Sunday, August 7, 2011

It's True! Design Does Matter...for Everyone.

Note: this post has little to do with client retention or client relationships but has a lot to do with leadership: creating conditions for creativity to blossom so people's lives improve. Something every client, agency and design firm wishes for itself.

I recently attended a family reunion in Bloomington, Indiana. The host cousins planned a field trip to Columbus, Indiana, a town of 40,000. I’d never heard of Columbus but probably should have. Why? Because it's ranked sixth in the nation by the American Institute of Architects for its innovative building designs. Only Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington D.C. rank higher.  Architects like I.M. Pei, Richard Meir, Harry Weese, Robert Venturi, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Deborah Burke and others have designed fabulous buildings there – including corporate, religious and civic.

But all this is a small town in southern Indiana!

How did it happen?

The buildings are one thing. But the real story here is about the leaders and community members who created a vision of Columbus as a design showcase, a city that believes great design matters. A consensus developed that attention to design makes better lives…for everyone.

Even more amazing is that the community has sustained this value for over 70 years.

Apparently, the design-minded leaders of Cummins Diesel, which is headquartered in Columbus, proposed a deal to the community back in the early 1940’s. Cummins would pay the architect fees for public buildings if the company could select the architect. This led to commissions with the world’s leading designers to strut their stuff in Columbus. Over the years, community leaders followed suit with both religious and private buildings. The community saw the impact of great design in people's lives and design thinking became a community standard.

For those even modestly interested in architecture and design, don’t miss a visit to Columbus, Indiana.

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