Compassion, Compliance, and Continuous Improvement

Better design means better for everyone

Thirty years ago, the Americans with Disabilities act was signed into law, declaring that people with disabilities could no longer be denied access to jobs, school, transportation, or to public places. The need to design our conferences and trade shows to be ADA-compliant may have been met with resistance by some and compassion by others, but today we can see that by transforming events to be more accessible to those with limitations, we made those events better for everyone.

In the United States alone, it’s been estimated that one out of five Americans has some form of disability — 48.9 million people. Add to this the graying of America, the fact that the percent of the population over age 60 is dramatically increasing. When we consider how many total people are grappling with issues related to personal mobility and impairments that affect vision, hearing, and cognitive ability, we realize that being inclusive is just good business.

That’s a fact we cannot ignore. Harder to prove, but even more compelling to me, is the notion that inclusivity expands our intellectual capital. Consider, in the 30 years since ADA has gone into effect, how many people with disabilities have been empowered to contribute. Whenever we increase accessibility, we increase diversity, which is an indispensable aspect of innovation. Continuous improvement as a species demands that we leverage our combined brainpower.

Today, we are called to transform the nature of live events in response to a pandemic. Compliance is in everyone’s best interest, and because we are designing for a space that we control (a big, empty ballroom) it’s not that hard. The members of the Go LIVE Together coalition have voluntarily set, and will comply with, health and safety protocols developed in accordance with guidelines from the CDC, WHO, medical and scientific professionals, and local health officials.

Further, the Events Industry Council, through its global APEX COVID-19 Business Recovery Task Force, has established a platform for curating, cultivating, and communicating the accepted practices across the global events industry. The prime directive is to enhance safety at in-person gatherings and fuel recovery efforts. And we’ve already begun to imagine what future events could look like. It’s all pretty inviting; you can take a virtual tour here.

To be sure, as an industry, we are getting a great start on the post-pandemic reboot. But we can do more. Consider the lessons of the ADA-era. We must raise the bar and design for expanded accessibility. Even as we manage the size and scope of attendees at live events, we can reach broader audiences by streaming live content for people to consume wherever they happen to be.

And we can surround live events with meaningful, engaging, interactive virtual content that unfolds over time, before, during and after the live event, to contextualize the experience in a robust way. Hybrid events give us new avenues through which to personalize the experience for discreet audiences, wherever they are on their journey, whatever their ability, and whatever their level of commitment or interest.

When we cultivate experiences that enable individuals to learn more, achieve more, and contribute more, we gain more as a society. Compliance is where we begin. Designing the platform for constant design, and continuous improvement, must be the goal.

Quantity X Capability = Exponential Possibility

#20 Design the Platform for The Power Double Double

This is an ongoing series, based on conversations with Bruce Mau, to help people working in the brand-experience medium embrace and apply the 24 Design Principles. I believe that spending time with these interrelated, non-linear habits of thinking can help us realize better outcomes – at work, in our personal lives, and in the world at large.

Human history is rich with moments in which massive change was made possible because an innovation that improved our capability coincided with a social movement that engendered increased quantity. For example, the English longbow gave England a decisive advantage during the Hundred Years’ War, but its use in battle was only possible because various English kings had encouraged their citizens to take up mastery of the challenging weapon for sport.

A very different type of bow — one perfected late in the 18th century by Francois Tourte — was embraced by violin virtuosi of the day. Its added length enabled the long, lyrical phrasing that made violin solos possible and popular. Its strength and balance better suited violins for concert hall performances. As the popularity of longer bows swept Europe, it supported a shift to the kinds of string-centric orchestral music we still enjoy.

Today, a similar effect is happening at an exponential level — which explains why even dramatic disruptions seem to gain acceptance overnight. It’s what Bruce Mau refers to as The Power Double Double.

“We start with putting two concepts together. One is the exponential growth in the sheer quantity of people…. the second is the doubling in capacity,” Bruce explains. “Over the last century, we’ve had a double double population. In other words, we started with about 1.5 billion people on the planet in 1900, we doubled to three billion, and then we doubled again to six… it’s the single biggest fact of the last century… we doubled and doubled again the number of people on the planet.”

