User Engagement Early in Design

Here at Schmidt Associates, we like user engagement to happen early in the design process to help determine how the spaces need to work and how the facility can best help them meet their mission. We prefer one or two meetings during schematic design and another at the end of a project through a room-by-room review process to ensure that all project needs have been addressed before going out to bid.

puzzle piece during user engagementAnother way we do this is through our Puzzle Piece© exercise. We developed this process to gather input from the client group, using puzzle-like pieces of various space components and then ask the client to put them together the way they think they should be organized. This has continued to be one of the most revealing exercises to establish the most important spatial relationships that will drive decisions. We can translate those puzzle piece models into actual Revit, 3-D models, that become the base for our on-going design and construction documents.

What you can learn:

Through these user group interactions, you have the chance to learn more about the end users and their unique goals for the project – which can differ from that of the Owner. You can see how the instructors are going to use the space to keep students engaged in lessons, hear what type of office set up would be ideal for staff members, or what type of playground equipment community members wish to see for their children to play on in a new neighborhood park. If these user groups are happy in their new facilities and spaces, that will ultimately impact the overall satisfaction of the Owner.

The benefits of early user engagement:

Engaging with user groups early in the design process helps create project buy-in. Showing them interesting concept renderings or creating open forum meetings allows them to feel like they have had helped to influence the project and helps to generate excitement as well. Having these groups involved helps us be more effective designers as well. By hearing what will work and what won’t, we have the chance to make changes to the overall design before construction begins. This mitigation of issues in the field will save both time and money once construction begins due to less change orders.

The challenges of early user engagement:

Making the time for these user group meetings and implementation of their ideas has the potential to slow the whole project down. Depending on the timeline given to you by the Owner, there may not be any extra time built in for this process. There is also the challenge of navigating multiple opinions and directions of these user groups.

If the schedule or the Owner determines that user group meetings are not possible it is essential to build flexibility into the design where possible. This can be done using movable furniture, setting up separate collaboration and private spaces within the building, adaptable technology, or using retractable walls.

 

If we can help with your next project, get in touch!

When Did You Know You Wanted to be an Engineer?

Wayne Schmidt set out on his own and started our firm July 4th, 1976. More than four decades later, we are proud that we are different in all the regards that matter to us, to our clients, and to our community. While we are celebrating our 42nd anniversary this July, we are also celebrating another big milestone: 25 years of having engineering in-house!

We thought it would be interesting to ask our engineers when they first realized they wanted to pursue a career in Engineering. This is what our first group said:

 

Brad Wallace – Mechanical Designer

“Ever since I was a little kid, I was always interested in how “mechanical” things work. I had a love for motorcycles and cars, and I always enjoyed the time I spent with my dad working on them as I was growing up. After college, my first job was with a large national mechanical contractor. I enjoyed my first four years of my career working in the field, learning how mechanical systems were installed and operated. My next career move was working 10 years for a local Engineering firm where I learned how to do mechanical design. I made my final move 14 years ago, to Schmidt Associates!”

 

John HarrisonJohn Harrison – Plumbing Designer

“I entered the engineering field because of my love of drawing and my obvious passion for working out challenging designs with great detail. Once I began down the path of a plumbing designer and learned how challenging it could be, I was hooked. Designing for special conditions like animal and fish research facilities, laboratories, hospitals and Green LEED designs has made for a very rewarding career decision.”

 

Dave Jones – Electrical Engineer

“I started off my college career as an undecided major for two years. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, and I used to be jealous of people who seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do after high school. I took the general classes, hoping something would spark my interest… but nothing. I even tried accounting because my uncle owned his own accounting firm in Florida. I thought I could move down there, enjoy the beach, and work for him. However, I found accounting to be just as exciting as watching paint dry. Since I was good at math, I figured why not pursue Engineering? I didn’t know what engineering really was or what all it entailed, but I had to choose something. After 9 years of school, I finally received my degree at age 27. I could have been a brain surgeon with that much school time, but Engineering turned out to be a good decision!”

 

Jim Heinzelman – Electrical Engineer

“The first time I started thinking about designing electrical systems was in high school where I was taking basic electrical introductory classes. The technology really intrigued me, so I interviewed for a position at a Consulting Engineering firm here in town after graduating high school. I was accepted for a position within the firm, made a transition to work at Schmidt Associates, and I’ve taken higher education classes to advance my career. I’ve never looked back!”

