ashley bock

svl make lab

svl make lab

2018 + 2019


While attending IBM’s new hire design bootcamp in Austin, design- researcher-and-fellow-IBMer Lucy Obus and I encountered their studio’s Make Lab—a small pocket (read: storage closet) carved out of the studio, packed to the brim with supplies, from screen printing to button making. Needless to say, our eyes went all 😍— we were smitten. When we went back to San Jose six weeks later, we immediately set out to create a similar space at our studio.

In my excitement, I dropped all these bags one minute later RIP :-(

In my excitement, I dropped all these bags one minute later RIP :-(

a jump start 🤠

We had a little help from our pals in Austin, who gave us a bit of their budget to get the ball rolling. We ordered our first shipment of supplies and then scoured our studio for some space to put it. (We ended up taking over someone’s old office as they were moving out.) And from here we set up shop with some supplies, including a vinyl cutter, button maker, weaving looms, brush pens, and legos. We wanted our initial set-up to be accessible and entry-level so that it could get the studio excited about making.

The campus at IBM Silicon Valley Lab, via  Jung

The campus at IBM Silicon Valley Lab, via Jung

the pitch ⚾️

After our initial set up, we spent some time deciding how we wanted the space to grow and what we wanted it to be. We conducted a survey of our office to see what people were interested in learning and what skills they already had. We also interviewed people we knew at other companies and schools who manage similar spaces about their experience.


Out of the 159 people that responded, we received the most buzz for 3-D printing, electronics, and laser cutting. (130, 109, 102 responses respectively.)

I create small IoT projects using Arduino and a Raspberry Pi, along with an assortment of electrical components.
— Survey participant

Screen printing and general crafting also created some excitement. 88 participants even expressed their interest in teaching others. We also got a sense of how often IBMers would use the space, with a large majority of participants citing “weekly.” We received a lot of positive response for the initiative, which motivated us to get the ball rolling quickly on our plan for an improved space.

This sounds so amazing! I’ve always been jealous of other companies that offered this, thank you for making this a reality!”
— Survey participant

With all of this in mind, we created a rough layout of the space and budget. And finally, we pitched our plan to the leaders in charge of SVL. They were smitten. We all agreed a Make Lab would fit into the ongoing initiative of updating and improving the SVL campus and attracting new talent.

Sarah  and I helping IBMers make their own buttons

Sarah and I helping IBMers make their own buttons

soft launch 🚀

Even though we were in the midst of planning the space and ordering supplies, we jumped at the opportunity to participate in Pollinate, a day of peer shared learning spearheaded by Alex Morris.

Poster design for the soft launch

Poster design for the soft launch

We set up our button maker and pre-printed a few funky designs for participants to help themselves to. We also printed fun stickers to help advertise the space.

Sticker design for our soft launch

Sticker design for our soft launch

At the event’s closing, Kyle and I helped folks pull their own prints, including some familiar faces, such as Arin Bhowmick, one of our design executives. Overall, it was a huge hit and we saw lots of excitement from attendees for what is to come with the SVL Make Lab.

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to roll out the space!

…and roll credits 🎬 👏🏻

None of this would have been possible without these folks!

Thanks y’all!