Next, Bruce invites us to consider that the capability of each of these billions of individuals has seen a similar doubling, thanks to technology that allows people to connect, innovate and collaborate on the design of new solutions in ways previously unimagined. Think about how much we rely on our smart phone apps to accomplish the tasks we now consider routine — tasks that previously would have required us to be in a well-equipped office, or in a tech lab, or in a pricey film-edit suite, or even in another country.

“That’s what makes it a Double Double,” Bruce says. “The fact that the quantities are doubling and the capacities are doubling. So, we are literally producing millions and even billions of people with the capacity to change the world….This is a cool idea and very relevant to our business because it changes the people who show up at our shows…. they come with a new set of expectations; if we don’t meet those expectations, we fall short and we look outmoded, outdated and irrelevant.”

In other words, even if the “same” people come to our events year after year, they are “different” each year, because their expectations have changed. The annual doubling of technology across a vast population means that innovations that seemed mind-boggling at first — such as personal assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Hey Google — quickly become normal, price-of-entry features. And the people who rely on them come to our live events expecting that we will take it to the next level.

This prospect may seem intimidating, but the possibilities are incredibly exciting. Especially for those of us engaged in creating live brand experiences. Think of how many products, services, ideas, concepts, medical breakthroughs  and business practices we help to launch into the world. Think of how many people we reach and from how many regions of the world. When we design the platform for The Power Double Double, there is an implicit obligation to make it count. As design-thinkers, we must create our conferences, trade shows, exhibitions and events in ways that harnesses this vast power for a higher good.

Here’s an example that features a Freeman client: the people at IFT (The Institute of Food Technologists) are actively working to elevate the industry they represent and the career outlook of professionals in the field of food science. At their show last year, organizers created an incubator to showcase, launch and even sell new food technology businesses — right from the expo floor. Even more impressive, they are leveraging the The Power Double Double to help solve for the challenge of how to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Understanding that the new culture of food technology is a distributed culture, they have redesigned their IFTNext sessions to highlight the stories of individuals and institutions making a huge difference in solving for things like global food security, sustainability, and reducing carbon footprints. As a result, participation in these breakout sessions has tripled. More people attend; more people leave inspired and equipped to feed the expanding global population.

We are privileged to work in an industry ideally positioned to advance massive change, solve thorny problems and create prosperity for people everywhere. And as Bruce points out, it drives a fundamentally optimistic outlook: “That’s The Power Double Double,” he concludes. “It’s super exciting. This is the best time in human history to be alive.”

All Designers Are Entrepreneurs

#17 Think Like You’re Lost in the Forest

This is an ongoing series, based on conversations with Bruce Mau, to help people working in the brand-experience medium embrace and apply the 24 Design Principles. I believe that spending time with these interrelated, non-linear habits of thinking can help us realize better outcomes – at work, in our personal lives, and in the world at large.

Imagine you walk into the woods to enjoy a picnic lunch. You look for a nice, flat, shady spot to spread your blanket and then turn your attention to setting out the tasty treats you brought along. Instead, imagine you are lost in the deep forest and your cell phone is dead. Immediately, your priorities shift, and you begin searching for anything that can help you find your way out: Footprints or well-worn paths; moss growing thickly on the north side of the trees; maybe the sound of a stream that leads to a more populated spot? You begin looking for clues as if your life depended on it.

A successful businessperson once told Bruce the secret to being an entrepreneur. He explained that, when most people sit down to eat, they attend to the meal. But an entrepreneur instantly scans the table, the room and other patrons to see how anything there might advance his business.

“That concept of constantly looking for opportunity is a designer mindset,” Bruce notes. “Which is an entrepreneurial mindset. And what you realize is that designers are entrepreneurs.”  Designers may not monetize their observations in the same way, but they continuously search for clues that will lead to a better design. Entrepreneurial thinking is essentially a design methodology.