 

Keep an eye out for more of these as the year goes on!

WOYS #4

Summer is almost here!

Time to pour a tall glass of lemonade, find a shady spot, and start a great book! We are back with another edition of “WOYS” – What’s On Your Shelf to help you out.

I have listed three books that are worth reading while soaking up some good Vitamin D:

 

 

children of blood and bone - summer reading

Children of Blood and Bone

By Tomi Adeymi
This New York Times Best Seller, has everything I love in a novel – magic, love, friendship, adventure, and memorable characters in a familiar yet totally unique world. The West African roots of the story weave texture through the narrative, and the heroines’ struggles with power (her own and others), personal responsibility, the pull of family, and the meaning of loyalty are infinitely relatable. This “young adult” book is worth reading in one delicious, big gulp. You can thank me later.

 

dreamland - summer reading

Dreamland – The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic

By Sam Quinones
When a book is recommended to me multiple times, by people in totally different corners of my life, I tend to see it as a sign that I have a new reading assignment. That’s how Dreamland ended up on my list and I’m so glad that it did. This is a well-researched, infinitely readable, story of addition in America. From Mexican villages, to Appalachian pill mills, from pharmaceutical company board rooms to suburban home, Sam explains how we got here – to an addiction epidemic. While it isn’t a fun story, you owe it to yourself to dive in and come out enraged and enlightened.

 

frankenstein - summer reading

Frankenstein

By Mary Shelley
Feel like you need a reading buddy? Frankenstein turns 200 this year, and it is the focus of the One State/One Story program (a statewide read sponsored by the Indiana Humanities and the Indiana State Library). Shelley’s themes, specifically the role of science and our own humanity, still ring true today and are a great jumping off point for a full slate of discussions, podcasts, and the first-ever Indiana Sci-Fi & Horror Writers Festival – coming this October. Your high school teacher will be proud of you.

 

Get to your nearest library, and get reading this summer!

Want more recommendations?

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Q&A Session with Eddie Layton

All of us have something special about ourselves, a small claim to fame. For Eddie Layton, Project Architect, he was a University of Virginia Scavhunt Marshmallow Peep Eating Contest Champion. But he hasn’t let the glory from his victory go to his head.

 

 

Tell me about yourself.
I grew up in rural southern Virginia. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and my masters from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. I married my high school sweetheart, Brittney, while in grad school, and we graduated together in 2009.

We graduated in the middle of the recession, so I took a job with a grocery store in Raleigh, North Carolina for a year and a half. During that time, I learned a lot about management and working as a team for a greater good. It translated well when I got my first job with a small architecture firm. That firm was eventually bought out by Gensler, the largest architecture firm in the world. We literally went from a firm of four to 3,000 overnight—it was definitely an interesting transition.

What brought you to Indiana?
Brittney and I wanted to be closer to family. She had grown up all around Indiana and still has a lot of family in the North Indianapolis and Kokomo areas. Our son, Liam, was nearly three at the time, and we had talked about expanding our family. It made sense to make the move. I worked at Gensler on Friday, made the drive to Indianapolis on Saturday, and started at Schmidt Associates on Monday.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Indy?
I am still finding hidden gems, but I really enjoy the Canal and the Circle. They are such unique, urban aspects to the city. We didn’t have anything like them in Raleigh.

And the family?
Brittney had some health issues while she was pregnant with Liam. As a result, we decided we wanted to expand our family with adoption through fostering. We had just completed the training necessary when we decided to move from North Carolina. We have started the process in Indiana and look forward to the next chapter.

We also have two cats, Woodstock and George. Woodstock came with his name, but Liam named George. Apparently he wasn’t worried about naming a female cat George. But those cats are so patient with Liam. He will literally mop the floor with Woodstock, and he still comes back to Liam for more. We try to discourage mopping of floors with cats, but it’s a hard concept for a four-year-old.

What do you do in your free time?
Currently I am coaching Liam’s soccer team (3-4 year-olds). I never played soccer growing up, but I know the basics of the game. It has been an interesting experience of herding cats and maintaining their attention for 45 minutes to an hour.

