Shook Kelley began in August of 1992. It was a different world 25 years ago. Apple was more a fruit than a computer company, Starbucks was a minor character in Moby Dick and Silicon Valley sounded like some faraway mining town. Progressive ideas about design and new ways of thinking about business were not very easy to come by. Magazines like Fast Company or Wired hadn’t been founded, and you couldn’t just read daily blogs or Google new ideas. You had to do a lot of digging to discover really good stuff on the potential impact of design, and it wasn’t easy to connect with likeminded thinkers.
But we recognized back then that the world was on the cusp of some important transformations that would impact all creative industries. We had a passion for learning about new ideas, asking challenging questions and grasping the next big thing in business, science and design. We were seekers of alternative ways of thinking about how design, culture and business could work better together. Those conversations eventually led to a new firm, founded in 1992 in Charlotte. Our ideas would come to form the backbone of a new type of strategy and design consultancy.
What fascinated us the most back then, and still to this day, is how people are driven and compelled to come together around physical places, spaces and experiences. That’s what we mean by convening. We recognized convening as a kind of hidden or untapped potential in the world of design. Over the course of 25 years in business, we have been leading and pioneering a methodology, process and approach for how to bring people together in positive and productive ways.
Convening is a kind of universal human truth. While styles and trends have come and gone, the essential insights we discovered 25 years ago remain with Shook Kelley today. And that’s in part because these insights flow from design principles that we’ve inherited from an even longer history of memorable and meaningful places around the world and around the corner from where we grew up. We have always sought to dig deeper into the psychology of people who inhabit these spaces, because we’re as focused on how people should feel in a space as we are on how a place should look. Shook Kelley has always believed that the greater value of design is in how it might impact, affect and even change human behavior. These are some of the building blocks that Shook Kelley has developed, over a 25 year career, in order to help our clients convene.
Great clients have made Shook Kelley successful: getting to know them, helping solve their problems, creating platforms for them to flourish and igniting their organizational cultures to use the power of design to greater effect.
Shook Kelley’s design work has always been driven, informed and enlightened by client relationships. Clients don’t hire us simply to get a building with our design aesthetic, they’re entering into a relationship with us, often a relationship that lasts for many years. In 25 years in business, we have had the privilege of working with an amazing and diverse set of clients, from massive urban developments to tiny convenience stores, and many different organizations in between. When a project succeeds and our design works, it gathers crowds of people together in a space, all with a common cause and shared spirit. A large portion of that success belongs to our clients who activate these spaces and the relationships where The Power to Convene can emerge. In most cases, Shook Kelley isn’t manufacturing the stories that drive our design work: We are listening to our clients, articulating who they are and translating that ethos into a built environment.
At our core, Shook Kelley has distinguished itself from so many other design firms by the culture and community we have convened internally. We’ve been very fortunate to have consistently gathered a unique and valuable tribe of brilliant designers, intrepid explorers, curious problem-solvers and the occasional creative misfit, all under one roof—well, technically two, but both our Charlotte and LA offices are part of this same tribe. To be clear though, this business is not about Terry Shook and Kevin Kelley. It’s really about a set of ideas and a passion for design that is much bigger than the two of us. We like to believe that Shook Kelley is a community dedicated to helping others, whether that means helping our clients, and through them, their partners or customers; developing the neighborhoods where we live and work; or also always supporting one another, as Shook Kelley teammates. It’s that spirit of belonging, being part of a social fabric and making positive contributions to the world that has continually inspired and driven us on a daily basis.
It’s a well-worn platitude to say how fast the time goes. And yes, we all need to occasionally pause and take stock, in order to be more grateful. Through a quarter century in business, we can say we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished. Thank you for being a part of it.