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