Tagged: design

To the people of Phnom Penh: let’s DESIGN this city!

Here’s what’s up, people.

street scene of Phnom Penh
Design isn’t just about bringing world-famous architects or a government-led “Design Center.”


DK will help.

—wait, what?

We’ve only arrived to Phnom Penh less than a month ago. What do we know about this place? Who are we to talk about changing it, dictating what it will become?

You see, we are starting our first brand design gig in Cambodia this weekend. And that got me rather excited, and dreaming out loud…

Have you been to places like New York, London, Paris, Vancouver and Tokyo, and thought, “Man, I wish my hometown would look/feel/run like this!” And then, realize, no, you don’t. You want it to be what it is and not some megalopolis. I certainly have. Though, my “hometown” is a sort of faceless Tokyo suburb that long ago abandoned the idea of itself being anything special. So, I am certainly no “big city” worshipper.

Phnom Penh is different.

“Much of the city has been razed when people came back after the war. They wanted concrete pavement and tall buildings.” Ms. Leah, a long-time resident and the principal of DK Schoolhouse, shared her observation with us yesterday at a meeting (where we talked about—what else?!—the importance of design and design thinking.) There are lots of constructions all around us even today. And felt palpably in the air is this general sense of redoing. It’s redefining itself, right in front of us.

And because of many reasons, there’s a lack of leadership from “above” about what it should become. It’s anything goes, in a way.

What it will become, is up to each and every developer, policy maker, shopkeeper and resident of this city. Would it become another outpost for international brands, like Bangkok and Delhi, as we’ve seen in our recent visits? Is it trying to be something it’s not?

All the while, we see the evidence of design being set aside as frills, nice-to-haves, and unimportant, in the rush of building anew, fast. Buildings with haphazard construction. Logos that are borrowed, hastily-drawn, and cheaply gotten (the going rate is $50, or free service of sign makers, I hear.) Roads and sidewalks that are crumbling, badly designed, and unusable. It seems like a heresy to talk about making design a priority on a city-wide scale. To be honest, I have no idea how we would tackle it.

I just know that we need to.

The fact we are designing logos again, in this city, isn’t incidental. We’ve fallen in love with the place, and are meeting people who are eager to see what we can bring to the table. We want to stay put here for a while. But if we do, there’s not much point just churning out logos for foreign companies and off-shore clients, unless we are also engaging in something bigger than ourselves, here and now.

“Design thinking, graphics, intention-clarifying, play, storytelling, and listening… These are just tools we use to help _people_” I found myself saying to Dipika the other morning.

I am excited, not just because of the prospect of paying gigs, or because it’s my chance to get back on the saddle of “doing” design. Sure, these things are great. But the thing that really gets me fired up is that I feel that we will be helping people: people who want to change how things are done here in Cambodia. People who want to make a mark in this city of new opportunities. We are meeting some seriously cool people here, who have ideas and ideals, and initiatives to create something. And we can help them through design, our chosen tool.

What if Design could change the fate of a place? Through getting the people of Phnom Penh to get excited about seeing the right problems to solve, setting the right intentions, and communicating them in the most effective manners?

I get goosebumps thinking about the possibilities.

“Anything is possible:” said the back of our first business cards, printed in 2005. I think it’s time Design Kompany live up to that lofty declaration.

Do you live in, have experiences with, love, or are curious about Cambodia? If so, join us, will you? Come be a part of it. We need your help. I think it will be a heck of a ride for us all!


* what does a Design City look like? This:
(I’m not so much interested in getting Phnom Penh the designation from a certain external body. I just want the city to adopt design as a tool for change and Becoming what it wants to become.)


We gather periodically via email to share tips, news and stories about designing our legacies.

In Cambodia: 4 pics from the streetscape, public space of Phnom Penh

VISUAL PEOPLE that we are, it’s much easier to share what it feels like to be in Cambodia’s capital with a few pics.


FRENCH. You can hear people talking in French at this cafe, Le Jardin, complete with soft overhead fans and softer jazz. Billie Holiday right now.


MYSTERIOUS USES. To me, anyway. I’m not local. What is this red frame thing for, besides hanging this? It’ll seem so obvious in about a year.

BEAUTY. Patterns, colors. Refreshing to the unfamiliar eye.


FUTURE. Not sure what’s next, but ready to keep noticing as we go, and sharing, too.


We gather periodically via email to share tips, news and stories about designing our legacies.

First impressions of Phnom Penh

GREEN. On Patrick’s Day, I came to Milk Green Tea.

EVERY SO OFTEN you discover a place that feels like it could be, in a way, an extension of your home. Given that we have been living in small guesthouses, borrowed rooms, rented hotels, bungalows, and more these last eleven months on the road, I’m pleased to discover Milk Green Tea in the south-of-town neighborhood we’ve managed to land, softly and with everything still more or less intact, from the orbit of “footlooseness without agenda” to the glimpses of settling into Phnom Penh.

