BRPH’s new design leader finds joy in creativity and satisfaction in making connections for people.
Your prized accessory is a big blue bag of Sharpies and sticky notes…what’s that about? Ha-ha! I promise I don’t work for 3M on the side. Simply put, creativity and open-mindedness. Designers tend to want to go to a solution before we deeply understand what we’re solving for, or what outcomes the client wants and how that particular project serves the client’s business needs as a whole. It’s not a criticism; it’s human nature to identify a problem and fix it, but we need to listen and explore before we advise. Sometimes what clients think they need is not really the best solution. I strongly believe in bringing all the project stakeholders together at the start of a project and facilitating a conversation where we, as the design team, simply listen to their needs and wants. Sharpies and Post-its® — used with a structured process of discovery — are the tools we use to understand needs and generate ideas. My heart truly skips a beat when I see a stack of pens, square colored pads and a blank white board because all I see is potential.
What does “design” mean to you? Design means understanding and improving the human experience, while also finding innovative ways to improve an organization’s culture and business model. When we understand our client’s strengths, as well as their challenges and existing inefficiencies, we are better equipped to find ways to make stronger connections between their goals and the outcomes achieved. Design also means challenging assumptions, with intent and purpose. For example, one of my clients insisted that they needed individual offices for transient workers in their new training facility. We asked more questions, explored more and found that what they really needed were lockers and a lot more collaboration space where employees could come together, work, learn and share experiences – the essentials of what they wanted to do to build their company culture. These insights changed the course of the facility design, saved them money and were discovered with pens and Post-its™ before we started work on a single drawing.
What do you hope to accomplish in your new role as Director of Design for BRPH? Leverage the creative powerhouse that I believe BRPH was destined to become when we helped launch our first rocket into space 54 years ago. I’ve always envisioned this role as leading and guiding a team of talent, while creating partnerships to develop the BRPH story and ensure we are better understood in the industry for our creativity and innovation. Our brand promise is “Creative Ideas. Precisely Delivered.” Our hallmark for decades has been to support innovative companies to bring their “big ideas” to life, while helping them develop very unique and specialized facilities to connect with customers and engender a productive, happy workforce. As our clients have advanced, BRPH has advanced, and in the eight years I’ve been with the firm, I’ve never heard us say an idea is too bold, too big or too lofty. We simply roll up our sleeves, get into the trenches and ask, “what’s next?”
Our clients recognize we are their partners, that we advocate for the big ideas and we look to the future alongside them. To do this, we need to adapt smartly and cultivate strong processes which strive to create designs that not only serve our clients and their businesses but predict their needs and desires. I want to create the delight and confidence that comes by giving them something they didn’t even know they needed before engaging with us. To do that, I’m fortunate enough to be strengthening the collaboration between our Director of Architecture and Director of Creative. Together, we are striving to bring design excellence, technical proficiency and financial success to every project. There are big things ahead for BRPH and I feel very fortunate to be working alongside a team of enthusiasts eager to achieve them.
So, what is next for BRPH and the design industry? First, it is no secret that technology is rapidly advancing, and it is altering the way we experience the world. But what technology cannot do is replicate human interaction, not yet. Robert Florida, in his book Creative Class, has been quoted as saying that “ideas are the currency of the new economy” and to date, the best way to generate great ideas is by brainstorming in a group and building upon on the ideas of others. This is the very definition of human-centered design. Secondly, in an era when we as humans constantly interact with technology –whether it’s social media, telecommuting or constantly texting our loved ones in lieu of picking up the phone — we will need design more than ever to push us to seek out experiences which are purely human. We will need design to bring us to the watering holes, as collaboration is critical to innovation and advancement. BRPH is committed to ensuring that the human experience of a client’s physical environment is given equal consideration in design as the inclusivity of state-of-the-art technology. With every facility we design, I want us to remember that people will think, meet, produce, learn, soar and/or thrill there and to deliver the best environment we can imagine for them to experience those things.
Which would you choose, a window or a door, where would you put it and why? Oh, great question. Earthrise is an iconic photograph taken by William Anders through the window of Apollo 8 while in orbit. He shared a view that was uniquely his with the world, exemplifying the power of a window and why it has a place everywhere. The real power is in the simple scalability that a window offers to create opportunity, reflection and generate momentum. It is less about the window, but rather the perspective it offers to the viewer, on both sides.
To read more about Jessica Roddenberry and her new role as Director of Design, click here.