What We Learned about Design from Kindergarten

March 1, 2016

As parents of young children, several of us in the office have helped out in a kindergarten classroom. We all marvel at our kids’ creativity and eagerness to learn.  After years of design school and professional practice, kindergarten still has a lot to teach us: play well with others, listen, and keep an open mind.

“Circle time”

One of the first things we learn as kindergarteners is the importance of sharing. In our studio, we value the importance of sharing ideas instead of owning them. We encourage clients to bring in images, thoughts and sketches of their own. By involving contractors and consultants early in the design process, we arrive at better solutions that none of us could have come up with on our own. This team approach streamlines the process and ensures that everyone is working toward one goal.  And no one gets poked in the eye.

“Quiet coyote”

Stick 25 small children in a class with 1 adult and you all need to learn how to listen.  Although our ratio here in the office is a bit smaller, we operate on the same principle: listen first. From homework assignments to collecting report cards about the job we’re doing to asking “what’s new” at every meeting, good listening helps us get to know our clients from the inside out. The better we know our clients, the better we can design for them. And quiet coyote gets to go to recess first.

“Free play”

Kindergarteners learn an amazing amount through unstructured exploration.  In our studio, we make sure to set aside time every week for some “free play”.

Whether it’s by visiting local craftspeople, debating “what’s green” with other designers, or hosting community workshops, keeping our minds open helps us bring innovative solutions to our clients. Kids are frequent visitors to our office; just don’t tell them who is teaching whom!

Workshop on Orcas Island

Workshop on Orcas Island


“Listening Ears”

Client "Homework"

Client “Homework”

Client Report Card

Client Report Card

Office Field Trip to a Metal Shop

Office Field Trip to a Metal Shop