Cambodia. I never.

Life is evolving. Changing. Returning… in some ways, you could even say. When you think you have stopped a thing like your own freelance business in order to do the hard work to settle into “the real world” like so many people advised, against your gut you did it, and closed shop for a while because my goodness, wasn’t there a recession on? Didn’t you have a newborn, a toddler, a preschooler who is now a small boy of a most bountiful bouncy nature who makes you think, yes, perhaps, it’s time now to get back to the other kind of reality.


Making and doing.

Here’s a picture from last week’s Monday “drink and draw,” where we met three groups of people in one space to mix it up. Thanks to Gregory Bem and Hide Nakamura for co-hosting.


More tea.

Akira is talking a lot about that—making and doing, I mean—these days. I know he’ll be back to blogging again, too, and I am now reinstalling myself here at DK. It has been a long journey, this one to take a break from the design work I used to love, grew to wonder about, felt stressed about, and now am back to bringing into the new place, because Cambodia needs this, I think. People want to be engaged intellectually, and we know that PLAY is the way to do that.

“Some designers like to go home and work out this really cool design,” Akira was saying just yesterday to a new friend. “But that’s such a different style from us. It’s not about us. It’s not like it’s me doing the design, or Dipika. We collaborate a lot. We’re a team. And you’re part of that team, too.” Collaboration is a big word with lots of letters, but it’s what we’ve discovered is the singlemost important element in the design process. If clients can’t join in with us in the sandbox, so to speak, and find the way to self-discovery, well, that makes it harder to do our work well. Every single project is special because each path, each journey, each notebook comes full of very different styles and personalities. It’s what makes us special, this thing that we have: DNA.

March is winding to a close, of course, and that means I have to face the music about having become yet another year older. Yet from 38 to 39, there was this amazing bridge. This wallop of a journey that brought boss-man and me to Hanoi on our own from the cozy confines of Durham, NC, which, to be honest, weren’t very cozy at all because we still had to think about what we were going to contribute there. With STITCH, our Kickstarter for Orangutan Swing, not making its $12,000 goal, I have to admit I took it kinda personally. But we are learning. We have learned. Nobody has all the answers. All you have to do is keep twisting, turning, jumping, and leaping to hope that maybe, just maybe, that net they talk about that will appear will do its thing.

The green scene here is comforting.

It’s what, I think, the net looks like, for today.

We gather periodically via email to share tips, news and stories about designing our legacies.

The trouble with goals

MOST OF THE TIME you don’t know what a journey is about, exactly, at the start. A life journey, for example. Or a creative one.

It’s not my original thought: it’s something I got from a chance encounter with a very well-traveled couple, who happened to share the same preference for breakfast places in Gangtok. They were already out and about for more than a year, including stints in America where they met and the UK where she is from. I have lost track of them completely, as often happens when you meet so many people in a series of movings-abouts. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t forgotten what they said:

You never know what a trip is about, not really, until much later. After it’s done, and you’re older, and you can reflect back. You don’t have to overthink it, or anything. But you’ll know with clarity. Later. For now, don’t try to overarticulate it. — Wisdom from the traveling couple in Sikkim’s Gangtok

Welcome to the journey.

Creativity only happens when you let go, take a risk

Three things are requisite if you want to find the beauty:

  1. Uncertainty. You really can’t know how a brand design process is going to go, exactly, at the start, either. You go ahead and get going, of course. Yet what you can’t know at the start is exactly what the thing you’re embarking on means.

  2. Patience. Insight will come. It definitely will. Just not, well, before you even take off. Craftspeople know that it takes years to master their trade. You can’t just hop in and do judo, and stuff.
  3. Inertia often blocks us.. Hardest part to doing a thing you know is good for you is getting started. I mean, look at yoga. How many times do we say, “Yeah. I should really do that.” Very few. (One such person who is, though, and consciously is Melinda Hunt.)

What the architects and artists aren’t sure about

I’m reading an essay on The Fountainhead. Ayn Rand is the book’s author, and the essayists are critiquing and at the same time lauding her for putting the practice of architecture so exquisitely and resolutely on display. Thing is, architecture is all about design. You see the results. They’re either good, bad, or stupendous.

No one wants to admit that it’s so very subjective.

Aesthetics and taste aren’t easily cultivated. You have to consume a lot of art, good and bad, to know what a thing looks like and if it resonates with you, personally, it’s good, for you. It’s not like all critics even have it sorted out. No one wants to risk sounding or looking stupid by praising something that’s not already been praised before. This is why you can get press for things if you’ve had press for them, already. Public Relations professionals know that. It’s why they pitched me stuff with clips of other coverage when I was a reporter, a career before DK.

But they won’t tell you that no one knows, for sure. If it’s good, or not. Except: the maker. They know.

In their gut, they know.

My fear for the people who are creative but don’t practice is that they’re so busy getting gear and reading maps on how to start, they can’t even get to the plateaus. The top? That’s just a goal. The views and the muscle-building are the real rewards.

