A visual representation of LSW's Design Philosophy

Revealing and Understanding LSW’s Design Philosophy

August 11, 2022 by Brent Young

Over the last year, LSW has gone through a process of clarifying our design philosophy.

This has been a rigorous exercise that has pushed everyone involved to think deeply about our work here, why it matters, and what we fundamentally stand for as a firm.

We have poured our hearts into the process, considering LSW’s core design tenets as principles that will challenge our team to consider the near and long-term environmental, economic, social, and latent impact of our work. The resulting philosophy demonstrates a hierarchy of priorities and values that connect all our actions and design choices to what matters most (to us): people and their lived experience.

Why Our Design Philosophy Matters


Our design philosophy exists to empower our team to better evaluate and analyze all design opportunities that emerge with every project we take on. From the selection of building materials to the way that designed features engage the surrounding landscape and community, each one is filtered through LSW’s philosophical tenets.

By design, this philosophy is deliberately straight-forward and not overly complex. Through it, our values and core beliefs are expressed in our work in ways that provide confidence and inspiration to our own team, our clients, and our community.

"The best design comes from a place in the heart where culture, mission, goals and respect co-mingle, collaborate and provide a unique vantage point - and LSW’s Design Philosophy nails this,” says Associate Principal, Kurt Zenner, who was instrumental in shaping and socializing the philosophy from day one. “It ultimately brings all who participate in the work to a better understanding of themselves, each other, the community and world around them.”

How LSW's Design Philosophy Will Be Used


Staff, clients, partnering firms and consultants will start to see our reinforced and updated design philosophy centrally featured in our processes. All LSW projects currently go through internal design reviews at each phase. The reviewers will now have a consistent lens to evaluate project intentions, execution and impact through our philosophy.

“When we are discussing an element of design as a core team – client, architect, consultants, and other stakeholders – the whole team can point back to LSW’s Design Philosophy as a baseline that holds the project accountable to values consistent with the client’s vision,” explains Christian Korta, an Associate at LSW.

Our work always begins with a desire to make a positive, long-term impact. It is imperative that we follow through in tangible ways that connect to this goal and can be measured and multiplied in ways that yield lasting value to our clients and those communities interacting with the environments we design.

“Good design offers people the opportunity to choose how they connect or engage in a space. That choice should lead to an experience that feels right and personalized, and ultimately create new opportunities that weren’t foreseen or expected,” explains Karen Knauss, an Associate at LSW who helped lead efforts to develop and finalize the updated Design Philosophy.

“We don’t work in a vacuum: the people we are designing for are the people we are designing with. Our work is a process of discovery and delight. We have to understand the people who will use the space and then intentionally follow their lead, so that we can design spaces that can provide the experiences they want and opportunities to delight them.”

Our philosophy is presented in a legible hierarchy and helps guide the prioritization of our principles. Each of the phrases introduces an important goal that underpins our work. Though simply articulated, they represent deeply meaningful concepts and offer a framework that allows discussion about propriety and implementation.