Entrepreneurs and designers also share a focus on the question “why.” People often frame up their problems by asking for a solution: “I need a ladder.” An engineer will want to know what kind of ladder, how tall, and how heavy. A designer – exercising the value of empathy – will ask “why do you need a ladder?” They’ll ask questions until they understand the real need.  The final design solution could involve a pulley/winch system, or an elevator, or a trampoline, or a trebuchet or, in fact, a ladder. An entrepreneur will consider how to monetize ladder alternatives. But both will begin by gathering information so they fully understand the opportunity to find a better solution.

Consider, once again, our plight while being lost in the forest. A map might help — but only for that forest and probably only for that year, because the forest is always changing.  Bruce clarifies: “What you want, ultimately, is not a methodology to get you out of that forest, but out of any forest.” At Freeman, the forest is the everchanging medium of brand experience, and our methodology is the Freeman Learning Cycle. When you can’t see the forest for the trees, try looking for new opportunities.

Learning the language of beauty helps us find it

#11 Compete with Beauty

This is an ongoing series, based on conversations with Bruce Mau, to help people working in the brand-experience medium embrace and apply the 24 Design Principles. I believe that spending time with these interrelated, non-linear habits of thinking can help us realize better outcomes — at work, in our personal lives, and in the world at large.

Those of us in the business of creating live brand experiences all appreciate the importance of connecting visually — graphically — with our audiences.  From directional wayfinding to vast interactive exhibits, this is what we do. But even in our industry, efficiency tends to dominate our priorities. Take CES. We have only a few days to build what is essentially a small city, and then we dismantle it in even less time. The work is so challenging, that success means getting everything where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. One of the most beautiful things about it is that the miracle happens year after year, just as planned.

Even so, as design thinkers, we are all called upon to raise the bar — to push our designs to a place where both visual aesthetics and functionality are elevated. With the 11th Design Principle, Bruce Mau challenges us to compete with beauty. “It’s not just, ‘I love beauty, and I’ve dedicated my life to beauty,’ … it’s more than a passion, it’s more than my profession,” Bruce says. “It’s got to be a competitive idea.”

It’s easier to grasp this notion when we look beyond our own industry. Steve Jobs took a technically revolutionary phone and made it beautiful to look at, to hold and to use. Elon Musk could have put his innovative technology in a knock-off van body and people still would have been impressed. But instead, he elected to capture people’s imagination with Tesla’s beauty. Bruce explains that this is what all winning brands do: “They go beyond the engineering and actual functionality to integrate the experience of beauty into the product and delivery…. Elon Musk made the coolest car on the planet that was also the fastest. And that combination put Tesla into a class of its own. He launched the brand instantaneously at the top.”

Where does that leave aspiring design thinkers who want to elevate our brand experiences by integrating beauty, but who struggle to articulate our concepts? How can those of us who aren’t actual designers convey our idea of “beautiful” to the long-suffering art directors, designers, builders and creative people trying to help us make it real?

Bruce has been on the receiving end of that frustration and has some advice we can all use to think about beauty. By considering the ten distinct dimensions of design, we can better articulate what beautiful looks like. Try using this vocabulary: Color, Contrast, Proportion, Shape, Material, Texture, Typography, Time, Image, and Content. Think about each separately; whenever you evaluate a design, look at it through each distinct lens.

For example, Bruce suggests that the dimension most relevant to our business is contrast. “Every client that I’ve ever worked for wants to be in the foreground against a noisy background,” he says. “Our work is to help pull them into the foreground, so people see them, and not just the noise behind them. And that is essentially contrast.” Clearly, if we’re doing what everyone else is doing, we’re not going to stand out. We need to think about our design in terms of what’s around it – the relationship to the background and to the audience — and include an element of contrast that will pull it to the foreground.

Color, proportion, texture and the other dimensions of design can be used to create contrast. And that’s why beauty is essential to what we’re doing. It sets us apart in the marketplace; it gives us a competitive edge.

