SEGD’s Cybelle Jones Reflects on the First-Ever D7 Summit

Photo by Paul Andrews Photography

I am delighted to reflect on the success of the inaugural D7 Summit, held last week in Kansas City. Under the astute leadership of Dawn Taylor and the teams at KC Global Design and the KC Center for Architecture and Design, this summit set a new standard in collaborative discourse and leadership in design.

It was a privilege to represent our SEGD community and join forces with distinguished leaders Lakisha Ann Woods, CAE, The American Institute of Architects (AIA); Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA International Interior Design Association; Torey Carter-Conneen, CAE, American Society of Landscape Architects; Donté P. Shannon, FASAE, CAE, Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA); Cesar Rivera, AIGA Design, and Joel Albizo, FASAE, CAE of American Planning Association. Each contributed profoundly to our explorations of how design can enhance and transform human experiences.

This marked the first occasion that the seven design membership
organizations came together as a collective entity to discuss their primary
concerns. During KC Design Week, our initial gathering featured a lecture
by Alexandra Lange, a design critic, author, and Loeb Fellow. She
introduced her latest book, Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall, which intriguingly connects to our SEGD history, particularly
reflecting the contributions of SEGD members such as Ann Dudrow, FSEGD, in
the retail sector.

Photo by Paul Andrews Photography

The next morning, we kicked off our day with a compelling presentation around climate action led by Premnath Sundharam, AIA, Chief Climate Officer | Senior Principal at DLR Group. He discussed the urgency upon us as design leaders to commit to carbon literacy amongst our members, building towards carbon competency in our respective interdisciplinary design community. That discussion was incredibly insightful and all of our peers seemed to align to the power and opportunity of the collective to build awareness.

Our next stop was a curated visit to the Nelson Adkins Museum, where we toured the recently enhanced exhibition entitled “A Beautiful Disruption” by SEGD member Art Processors, which showcases the potential for art institutions to reinvent social experiences within their spaces. By combining simple in-house audio and lighting technology with poignant storytelling, Art Processors transformed the gallery into a profoundly moving experience that connects visitors intimately with the lives and emotions of the Impressionists.

After that illuminating tour, we were invited to learn about “Super Abundant Neighborhoods.” One particular panelist, Doris Sung, co-founder, TBM Designs/InVert ™ Shade, stuck out to me because she stated that her upcoming Ted Talk will focus on the responsibility of the exterior of architecture on behalf of the community, and how it can impact wellness and other factors on the streetscape. Her passion is akin to our environmental graphic design community and the work that our members do in placemaking with projects such as Destination Crenshaw and Sensing Change.

Photo by Paul Andrews Photography

We rounded out our day of tours with a timely behind the scenes visit to the new KC Current Stadium. This was exciting for me as we had just featured this project at the inaugural 2024 SEGD Sports and Entertainment Symposium in Las Vegas and member firms, Dimensional Innovations and Generator Studio, described the project as a game changer to equalize the playing field of purpose-built facilities for women’s sports. The branded environments manifested the spirit of game, and a highlight was an interactive signage element in the box members section by our 2023 SEGD NEXPO Awardee, Oat Foundry.

Heading into the D7 Summit Panel Discussion that evening, I was beaming with pride of what our small community has contributed to the design landscape of Kansas City and the strength of our membership’s impact. Our moderator was Anne Quito, internationally recognized journalist and design critic. Anne Quito skillfully led discussions on the broadening scope of “design,” questioning whether the term is losing its specific meaning as it expands to encompass a wider range of disciplines. She explored the current state of design, focusing on economic, advancing DEI, the psychological impacts of the profession, and the role of artificial intelligence. Anne also prompted us as panelists to consider the transformative potential of designers in addressing global issues like climate change and accessibility. 

Over the course of my three days, I also had the opportunity to connect one-on-one with our SEGD community in Kansas City. I met with longstanding SEGD member and CfAD President, Rick Smith who was part of the D7 organizing committee, along with his workmate Kate Schmidt with Dimensional Innovations and our new SEGD KC Chapter Chair. I was able to tour DI’s Studio and meet with former SEGD Board Members Tucker Trotter and Chad Hutson. I fit in a trip as well to the Populous KC crew and met up with amazing EXD/EGD designers from HOK, DLR, Steelcase, Multistudio, Generator Studio and HDR.

The D7 Summit has effectively highlighted the collective commitment and leadership of the design community, reinforcing our mission to advance the profession and impact global challenges through design. I look forward to fostering the connections made and the insights gained as we continue to drive our profession forward collectively. I also gained a deeper reflection on the value of professional membership, emphasizing how it supports and enhances the careers of designers.

“To say that something is designed means it has intentions that go beyond its function.” – Ayse (Eye-Shay) Birsel. 

Here’s to our collective intentions for positive global impact!