What inspires you?
My father-in-law taught me to always leave things in a better state than you found them. It’s a way to approach life, and also a great opportunity to approach clients and projects. The satisfaction of making things better for our clients is hard to match.

Do you keep anything special at your desk?
I have a hand-carved Maya wooden face mask that Brittney brought back for me from her anthropological field research in Guatemala. It’s slightly creepy but very cool!

If you want to know more about Eddie, check out his bio.

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Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantPhil MedleyLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt Durbin, and Kevin Shelley

Q&A Session with Kevin Shelley

It’s a good thing we move desks so often at Schmidt Associates. If we didn’t, Kevin Shelley—Principal and Project Manager—might be covered in cobwebs! After completing an architectural internship at Schmidt Associates in the late 80s, Kevin has never looked back… or worked anywhere else!

 

 

Tell me about your background.
I grew up in Avon—right down the street from my future wife, as a matter of fact. In 8th grade, I had to write a report about what I wanted to do when I grew up. At that point, I knew I wanted to be an architect. Everything I did academically moved me toward that goal. I attended Ball State University and lived in Botsford/Swinford Hall. Who knew that 25 years later, I would be the Project Manager on the facility’s renovation? While at Ball State, I participated in a Habitat for Humanity Design Competition and met Wayne Schmidt. Based on that meeting, I got an internship here and was ultimately hired straight out of school. I have never worked anywhere else.

What has kept you at Schmidt Associates for so long?
I really enjoy working with people and helping solve their problems. I love the challenge of finding the best solution for any problem—whether it is helping younger people learn to put a building together or helping clients solve facility needs in their organizations. Schmidt Associates offers me that opportunity daily.

Aside from work, what else do you enjoy?
I really enjoy working in my yard. My wife and I had a vision 20 years ago when we moved into our house. Just this year, we finally feel like we accomplished that original vision. So now we are starting over—with a new vision.  Hopefully it won’t take 20 years to finish this time.

Tell me about your family.
I married Angie 25 years ago and we have three sons. Jake is graduating this year from Trine University with a degree in Civil Engineering with a structural focus. He is engaged to Rachel and will be married this fall. Sam is at Franklin College, studying Computer Science and playing football. My son, Luc is a sophomore at Brownsburg High School and is on the swim team. And who can forget my dog, Zoey, a Jack Russel Terrier and just a spaz.

Kevin Shelley Family

What’s something not everyone knows about you?
Having 3 boys, I found myself volunteering my time to the Brownsburg Little League, coaching, and serving on their Board of Directors. Now that they are older, I am volunteering with the Challenger Baseball Program sponsored by the League and Brownsburg Community Schools.

Do you have any hidden talents?
I was a Drum Major in the band in high school, so I guess I can keep a pretty good beat. More recently, though, I enjoy skiing (snow and water) and am learning to wake surf.

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Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantPhil MedleyLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric Broemel, and Matt Durbin

Demonstrating Servant Leadership

Schmidt Associates was founded on the guiding principle of Servant Leadership. It threads through interactions we have internally and externally, resulting in a constant search to add value to every project. By operating as servant leaders, our designs consistently surprise and delight, technology solutions deliver true efficiencies, and environments become a place where people are better able to pursue their goals and fulfill their potential.

We asked our employees to describe how Schmidt Associates demonstrates Servant Leadership:

DesmaDesma Belsaas, Principal

One of the greatest things we do here at the office is focus on our core value, Servant Leadership. I think it means something a little bit different to everyone. I think it is all about listening to your clients, stakeholders, and the community. Once you listen, you take all of what you’ve learned and create something extraordinary for them.

 

 

 

BenBen Bain, Associate

In my role, I see that coming forth before we ever start working with a client. We listen. Over the years, clients tell me how other firms had great designs but didn’t seem to be working for the client but for themselves. It is nice to hear that Schmidt Associates not only gives sound advice and ideas, but that we truly listen to the clients’ needs. We become a part of their community in a genuine way because of how we serve. 

 

 

 

Liam KeeslingLiam Keesling, Interior Designer

As a firm, we are grounded in Servant Leadership. It is what makes us different; we are there from the very beginning until the very end and even beyond. This has been true for every project I have been on so far. We don’t just throw ideas at them and tell them this is the only way something will work. We sit them down to go through options and answer all questions first. They, in turn, feel comfortable with us because we’ve slowly earned trust through simply listening to them. It is rewarding, as their designer, to be a part of that experience with them.