At Freeman, everything we’re doing points in the direction of helping our customers compete by integrating beauty into the design. Our new FuzionSM event technology integration platform is all about making data beautiful. It offers an elegant solution for working seamlessly with a variety of digital products – connecting data points from across the event ecosystem – to help event planners formulate effective, data-driven strategies. Beautiful! And we will soon be launching a new exhibit system, Flex by Freeman, that allows us to radically upgrade the beauty of any show, while introducing a new level of efficiency in material application and speed of installation.

These two products would never have been created if our customers didn’t articulate a need. They would not be as elegant — as beautiful — if some design-thinker hadn’t pushed for that. Enlightened by the concept of competing with beauty, and empowered by the language of design dimension, how will you approach your next opportunity? When you sketch out your ideas — and when you provide feedback during the build – don’t forget to use your words. All ten of them.

Designing for the Greater Good is Good Business

#7 Think Forever; Design for Perpetuity.

This is an ongoing series, based on conversations with Bruce Mau, to help people working in the brand-experience medium embrace and apply the 24 Design Principles. I believe that spending time with these interrelated, non-linear habits of thinking can help us realize better outcomes — at work, in our personal lives, and in the world at large.

Imagine living and working in a world where the expression “not my problem” was obsolete. Can you picture all of the future challenges that would be obliterated before they hatched?  Can you breathe the fresh air of progress, untainted by the smell of someone else’s smoldering dreams?

With the seventh design principle – Think Forever; Design for Perpetuity – we are reminded that it’s the designer’s job to consider all the ramifications of a proposed solution. That means we must anticipate and own the consequences of our design for both the short and long term, for ourselves and our great-great grandchildren, in our own backyard, and in the world at large.

In the past, it was easy for companies to overlook the downside of their business plans by explaining it away as an externality. If the runoff from a plant polluted the drinking water downstream, or killed off the fish others relied on for their livelihood, it was a “negative externality” — an economics euphemism for “not my problem.” As long as the downstream victims weren’t paying customers, it didn’t matter to the business plan.

This business model isn’t only immoral, it’s unsustainable. It doesn’t account for reliance on resources that can’t be easily replenished. If you’re planning to light the world with whale oil, don’t expect your business to outlast the whale population.

“Sustainability is the baseline of 21st Century design,” says Bruce Mau. Examples are all around us. When a big retailer makes the decision to renovate its malls, and replace all its incandescent light bulbs with long-lasting, efficient LED lighting, they may incur a significant cost right away, but this will pay out over time in the form of lower energy costs and minimal maintenance.  Electric cars may cost a bit more up front, but they are inexpensive to operate and virtually eliminate traditional maintenance costs.

Bruce also references his firm’s work with Coca-Cola, which realized that, if 2 billion people drink a Coke every day, that adds up to 720 billion plastic bottles per year.  As a truly global brand doing business in every market in the world, they made a business decision to own the problem, instead of pushing it to some other country or some future generation. As they designed a long-term solution, what began as a corporate social-responsibility initiative became an entirely new, long-term approach to the business — one that reduced waste and reused material across the supply chain. It was good for business, and good for the planet.

“Perpetuity means we’re not trying to just get to a less negative way of doing things, by trying to mitigate our impact,” Bruce explains, “but rather, to understand how we get to a positive impact…. not just a positive economic effect, but an ecological system effect that’s positive…. You don’t just have to solve for the next quarter, or the next earning cycle, or the annual revenue. You really have to solve it in perpetuity.”

Freeman has done this historically with our aluminum MIS display systems, which are used over and over again. And the next-generation system we are developing will recycle this aluminum into a product that offers an even better user experience, while sustaining the recyclability of the material. Carpeting is another good example of a product that can be reused and, thanks to design-thinking at a molecular level, can be completely recycled.

Freeman has traditionally sought to do the right thing and avoiding waste is just good business. But as individuals and as design-thinkers, we need to be vigilant about looking for new ways to effect positive change … in perpetuity.

Bruce sums up the idea of designing for perpetuity this way: “We want greater and greater impact, with less material and less energy. So, if we think about the future of stewardship at Freeman, its understanding that idea, and making a long-term effort to apply it to everything we do.”

