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Independent Design at 204 Westminster

Until seeing the new painted ‘204 Westminster’ sign on the historic Gaspee building, you may not have realized how much creativity has been brewing inside. John Caserta, an information-based graphic designer and RISD assistant professor, has been managing the Design Office on the 4th floor since 2007. He founded the shared work space in order to attract independent designers, and it has been gaining momentum ever since.

John encourages designers to collaborate and share books, ideas, and projects. He wants the office to be multidisciplinary and intergenerational, offering plenty of opportunities for networking and mentorship. Members have made meaningful connections, and ultimately, participation has made their small businesses more profitable. By pooling resources together, they can afford top professional grade equipment while maintaining low overhead costs. They have several options, ranging from unlimited full-time membership for $385/month to part-time membership for shared desk and storage space for up to 20 hours a week for $175/month.

With 4 designers renting space at any given time, the small scale worked well for 5 years. (In fact, our downtown website is a product of that tight-knit environment. Lead designer Sarah Rainwater collaborated with Jeremy Mickel, a custom typeface designer, on special fonts for the homepage, inspired by local signage). But John recognized that the office would benefit from having more people and more space. When a larger space on the 3rd floor recently became available, he decided to move downstairs and expand to 12 desks. Now settling in after moving last month, the larger membership allows for the inclusion of more design disciplines including architecture, interior architecture, photography and programming.

Beyond creating design in the new space, the Design Office is serving as a design patron. Anther Kiley, a RISD graduate student, created the storefront sign, which was then painted by Jayson Salvi. Another RISD graduate student, Greg Nemes, designed and fabricated custom desks and shelving as a trade for membership. There’s also an 8’x 8’ production table that can be used for messier projects, workshops and events, as well as a photoshoot area, brainstorming board, library, and kitchen.

The Gaspee building is now being branded as a downtown design center, you can clearly see their detailed Retractable Banner Stands outside of their building, they invite you into their carfully planned interior. A temporary gallery, R.K. Projects on the 2nd floor, and two new RISD affiliated tenants moving into the 1st floor. RISD 2nd Life is a non-profit student-run up-cycling materials center that promotes the collection and redistribution of art supplies. RISD Expose first opened downtown a few years ago as a pop-up shop in the space next door, now occupied by Wharf Clothing. Starting with its official grand opening on September 15th, it will be open year-round, selling RISD student work.

The building owner, Paolino Properties, is actively looking for a complementary new tenant for the 4th floor. To learn more about available space, contact Arthur Lima at (401) 274-6611, and to inquire about Design Office membership, visit