For design to be able to transform the life of an individual or organization we must give our talent, time and energy to the creative process with a clear focus on who we are designing for and what their expectations for (the process of) design are.
While design may mean different things to different individuals, the team at Studio Four Design lives by the mantra that Design Matters. Studio Four Design exists because it is our driving belief that by and through creative and thoughtful design of environments people can see, use and feel the lives of individuals, families, organizations and communities can be positively transformed. Studio Four Design is committed to the pursuit of excellence in design because it matters to the lives of others.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Simon Sinek
For our team of designers, the words of Simon Sinek resonate when it comes to how we approach the idea of why design matters. The Why Discover Course of Simon Sinek has shown our teams that understanding the purpose, cause or belief that inspires each of us in our designs is incredibly useful in determining the course of action in how we approach each project we work on to deliver the highest possible equity in the time that our clients bless us with. In his TED talk, Mr. Sinek showed our teams the importance of asking “Why?” in each project that we design and to have a better understanding of why our teams do things the way we do so that we can take our mantra of Design Matters into every piece of work that we create with a spirit of cooperation, trust and the ability to embrace change beyond the status quo.
Studio Four Design’s four core values serve to guide us in our attitude, behavior and decision making in demonstrating our Why in our company culture, daily operations and the delivery of our client services. These four core values are:
Am I exceeding the expectations of our clients and our company?
Am I demonstrating excellence and achieving exceptional results?
Am I all in with our company’s mission, vision and goals?
Am I improving myself to add value to our team, our clients, my family and my community?
Am I recognizing and rewarding my teammates for their accomplishments?
Am I encouraging and supportive of others who need it?
EMPOWER & COLLABORATE
Am I mentoring, inspiring and delegating to others?
Am I leveraging the talents and skills of my teammates and others to solve problems?
Each of our four core values requires each member of our teams to “give” something of ourselves in order to exhibit the behavior and achieve the result. Giving is the ultimate way to serve others and is the foundation to our WHY. The commitment of each of the team members to improving the quality of life for others is why we are willing to give and serve each other, our clients and our community to the highest possible levels.
Transforming lives by design is what differentiates Studio Four Design from other design and architecture firms. We don’t design for ourselves or for the sake of the end product of the process. We don’t design for awards or for recognition; knowing those are a fringe benefit of a successful effort. We do it for others because we believe that if we can make the world a better place for a few then perhaps they, in turn, can make the world a better place for many.
Our approach is based upon the idea that design is not just a means to an end but rather a beginning and foundation for a whole story and purpose to be told through the experiences that take place at a building long after the design work is finished. In 2012 after 10 successful and very busy years, we paused to ask ourselves ‘what is the underlying reason for why we come to work every day and why do we do what we do’? In answering those questions we spent a year of self-discovery to truly understand what the idea of Design Matters truly means. Before we start on a project, we ask ourselves how the design relates to culture. The core questions that we ask revolve around the idea that design has the power to influence and change people’s lives in a positive way. Design Matters builds on that, because Design Matters because in the end, the people whose lives will be dependent on the building matter more.
To build upon that idea, we then move to the next aspect of the project in determining how the designs that we create reflect and relate to the culture of the area where the project will be located and to the people that will define the culture within. Placing ourselves into their space, we ask questions about the design, including:
• What does it mean to you?
• What does it mean to your clients?
• What contribution and impact will it make to the environment and the surrounding community?
• What is that story? How is that story told?
• How is the design matters story told?
• How do you look ahead – not just at the current need of a project, but the needs one year, five years, 10+ years down the road? How often does that come into mind?
• How can the design react and adapt to the future? We’re always looking at how the design can be adapted to address future needs, especially for design projects related to worship facilities and retail locations.
Design Matters Example #1:
Walker’s Collision Repair: Traditional automotive body shops are often dirty, dimly lit and unwelcoming. In contrast, this building provides a contemporary and engaging experience for customers to observe progress on vehicles from a window into the service center that uses the latest in automotive repair technologies. A learning environment is provided on the 2nd floor so that Walker’s team of skilled technicians can receive the highest level of training and certification possible to better serve customers.
Design Matters Example #2:
Altar’d State: Altar’d State started with a mission to fill a gap in the retail industry and change the world for the better. They began as one little shop – learning, growing and defining on the fly who they are. Since their humble beginnings, they continue to branch out and develop along the way. Since 2009, they have grown their footprint from one fledgling retail shop to over 70 booming fashion boutiques across the Southeast. A Christian themed retail company, they continue to find ways to differentiate themselves from other retail locations. They strive to create unique, welcoming spaces that allow them to promote their brand and their mission of being able to Stand Out For Good at the same time.
Design Matters Example #3:
Grace Student Ministries: Creating a number of advanced opportunities to share the faith of the ministry while also welcoming all, this project allowed our teams to show that Design Matters because it can welcome all into the spirit of the mission. Grace Student Ministries has grown to an average attendance of 400 students in a space that has a capacity of 500. GSM’s growth has been centered around four C’s for every student and leader to engage with: Create, Connect, Contribute, and Community. The new student building provides a dynamic worship environment to create opportunities for students to experience Jesus. The café, game room, meeting rooms and small group spaces provide environments for connection and community. The multi-purpose space and meeting rooms also provide environments for training and help equip students to Contribute to mission and ministry.
While we have a number of other examples of how we have implemented our vision of Design Matters for our clients, the overarching theme for us has been, and always will continue to be, that design is not just a means to an end but rather a beginning – a foundation for a greater story and purpose to be told through the experiences that take place long after our work is finished.
About the author
Stacy Cox, AIA
Principal | Director of Business Development, Studio Four Design
Stacy Cox is the Director of Business Development and Principal for Studio Four Design, a Knoxville, TN based architectural and design firm. Stacy devotes his time each day to bring passion, energy and creativity to help the Studio Four Design team be successful in completing design work that matters for their clients.