The Program

This year’s program, “New Developments in Design Thinking, Recruitment, Retention and Communication” seemed particularly relevant. Considering most firms are finding themselves relatively busy these days, competition for talent rivals competition for projects. Additionally, design firms are being asked by their clients to go beyond building design and to be true problem-solving partners.

Guest speaker Henry Hong-Yiu Cheung, former Design Director for IDEO, talked about his experiences with one of the top design-thinking firms in the world in applying creative solutions to broad social and economic issues.

The Panels

Panelists for “Moving Beyond Traditional Approaches to Problem Solving” shared ways their firms were moving beyond interdisciplinary practices to more integrated multi-platform ones. “New Ways Culture is Impacting Recruitment and Retention” had presenters addressing ways in which some Design First firms are using a more values-based approach to developing a firm culture that is a major reason talented staff stay with their firms. Finally, “The Changing Face of Leadership” panelists shared ways in which their firms had successfully modified their practices to embrace a broader definition of leadership, including gender diversity.


The panels were interspersed with a well-orchestrated and engaging series of PechaKucha presentations where participating firms talked about their practices – how they are different and how it matters to their clients.

Extras: Fire Drills, SFMOMA, Dining in a Mattress Factory

On Day One, a couple of unexpected and erroneous fire drills gave the whole group a chance to chat and enjoy the incredible San Francisco sunshine while waiting for the all-clear. By late afternoon, the program ended and the whole group boarded a charter bus bound for the newly renovated and expanded, and as-yet-not-open-to-public, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. With a tour personally conducted by a couple of Design Colloquium attendees from architecture firm Snohetta – responsible for the design of the facility – the group was treated to a first peek at the stunning addition.

Following the museum tour, attendees were transported to DogPatch Wineworks for a delicious wine reception prior to walking to their final destination for the day – the fabrication shop at Lundberg Design. Once a mattress factory, the fabrication shop/architecture studio had been transformed into an elegant dining room where well-known San Francisco chef Charles Phan, of Slanted Door fame, personally prepared an incredible Vietnamese-inspired meal for guests.

The Design Colloquium is an annual event, focusing on Design First firms – including architects, interior designers, landscape architects, engineering consultants and other consultants distinguished for their commitment to design excellence. The event is by invitation-only and also offers membership for interested firms. For more about the Design Colloquium, membership and to see images from the 2016 program go to: