Today, we’re pleased to introduce you to Audrey Eyman, a key interdisciplinary designer at Kolar. Audrey is instrumental in working on a variety of design projects, ranging in scale and industry. She specializes in environmental graphics and experience design, and is IDEO certified. She also conducts key stakeholder engagement sessions as part of our KEI program. 

Let’s get to know Audrey and understand her perspective on how she uses the Design Thinking Process in her work at Kolar.

How does Kolar use Design Thinking?

Design Thinking methods and tools are baked into our unique process, so we use them on projects every day. The key to success comes from the work we do in the early stages of a project, which sets up the vision and strategy for a thoughtful design solution. The process starts with empathy, really getting to know our client and key stakeholders. We meet to understand their wants and needs, and who they are as a group of people, to uncover the “soul” of their organization. We often use observational empathy, and empathy immersion tools to discover the experience of a space first hand. Personally, our  “Secret Shopper” methodology, in which we pretend to be new visitors arriving to the space for the first time, is my favorite tool. 

What is the role of collaboration in the design process, and how does Kolar foster collaboration among the team?

Collaboration is everything when it comes to how our team works! As an interdisciplinary team, we each have unique backgrounds and expertise. Each member contributes new eyes and new ideas to move the design forward, creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts. For example, within my EGD team we have Architecture, Industrial Design, Graphic Design degrees and more! I recently completed a Design Thinking Certification from IDEO U; bringing the latest tools and deeper expertise back into my work every day. We believe learning from each other makes us all better designers, and the richest solutions come from working together. 

Why is the Design Process important when it comes to creating impactful work for clients?

Through our unique process, we work together with our clients to create spaces that support and grow their organizations. We use data and insight tools in our Discovery phase that help us to validate or clarify our learnings, to create the best design strategy in the Strategy phase. Data is powerful; it can often reveal unexpected opportunities and insights that lead to clients saving money, improving employee/visitor experience, or creating a space that streamlines business functions and propels their growth goals. 

Has anything you learned through your experience at Kolar surprised you?

Working at Kolar, I am constantly learning new things! One thing that surprises a lot of people about the work that we do is  that we have clients in the Healthcare, Civic, Academic, Corporate, and even Retail sectors. You might think, “How can designing for a hospital, a mixed use development, a university campus, and a corporate office be alike?” These spaces might seem to be wildly different, and it’s true that our design solutions can take different forms within them. However, we use the same holistic Design Processes across the board! To us, they are not so different–when you get down to the core of what we do, our work is all about people + place. Each client we work with is a group of people with a unique identity, a story, and a soul. They all have shared spaces that should represent them, support them, and improve their lives. 

Where do you envision Kolar in the next ten years?

In the next ten years, I hope to see Kolar grow and continue to make a positive impact on our community and the people that interact with our work. I love seeing our projects come to life, and seeing how people enjoy them from the first day to decades later. My favorite places in Cincinnati are the beautiful International Friendship and Smale Riverfront parks along the banks of the Ohio river, where Kolar has had a hand in many designs from 30 years ago to today! Recently I got to see visitors enjoying our donor recognition panels at the dedication of the new “CROWN the Queen” Tiara Bench at Yeatman’s Cove, the newest piece woven into the fabric of our community.