Category Archives: Food for thought

The Role of the Architect as We Prepare for the Next Phase

By | Architecture, Food for thought, Interior Design | No Comments

These days we are having many conversations and asking questions centered around ‘how do we move forward from this?’  That is only natural, of course, but what is also natural is the need for architects to problem solve.  The very nature of the study and practice of design is to provide an optimal solution that balances function, aesthetics, context, and budget.  Our current situation requires a quick, yet informed, response to a new set of problems, but fortunately the strategies to find the solutions are no different to those deployed by our profession on a regular basis.

collaborative board

At d+k, we view ourselves as collaborative partners with our clients and their customers.  We feel it is our job and our responsibility to use the creative tools at our disposal to provide forward-thinking, proactive solutions in the best of times, and also in challenging ones.  There are opportunities out there right now for both businesses and service providers to craft inventive responses to stressful situations, and we know there are ways to integrate the data around this pandemic situation to make sure we move forward in a responsible, yet still positive, manner.


In our office, we have been having big conversations about the civic role we – as a team- want to play in the near future, and to that end we have tasked our teams with preparing concrete plans that could be implemented by our clients, help revitalize our city, and provide options to consumers.  Ideas are flowing, conversations evolving, and solutions are emerging.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 1.09.13 PM

If your design needs are changing right now, or if you are unsure as to how to proceed with your ongoing projects, we can help!  Using tools like virtual whiteboard sessions and online consultations, we can discuss your challenges and plan the next steps.  Our network of vendors and installers includes products and services ready to deliver and integrate into designs for your spaces, and we can provide guidance and education regarding what options might be appropriate.  Many businesses are not looking to renovate, but need a temporary strategy for reopening, and we can help with that as well.

Please feel free to reach out to us if your family or your business needs design-based solutions to the challenges you are facing.  Together we can move forward!



d+k Q and A – First Ascent Climbing

By | Architecture, Food for thought, Interior Design | No Comments

At d+k, we take pride in connecting with our clients and partnering in their success and happiness.  To provide some insight on our process and how we provide a comprehensive level of service to a variety of clients, we are sharing a series of conversations with clients that have completed projects with us recently.  First up is First Ascent Climbing, an indoor climbing and fitness community with several Chicago area locations, and more on the way – we spoke with Dan Bartz, Director of Marketing and Adult Programming.


d+k : What is First Ascent’s ultimate goal as a business? (Where do you see First Ascent in the next 5 years?)

DB: Our mission is to serve and grow the climbing community by creating a warm, welcoming “third place” for people of all ability levels to experience adventure, explore movement, meet new people, connect with old friends, and enjoy life in real life – no devices required.

That mission has enabled us to impact thousands of people in Chicago and Peoria over the last few years, and making that impact really is our ultimate goal. As we consider the future, we’re excited to continue expanding our impact by building more First Ascent locations in the Chicagoland area and beyond.

Some have asked us: why do you think climbing is so popular right now? There are many reasons we could point to, but I think the best reason is simple: people need to move, and traditional fitness is boring and isolating for many. Boutique fitness is exploding because it’s fun and social. Climbing creates that same fun, social vibe with a splash of adventure and a dash of problem solving. It engages the full person: body, mind, heart, and soul. And a climbing gym makes all of that accessible and approachable for the general public. If that sounds exciting to you, then let’s climb!

We also feel the sector of boutique and specialized fitness facilities is growing because of the increased density of urban locations populated with our target demographic.  Customers might not be willing or able to drive long distances to get to locations that fit large, traditional gyms.  They want to be able to walk to their workout, or drive less than 5 minutes if possible.  Smaller, specialized facilities can more easily fit into dense neighborhoods and still be profitable.


d+k : How did d+k integrate with your team?

 DB : d+k team members made a sincere effort to work with us as a partner, and act from a ‘pursuit of understanding’ towards the specialized needs of our business.  HVAC, lighting, and other building basics have to be approached differently in a climbing facility, and d+k made a more concerted effort to listen to our concerns and integrate them into the design than other firms we have worked with in the pas

d+k : How has your brand identify evolved since working with d+k? (Has d+k, Help/assisted in this?)

DB : d+k helped elevate the ‘fit and finish’ of our branding and corporate identity, and achieved it in an affordable way.  They were able to integrate our brand into lighting, finish and furniture selection, color choices, and the design in general.

d+k : Where do yfirstacent2018teasers-007ou think d+k has added value within First Ascent projects?

DB : The design team provided guidance as to where to add aesthetic focus, and that process became streamlined as designs for subsequent locations were composed.  Each iteration has made the design process more successful and efficient for both FA and the design team

d+k : What did d+k bring to the table that might have surprised you?

DB : Their level of attention to detail and their effort to understand FA in all aspects was a pleasant surprise.  From a marketing standpoint, FA found that having an ‘aesthetic partner’ in the d+k team meant that photography, presentation of the spaces, and first impressions of customers all became more successful.  It was appreciated that d+k brought with them an appreciation for professional photography and how the space will be shown on social and print media.  User response has been positive, with great feedback from members, guests, and even from pro climbers like Alex Honnold, who called the Block 37 location a ‘next level’ facility.


d+k : What could d+k have done better? (within the process)

DB :  While we don’t have complaints about our experiences thus far, we are confident that the First Ascent team is continuing to learn from and observe how we interact with our new spaces.  We intend to relay any new concerns or necessary changes to the team and d+k, knowing they will find solutions that evolve with us and our business as it grows.

All photography by Kyle Flubacker Photography