We are all focused on strengthening the core of our Freeman business. I can’t think of a better way to do that than by embracing business habits that work in perpetuity. Savings go straight to the bottom line. And untold generations will thank you for not making it “their problem.”

It’s Your Job to Inspire People

This is an ongoing series, based on conversations with Bruce Mau, to help people working in the brand-experience medium embrace and apply the 24 Design Principles. I believe that spending time with these interrelated, non-linear habits of thinking can help us realize better outcomes – at work, in our personal lives, and in the world at large.

The trick with working with someone as brilliant as Bruce Mau is that there is so much value in the simplest remarks that it sometimes takes me a while to unpack it all. The notion that we are called to inspire the people we work with underpins everything we have learned about design thinking.  I always thought that inspiration was a sort of lucky-strike extra. But Bruce has shown us that there is methodology to this madness. Literally. As leaders, we are called to take people on a quest — a collaborative journey that has a clearly defined objective. It may be difficult to achieve — we may need to adjust our course along the way — but our first duty is to inspire the people we hope to lead.

The design-thinking methodology that Freeman has embraced is unique in that it is fundamentally a leadership methodology. When I think of all the leadership books I’ve read, and the many lectures I’ve attended, they generally consist of anecdotal stories that describe amazing people and how they demonstrated grace under fire. But those stories don’t provide a DIY method that helps us become more effective leaders.

Freeman’s 24 Design Principles begins with this essential directive: “First inspire… lead by design.” True leaders take the time to show people what success will look like once it’s been achieved. They engage their team both emotionally and intellectually in “what beautiful looks like.” They act with intention to inspire their people, and to show them how to inspire each other.

When I think about where we are today, both Freeman and our industry at large, leading by design is more important than ever. People used to come to trade shows because that was the only place to get the information they needed to succeed. But today, they have plenty of options on where to get information.  I believe that they turn to us — and to the brand experiences we create — for inspiration.

What does this kind of leadership look like? I saw it in action the other day, and it was truly inspirational. One of our account leaders was kicking off the start-of-work meeting for the team working on a very high-profile client event. Normally, she would have framed it up by talking about client expectations, budget limitations and timeline challenges. She would have addressed questions about the size of the exhibit space and logistical concerns. Instead, she started the meeting by asking our team to think about how our client’s innovative technology could change the world for the better. She asked them to consider how to engage participants in this mission. She inspired the team by visualizing the opportunity to design for massive change.

For me, that’s what beautiful looks like. That’s what leadership looks like.

In the workshops Bruce Mau conducts, he helps us think about how to act with intent by having everyone write their personal manifesto. You can read more about that here.

Preparing for the Future – Part Two

Design the future you want to see

In my Preparing for the Future – Part  One blog, I referenced my participation in a UFI Global CEO Summit that explored the sustainability of the exhibitions industry. This blog picks up with the need to adopt a design-thinking approach to planning for the future.

Design forward.

Bruce Mau – designer, author, visionary and Freeman’s Chief Design Officer – has taught us the value of looking at events the way a designer does. He says, “We need to design forward, because when we live and work in a world of constant forward momentum, standing still is going backwards. What does not evolve, dies.” Our attendees are going forward. Every year they arrive at our shows with a new set of expectations. They want to see new technology, new ideas, and new applications. If we don’t design forward we are going to be left behind. Without innovation, we are destined for the boneyard.

Define what beautiful looks like.

No matter how many anniversaries a show or convention is celebrating, the planners need to look at it objectively and consider the opportunity to add more value. Examine what worked and what didn’t – and articulate a vision for what the show could ultimately offer. Remember to be intentional about metrics, and design-in a plan to measure success in a meaningful way that helps you design it better next time.

