The Felt Hat

I recently had the opportunity to hear Don Rood, the head of local design group The Felt Hat, speak about the driving principles of their work and his firm as a whole. The discussion really resonated with me for several reasons and I wanted to memorialize it as a post here for future reference.

Felt Hat collaborates on a broad range of design thinking from branding, marketing strategy and all scales of communication. In an architecture project, for the most part, this typically manifests itself as wayfinding and signage. The ideal, though, of both the designer and the architect is to combine all this as one holistic element, signage and wayfinding that is married not applied. An example being Allied Works Weiden & Kennedy Building where the sign system was seen as an extension of the core concept of materiality and light.

This brings me to my next point of interest, the idea of the core concept. A core concept, a clear direct goal is the holy grail of an architectural project, where more times than not that initial directive is soon watered down by budget constraints, misunderstandings and distractions. My thought is that perhaps the stronger the driving principle of the firm, the more rigorous the point of view is of the method and not the stylistic output, that perhaps the guiding concept can remain intact by nature of the process. A clear point of view of who you are and who you strive to be to your clients is incredibly hard to render, but very important. Like an online dating profile, the more genuine and direct, the greater the appeal - you get what you get. These guiding principles for Felt Hat were summarized for our benefit:  

  1. design is intrinsically optimistic, therefore an ideal agent for positive change. 
  2. never work for someone with whom you wouldn’t want to share a meal. 
  3. empathy and visitor’s mind are essential to meaningful work. 
  4. design thinking is conflict management. (and that’s okay) 

The lesson I derived from this discussion was the ability to take the time to listen and discern the problem, understand the opportunities. Things that I think as architects we're taught to do but perhaps do not get the chance nor the luxury of time to actually do it consistently. In a world of drafting deliverables, document deadlines - it's so refreshing to see a healthy dose of collaboration and process manifested into incredible environments. 

One of the key skills of the designer
is not just to articulate purpose,
but to sustain its presence on the task.

Most people lose sight of purpose
in the detail: design thinking regularly and intuitively returns to it for
guidance and inspiration.

Richard Buchanan