 

 

tricia smithTricia Smith, Company Ambassador 

You see it internally just as much as how we deal with our Owners. You can see and feel Servant Leadership throughout the entire office, from the very top down to the newest employee. It is putting yourself second and doing whatever is possible for someone else when they need it. In our office, anyone would step up and help me however I needed it to get the job done.

 

 

 

brandon foxBrandon Fox, Project Architect

Our team knows what they are doing. They come into a project and leave their preconceived notions at the door. We listen to the clients, taking their feedback to build out the design so it fits them.

 

 

 

If you want to learn more about how we serve our Owners or what we can do for you, reach out!

Q&A Session with Matt Durbin

Matt Durbin, Technology Designer and Information Systems (IS) Manager, has taken an interesting path to land where he is today. Below, we journey along that path with him.

 

 

 

 

Where did you go to school?
I attended Olney College, majoring in General Studies and playing first base on their baseball team.

And your path from there?
My second year at Olney, we came back from Thanksgiving and I was out hunting with friends. Apparently, I was mistaken for wildlife. I was sprayed with buckshot in both legs. After my friends carried me back to my truck, they drove me to the hospital, where I lived for the next couple weeks. Following that, though, I didn’t go back to Olney. Instead, I got a job as a surveyor.

How did you transition from a Surveyor to a Technology Designer?
I started getting tired of being wet and cold from working outside, so I moved inside at the Civil Engineering firm I was working for. I realized I had gotten pretty good at Autodesk software and understanding computers.

At the time, there was no real degree that would support my interests, so I had to learn on the job. I joined a technology committee at my office and helped install my first network in 1990. I made several professional moves, acquired some key certifications, and eventually landed at Schmidt Associates as the Information Technology (IT) Manager. From there, I transitioned back into the design side of things and started designing technology for clients, not just Schmidt Associates. I moved from IT Manager to Technology Designer.

Obviously, Schmidt Associates is your favorite employer, but have you done anything else interesting along the way?
Actually, yes. I worked for the Indianapolis Zoo for a while. It was pretty cool to just walk outside and see an elephant or flamingo. Did you know that penguins are ridiculously loud and don’t smell like roses? I installed a camera in their habitat one time and had some up-close encounters with them!

What do you do in your free time?
I guess you could say I am an outdoorsy kind of guy. I like to fish, ride four-wheelers, tractors. It took me a while to get past being shot, but I actually do some target shooting now too, but I don’t hunt anymore.

Do you collect anything?
Hats. I probably have 50 or 60. I have always worn them, so somewhere along the way, I started collecting them. I have a wall in my basement where I keep my favorites displayed. The others are just stacked in boxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt and his wife, Kristan met while visiting mutual friends at Ball State and have been married 25 years. They have two daughters, Mackenzie and Morgan, and a dog, Copper. Mackenzie is finishing her senior year at Herron College studying photography. Morgan is a sophomore at Marian University’s School of Nursing and is a student in the Evans Center for Health Sciences—a facility her Dad designed the technology for. Copper is carrying out his duty of being a good boy.

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Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantPhil MedleyLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia Coffee, and Eric Broemel

Q&A Session with Eric Broemel

The dichotomy between engineering and the arts is apparent to most people. However, those lines seem to be blurred for Eric Broemel, PE, Engineering Quality Manager and an Associate at Schmidt Associates. Maybe that is why he is able to make engineering understandable to most people?

 

 

 

Where did you go to school?
I grew up in Indianapolis and went to Pike High School. From there, I went onto Purdue and majored in Mechanical Engineering. Would you believe I sang in the University Choir my freshman year before engineering school took over and consumed everything?

Singing? So you are a musician and an engineer?
My family is very musical. My dad played bassoon in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra while I was growing up. He still plays the piano and composes music. My brother, Carl, is a guitarist in My Morning Jacket—a rock band out of Louisville, Kentucky. Though I enjoy playing music recreationally, I guess you could call me the odd duck as the engineer of the family.