We call this “defining what Beautiful looks like.” What will it take to ensure that each stakeholder in the event is going to achieve their objectives? What about the super stakeholders – the anchor exhibitors who have invested in the show and have put their own brand equity at stake? And don’t forget the other audiences: press, attendees, and the host city. As planners and strategists, we must define what success means to each of them – what beautiful looks like for every distinct audience group – and then design a plan that takes us from here… to there. If we always design for the gap, we can achieve continuous improvement (and avoid the death spiral) while remaining relevant even as audience needs change. Revisit the plan every year – wash, rinse, repeat.

Break through the noise.

Once we commit to the habit of continuous improvement, we can seize the opportunity to innovate. Bruce Mau urges us to “break through the noise.” Many things are competing for the attention of our intended audiences – not just other shows and other media channels, but other demands on their time. We live and work amidst a cultural hubbub that obscures the messages we are trying to put out there. We can try to outshout the other guys. Or we can focus our resources in a way that helps us rise above the din. This is the sweet spot – the place where you find the money to do new things and still protect your margins. When we strive to make the experience personal, we help participants tune out the white noise and fully engage with us.

Have an Optimistic New Year

Design-thinking can help make the new year a happy one.

Happy New Year!

Do you believe that 2017 will be a wonderful, exciting and rewarding year, or do you expect bad things? Either way, you are probably right. Research shows that the very act of having a positive outlook can increase your chances of achieving a positive outcome.


One of Bruce Mau’s design principles urges us to tackle each opportunity with fact-based optimism. Not blind optimism. Not wishful thinking. Fact-based optimism. Of course, designers are optimistic almost by definition – they wouldn’t take on a design challenge if they didn’t think improvements were possible, right? Every great achievement was attempted because someone had a dream they believed in and a plan to make it come true.

This must be our approach. When we agree to take on an assignment – be it a specific customer challenge, an all-new business opportunity, or simply a refresh of a job we’ve held for years – our commitment to design thinking requires that we consider all the relevant, available data. Whether the data is encouraging or discouraging, positive or negative, it’s what we do with the data that matters. Design solutions that help bridge gaps, diffuse land-mines, build brands and disrupt the status quo are all the work of optimists with a purpose and a plan.

Regardless of what the “real world” serves up, you can be sure to find fear-mongers ready to paint worst-case scenarios for the year ahead. But for those of us committed to designing the future, the year ahead is already rich with opportunity. We’ve designed it that way.

All the best in 2017 to you and those you love.

American by design

Now that we know who the next President of the United States is going to be, some of us are disappointed and some are feeling pretty upbeat. But after months of speculation, we can at last stop wondering and move forward.


Here’s something I fiercely believe. We have a responsibility as business leaders, as American citizens, and as citizens of the world to design a better future. We can whine about who won and who didn’t. Or we can begin rebuilding today – by applying the fundamental design-thinking methodology we’ve been talking about recently.

What kind of world do you want to design? Our Freeman manifesto states that we want to help create prosperity, learning and social connection. It says that we want to help advance society… and elevate the human experience. To me, that means that we resist the temptation to engage in polarizing rants, and instead focus on pulling the country together by urging congress to get behind things we all know are important. Let’s start with things like job creation, education and infrastructure – not with empty promises, but with fiscal responsibility toward balancing the budget.

Sure, it’s hard not to get discouraged when we hear people griping every day that America isn’t the country it once was. But I believe that America’s greatness has less to do with the elected officials in Washington, D.C., and everything to do with the American people; our work ethic, combined with an ability to dream big dreams and make them a reality, is what defined our country.

We find ourselves on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It’s bigger than the USA and our government squabbles. It affects every country in which we do business. Every culture on the planet. The opportunities and challenges are exponential. Freeman is poised to create entirely new ways of serving the needs of our industry, and we will no doubt disrupt existing value chains. This can drive tremendous growth – the kind of growth that can spur economies across the globe.

We know that leadership is design, and design is how we change things. Here are a few simple things we can each do to effect positive change in our country.

Be your better self. Lead by example. Listen to learn, not just to offer a rebuttal.

Be a fact checker. In the age of social media, where anyone with internet access can be a publisher, fact checking is negligible. According to Pew Research, a majority of U.S. adults – 62% – get news on social media, and 18% do so often. Check your sources before you share – and you will gain the credibility and influence of a true leader.

