Think like a Designer (2011)

We are starting the Design portion of the curriculum here at SAMS, and to kick things off we had an orientation to the topic by listening to some employees of Populous, a global design practice with an office in Kansas City.

Among other things, Populous was responsible for the LiveStrong Stadium here in Kansas City that is now home to the MLS team KC Sporting.

The intent of the brief was for them to explain to us how they take a project from a vague concept to the final delivery of the actual building.

Their process is slightly different for every project due to owner personalities, different goals, conditions, timelines, budgets, etc.

As has been mentioned before this year in the curriculum, there is no silver bullet solution that can be applied uniformly to every circumstance and they emphasize this to us when discussing their own process.

What I appreciated was their passion for the process.

When starting a project, there are lots of unknowns. The skill is in taking all your experience up to that point and establishing a common framework with which to proceed. The representatives we talked to seemed to enjoy the challenge of the process.

Some takeaways from this session:

– Design is intellectually informed decision-making.

– “Everything in the world must have design or the human mind rejects it. But in addition it must have purpose or the human conscience shies away from it.” John Steinbeck

– “Form follows function” Louis Sullivan

– On handing projects off to another member or team: it is important for the receiver to have the history and context, as much as possible, when taking over a project. The genesis of a project typically has an idea which all subsequent ideas are derived from. If the new team does not understand this context, the project can easily move away from its foundation.

– Cast your intellectual net wide. If design is about connecting all the correct dots, you need to make sure you have a lot of potential dots with which to connect. If your education and experience is very narrow, your pool of ‘dots’ will be limited as will your solutions.

Photo taken from

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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