MEREDITH Strategy + Design

We design the places and spaces where people come together to do great work

2016 July 17 – The cadences of summer

Summer has a weird kind of cadence around the office. We give people every other Friday off so the end of the week feels quite soft while the other four days feel quite compressed. 

We are, however, having a lot of fun. What looks like stress is actually a very good amount of work and a lot of strategy in the spaces in between. The nature of work for all of our clients' industries is changing and everybody is looking for new ways to think about the workspace.

The auto industry is a hive of activity where our work runs with some of the great names in racing, some of the national OEMs, and some very interesting startups (yes, auto industry startups!). 

All of this has us thinking more about the way that we describe what we do. More on that later. 



2016 Week 5 – Limbo

I haven’t had much time to get back to weeknotes in a while. I am not sure that I really have time now, but better habits suggest I’d better get writing and writing regularly. Here goes.

I am working on a framework to use as an offering to certain clients for certain types of projects and to guide the thinking and design work of our teams across our national platform.

The framework is intended to exist in several layers. As a business framework, it should shape the way we recruit, organize and deploy our design teams. As a services framework, it should have the development of a number of tools and applications within in to apply to a client’s context, derive insights, and generate designs. As a thinking framework, it should help our clients open their minds as they consider how to convey their problem to us and use the framework to explore alternative concepts to achieve their aspirations and goals.

I, and my colleagues, at least as far as we talk about these things, are in concurrence that the framework is valid. We’ve tested versions of it with a couple of clients and they concur in its value to generate an entirely more relevant and authentic design approach for what they are trying to do.

Yet, I am struggling a bit to get our thinking and experience shaped into a “document,” of sorts, to use in expanding the comprehension and delivery of the model both internally with staff and externally in our marketing and services.

After several drafts, I believe I have something good, but I am not yet ready to roll it out. Part of my hesitation is form – each audience for the framework should have a different kind of “document.” Internally, it might be a tutorial. With clients, it might be an outline of an approach or a proposal of services. In marketing, it needs to become something of an article, and a presentation, and a whitepaper. In every case, it needs to remain open, to augment or adapt as we learn from each application.

As this week comes to a close, i am a bit stuck in current form and need a breakthrough. With others, next week?

2016 Week 1

I start this with a bit of a laugh. The intention, of course, is to offer a weekly observation on what we've been up to, what we're looking forward to, etc. And here we are at the end of the first week in the New Year, and the resolution to commit to that weekly reflection is already flagging.
Time poverty, of course, is the issue and one worthy of reflecting on...later.

I've tried to stay away from the annual barrage of "ten bests" and "trends to watch for." I've generally thought these reflections/projections to be a bit shallow and self-centered. I wonder, however, if their omnipresence has caused a background influence on my perception of where we are now. I walk through the studio and, with a perspective broadened by the holiday break, now want to restart everything currently in development. A yearning for the new.

7 November 2015 – A week of turning points

Wow! It's been a long time since we were here, last. Let's see if we can't make this as regular as the page header promises.

This week has had the delight, and also the stress, of a number of turning points on projects. Everybody seems to be adjusting well, moving into the flow as contexts and conditions demand.

A couple of our clients will to move into their new spaces soon. It's been a delight to witness the rising buzz as they sneak peeks into the bustling construction zone. The best delight is the pleasure of the lead designers who are getting called out by the client as they post videos of the space and appreciative comments in emails and messages.

We have both proposed and declined to propose on some very interesting projects this week. This caused us to reflect on the differences between the ways that clients express their requests for proposals from architects. This week included two opportunities forming a great comparative case that we'll write about later. One was an invitation from a very well-positioned client to design a maker-oriented, co-working space in Chicago (that we declined to propose on). The other was from a scrappy automotive startup to design their second-stage maker space in Detroit (which we did propose on). Why would we have chosen to go after the million-dollar project rather than the ten million dollar project? Stay tuned to our blog for the answer.

We have an anthropologist sitting in our offices now. She is researching the nature of the communications between architects and their clients – How the architect (specialized professional domain, jargon-rich internal language, technical talk and documentation, unique vision for things not yet visible, etc.) talks with the client (focused business domain, no technical knowledge, its own jargon, favoring the tangible, nervously representing the not-yet-visible to a skeptical community back home, etc.) and how each gain an understanding of each other. This will be a three-month engagement on the front-edge of a few of our projects. Maybe we'll end up in a book somewhere! (Hope we learn some things!)

28 March 2015

A major disappointment

We'd spent a huge amount of time over the holidays from Thanksgiving to mid-January preparing a proposal for a very significant project.  Winning it would provide a platform for developing entirely new approaches to product development environments. The project also had a scale that could support our team for the next decade.

We pulled together an international team that included one of the most prominent architectural firms on the planet. We also included consultants who have committed themselves to the highest levels of sustainable planning and design. The client, a major global manufacturer, has now chosen another team.

These are massive disappointments, of course. However, in the course of developing our proposal, we met great people and developed new ways of working that can have resonating value beyond this specific proposal. Our team, with the emotion of loss fading, will begin next week to capture the learnings from our proposal process for integration into our ongoing practice.

Beginning a new project

There are so many places like this – places where truly dedicated people work overlooking and seemingly overcoming significant barriers to their achievement. I can commend their heroism, of sorts, for making do until, after meeting and talking with them, i begin to visualize the right kind of place and space for them. Then, I want to push into design and get all of this corrected as quickly as possible.

This is one of the largest independent community mental health organizations in the country, I believe. It is an organization that has authored many leading concepts in integrated care that subsequently proliferate through many similar organizations. The people who work here are a delight to talk with. They seem unaware of the difficulties in overcoming their work environment, and speak only of what they do and how they support their patients, their consumers. 

We’ve just completed two full days of rolling half-hour introductory conversations with the executive and supervisory staff of the organization. These conversations are simply for us to get to know the organization and develop some preliminary ideas about how to approach additional research and increase our immersion into their operations. These initial conversations will help us uncover certain themes or issues that we’ll then explore in surveys, observations, and small group workshops, as well. 

From this first round of conversations, certain emerging concepts have begun to appear – 

  • How to increase the interaction between case workers, to enhance the quality of their work, their sense of shared purpose, the development of best practices, their interactions with clinical staff, and their preparation of others who will have a part in the therapy and care of people with lifelong needs. 
  • How to shape a clinical space where appropriate separations are made yet where bridges between generations can be shaped more effectively and smoothly, where better observations can be made, where contexts are more evident to therapists, where consumers are supported with better orientation and comfort.
  • How to reduce the walls between executives and generate a better sense of teaming and an efficiency in communications

Our team will spend some time in this next week going over these initial interviews and observations to shape the next steps in our research. 

And a bunch of other cool stuff

In other activity in the studio, we –

  • Are programming a new space for a company that develops technologies for municipal governments
  • Met with a large contractor to continue to develop approaches to collaborations that have differential value for clients
  • Are looking forward to a new senior living project in our neighborhood
  • Have new work with a startup organization that seems to be taking over the internet security space