So with all the music in your family, how did you become an engineer?
My grandfather, Forrest (who my first-born son is named after), was a self-taught engineer. He worked at Grumman Aircraft designing the pneumatic steering system for aircraft used during World War II.  I learned how to be more comfortable about the practical application of engineering concepts from him.

What inspires you?
I like the idea that things don’t always have to be done the same way they always have been. I think that is how I live my life, both at home and at the office. I am always evaluating processes and products to see if there is a better way. Because a good portion of our practice involves educational facilities, I love the idea that we can make the client’s building as energy efficient as possible, which allows more money to go to in to the classroom to assist students and teachers.

What do you do in your free time?
I enjoy bicycling and even ride my bike to work on the Monon Trail when the weather is reasonable. I also enjoy being involved at my children’s schools as President of the Dad’s Club at Fox Hill Elementary in the MSD of Washington Township and coaching basketball.

Do you keep anything special at your desk?
I have a framed picture of Brett Quandt (Accounting and Finance Manager/Principal) that says, “Have you done your timesheet yet?”. I opened it at a White Elephant exchange. Oddly, no one wanted the picture. The truth is, when I unwrapped it, I noticed a Starbucks gift card taped to the back, but I certainly didn’t publicize that part of the gift! Now, it just serves as a good reminder while I drink my coffee…

What is your favorite hidden activity or place to go in Indianapolis?
My wife, Jennifer, and I love to go to Broad Ripple—Public Greens, specifically—on the Monon Trail. They have delicious food! A lot of times we will turn it into a true date and go to the galleries at the Indy Arts Center afterwards.

So to use Eric’s term—odd duck—to describe himself is an interesting way to describe this complex man. Schmidt Associates is proud to call Eric one of our ducks. His leadership in the engineering department, combined with his dedication to his family (wife, Jennifer; Chloe, 12; Forrest, 10; and Zach, 8) definitely embodies the culture of our organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantPhil MedleyLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen Bain, and Asia Coffee

Thank you!

Q&A Session with Asia Coffee

From beautifully decorated cakes to cupcakes to confections of all imaginings, Asia Coffee—a registered interior designer at Schmidt Associates—is just as sweet as the beautiful creations she makes. Below, we take a few minutes to get to know her.

 

 

Tell me about your background.
I was born and raised in Indy. In high school, I had a growing interest in art, so I enrolled into a special art Program at Broad Ripple High School. From there, I went to art school for a year in Chicago, where I met my future husband. I moved back to Indy and started the Interior Design program at IUPUI.

With such an interest in art, what inspires you?
I love the elements and principles of design—color, texture, composition … I also love to look at other people’s work and stay current with trends on social media.

And your family?
My husband, William, and I have four sons—David, 13; William Jr., 10; Benjamin, 3; and our newest ,Elliot. We don’t have any pets (yet). William keeps talking about getting a dog, but we haven’t taken the plunge.

How did you get into cake decorating?
Several years back, I took a few classes and really enjoyed it. The instructor asked me if I had ever thought about teaching, but I didn’t think much of it. Instead, I started doing cakes on the side for family and friends. Not long after, I decided to fill out that application to teach. Now, I teach cake decorating at several stores around Indianapolis and decorate cakes as a side business. I have an Instagram account—“mrs.coffeescakes”—if you would like to see some of my work.

Do you feel like your two worlds—interior design and cake decorating—intersect at all?
I feel like because I teach, it carries over into my interior design world when having to do Owner presentations. The crazy thing is that I am up in front of people teaching nearly every weekend, but I still get nervous doing presentations for work. I can’t figure it out!

Do you keep anything special at your desk?
I have sat on the board of IIDA (International Interior Design Association, Indiana Chapter) for four years now. When the current president took office, she took a quote from the person who nominated you about why they enjoy working with you. I keep that at my desk to remind me to keep doing my best.

And, just for fun, what is your favorite food on Mass Ave?
Ohhhh, I love The Eagle. They have a chicken sandwich that is amazing. Boneless chicken, coleslaw, and pickle. It is magnificent!

 

So when that sweet tooth hits or you want to see some of the latest trends in the industry, feel free to come by. Asia would love to chat with you!

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Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantPhil MedleyLiam KeeslingSayo Adesiyakan, and Ben Bain