Be productive. When you help grow your part of the business and help your customers grow their business, it generates opportunity for a lot of people.

Be trustworthy. Clearly, this election has caused a serious trust deficit. But we need to move on, and the best way to inspire others to get back to work is to earn their trust.

Make it personal. Resist sweeping generalizations. Think about people as individuals; treat everyone with respect.

Nothing in this list is controversial or revolutionary. But if we all acted on it, if we encouraged our legislators to do the same, I think we’d find more people working on solutions and fewer people working on excuses and accusations.

As Freeman moves closer to its 90th anniversary celebration, and as I contemplate our company’s rich history, I am convinced that Freeman itself stands for the very attributes people feel America has lost. Let’s embrace our values. Let’s collaborate in a spirit of trust. Let’s connect people in meaningful, transformational ways. Let’s focus on a future we’re proud to leave the next generation.

That’s the America we learned about as kids. That’s the America I still believe in.

Introducing the Freeman Design Leadership Council

{A Note to Readers: As promised, the amazing Bruce Mau, Freeman Chief Design Officer and tonight’s recipient of the prestigious Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum 2016 National Design Award for Design Mind, is back with me to talk about the big announcement he made last night.}

Bob:  Yesterday, speaking to members of the press, customers and other special guests, we announced that Bruce has reached out to a network of big-brain innovators, representing diverse areas of expertise, and is forming a Design Leadership Council.


This is great news for everyone in the extended Freeman family–including all of our employees, customers, and valued partners-because it will accelerate our efforts to create a culture of design thinking and innovation. Beyond that, it lets us do our best work, through which we help drive economic growth and prosperity… and we elevate the human experience. In this way, we are re-defining the brand experience category.

Bruce:  Buckminster Fuller once described the new designer as being “part artist, mechanic inventor, objective economist and evolutionary strategist.” We’d all like to hire that guy, but the truth is, no one person can deliver it all. In this 21st Century digital renaissance, the opportunities and challenges are too complex and too diverse. Sustainable solutions require knowledge that is extremely rich and esoteric—requiring deep mastery of many subjects. So, we knew we had to assemble a renaissance team, replicating the sixteenth century genius at the scale of the group, drawing such diverse talents as engineering, invention, design, communication, systems thinking, and storytelling into a collaborative process that will inform thinking throughout the enterprise.

Bob: This approach is aptly summed up in Bruce’s design principle, “new wicked problems demand new wicked teams.” It’s what drives the collaborative process we’re learning to use every day at Freeman. And it inspired the creation of the Freeman Design Leadership Council that we announced last night. We are beyond excited about the caliber of people who have joined us. Council members represent diverse, essential aspects of design innovation. They are artists and scientists, military historians and philosophers, imagineers and data geeks, production designers and corporate culture experts, entrepreneurs and stewards of industry-defining brands. (Read about them in the press release here.)

Bruce: What I find personally encouraging is that each of these innovators–visionaries who are already busy working on their own passions–were all eager to join our design council. Why? Because they appreciate the opportunity to exchange ideas with other big thinkers, and because they, too, understand the value of diverse thinking. They will advise Freeman regarding interesting developments in their own areas of expertise, and in turn, benefit from the thinking of others.  On a larger scale, they really value the brand experience channel; they see the opportunities that Freeman has to support brand experience on a global scale and effect massive change. These people want to be part of that.

Bob: And here’s where this council can really make a difference. Each council member has naturally cultivated relationships with other innovators who have deeper, more esoteric areas of expertise. The Design Leadership Council will in effect network these connections, as needed, to inform specific client opportunities and challenges. Collaboration with council members is as spontaneous and intense as the circumstances require. This adds incredible value to customers while responsibly managing cost.

Bruce: These are people who are in the habit of redefining boundaries. Who knows what could happen when we bring them together…

Bob: One thing is certain. As Freeman steps into its 90th Anniversary year, everything will be focused on the future – on finding new ways to support our customers. Anything is possible.

~ Bruce and Bob