The start of a new year heralds an evaluation of years past and a rekindled aspiration to strategically plan for the future. Trends in academic curriculum and industry standards, while standing on a resolute foundation, are subject to change with continued rumination by professionals and students alike. This necessitates being aware of the direction that trends are heading in order to foster effective collaboration and produce quality work. This is especially strong in the world of design as our work is wide-reaching and touches many people. It is important for design firms to be informed by each other and by academic practices so that young professionals, who are readily molded by their early professional experiences, are prepared to continue to lead the industry with evidence-based and quality design.

Quality design is what students are seeking to learn, but the method of reaching an understanding of good design, as well as the definition itself, can vary between universities and individuals. There are a number of factors that influence how students learn; however, the project process in an academic setting is often the same:  students design the most innovative solutions possible typically without being restricted by the consideration of a client’s resources. Quality design is also what professionals are seeking to create, but the method and process can be rather different than the academic process. Practicing design professionals must be aware and in-tune to a client’s needs, expectations, and available resources. The intensely-creative energy of a student is powerful and can be very successful if harnessed in an appropriate manner. Merging a young professional’s creative enthusiasm with a more established understanding of real-world constraints leads to outstanding design solutions. It is because of this that we encourage all of our team members, including our interns, to share their ideas to arrive at the best solution. The goal of a firm should be to educate emerging professionals on necessary limitations without diminishing their explorative nature. In doing so, we can balance solutions with innovative qualities that will continue to propel our industry forward.

This balance is actualized through effective collaboration. Collaboration must occur internally as team members work together on projects and office-wide goals. It must also occur externally by working with professionals in other disciplines. Keeping established relationships with universities across the country, we have learned that many are taking opportunities to expose students to other disciplines such as engineering and planning, ecology, graphic design, and interior design to name a few. This exposure is a springboard into a young professional’s first job as it provides an introduction to the idea that we do not work in a vacuum, but rather seek input from allied professionals. We strive to communicate effectively with our project team members across disciplines and maintain relationships with universities to take cues from their curricula that can influence how we approach our structure, what strengths to anticipate from incoming professionals, and how to best integrate new professionals into our team.

Integrating new professionals into an office culture and operational structure is a procedure that we believe should be strategically executed. A young professional will gain their first impression of the industry as a whole while at their first office experience. This initial period is when the energy for both the individual to learn from the office and the office to learn from the individual is highest. There are some general operative procedures that vary between students and office team members. Students are often accustomed to allocating their time based solely upon their own needs while an office must plan time in a more holistic manner in order to maintain balanced workloads and streamlined schedules with established priorities. Blending the raw enthusiasm of a new professional with the management efficiencies of an established office studio creates a powerful and effective work environment.

We are always eager to learn, whether that be from our past experiences, allied professionals, or our team members, both young and experienced. Our industry requires input from a very wide base of professional disciplines, and to achieve positive results we must be aware of all contributing factors including those that have their impact prior to an individual reaching the professional realm. The design community and our firm sees a great opportunity to engage with and learn from emerging professionals who will be a catalyst in rethinking boundaries and advancing the industry into the next year and beyond.

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