Teatime: taking a step back to see what a brand story wants to be.
Teatime with a client to appreciate the long view.

Why do we make these collages when we’re talking about brand design? Why do we have tea with our clients? Why do we invite them into our homes, to see all the little scruffy edges of what used to be our toddler’s toys, and bare the whole thing, open, and honest, to view? Because people can only discover the beauty within if they’re allowed to let go of an idea of perfection.

Design Kompany and the rough-around-the-edges approach

You go around and you come back, then you find the important story to tell. And say it with the lines that aren’t extra, but remain functional, and still say a lot, with not a whole lot of pretentiousness about. Straight-up. Knows what it is. What it isn’t. This is the work of the Designer. To clarify. To reduce the clutter.

At the end of the process, the creative process, we arrive at a destination. It might not be final but it’s a plateau. Sometimes you need bits of respite when you’re climbing, always looking up, always thinking of the peak, but forgetting, despite yourself, to pay attention to the view.

So it is, too, with design processes. I’ve been saying and often doubting, as I try to walk the talk from April 2013 to now on the road in Asia without a real plan: “trust the process.” You have to get lost to find center. Here’s a video, our homage to that philosophy.

And yes, just like the rough spots with parenting and marriage, the journey is a mix of ups and downs. But yeah. I’d do it all again, without question, for the ride.

We gather periodically via email to share tips, news and stories about designing our legacies.

How to discover your ‘why’

Design Kompany is Akira Morita and Dipika KohliWelcome.

We are a two-person studio with a giant toolkit of ways to help you discover meaning in life and work. We’ve been working together for 20 years with people in Europe, Asia, and on both US coasts.

After projects large and small to look for the heart of people’s innermost stories, we’ve discovered a secret.

Ready for it? It’s this.

Real efficiency isn’t about how smoothly you get from A to B. It’s knowing where Z is.

Still reading?



Here’s what you can discover on this page:

  • How to find clarity of intent in life and business. See STEER.
  • How to discover a common vision when working in teams. See FOCUS.
  • How to extract a clear concept from a slew of inputs. See MESSAGING.
  • How to articulate and express that with clarity, precision, and even beauty. See LEGACY.
  • Why DK is uniquely positioned to be your guide. See OUR STORY.


Stay connected. Join our legacy design conversation when you add your name below…

My primary e-mail is…

First things first. What are your core values?

SteerButtonPeople whose jobs aren’t aligned with their personal core values can wind up resentful, and even sick. We’ve all heard it before: “stress will kill you.”

How to be proactive and stop a slow death in its tracks?

Start with knowing who you are, deeply and completely.

We created the 4-week online coaching program STEER to help you do just that. STEER was the result of eight years of thinking with lots of kinds of people, in both small groups and individually, about the meaning of their work. What often started as a brand design project led to new insights that showed people something about themselves they never realized, and helped them make strong decisions about where to take their next big life step.

Some people made huge decisions about their personal relationships, others switched career tracks, and still others found confirmation in trusting their gut was, after all, right. Knowing thyself, we’ve always said for brand design and legacy-making work, is the primary step towards getting to where you really want to be. Sometimes the work to dive in and explore is just the right thing to discover what that is. Check out this page to see what people are saying, and how to join the conversations that are going on right now.


Next is FOCUS.

Focus, focus, focus: Finding the core of the heart of the thing

FOCUS is our online coaching workshop that’s about how to take the insights gleaned from STEER yet a step further. It’s a way to apply some of what you’ve discovered about your core values and apply those into action steps for how to life your values. They say happiness is living your values, and we totally believe that, too. It shows up on the lines of people’s faces if they’re not happy: they’re not doing something that makes them come alive, with vigor and vitality. But if they are, they seem young and vivacious, full of energy.

FOCUS is a toolkit of exercises and coaching sessions will help you get very clear about the how of making a change. We’ll design the tracks with you and for you, in a way that business coaches can’t and don’t. See some of our work at our portfolio page to learn what we’ve done for others who want to press the “refresh” button on life, and work.

Design, after all, is all about making meaning. Knowing your “why.” But, how?


Messaging: the thing we learned from Henry Ford



Want to know a secret?

How to find your focus isn’t all that hard. There are just two steps.

  1. Know your “why.”
  2. Live your values.

Since design, ultimately, is about making meaning, we can apply some of our tools to help you sort out the important bits from what’s just clutter.

Our work isn’t about type and layout. It’s about lifting the essence of a thing and expressing it beautifully. It’s why we love Dali’s “The Dream” and An Die Musik and that crazy cool exhibition park outside of Tokyo you have to fly to on the Yurikamome line, and roller coasters. Someone figured something out, and articulated it so neatly that there’s no question about any bit of it, there’s nothing that just doesn’t fit.

Messaging starts with clarifying the concept, and coming up with words and images to help express it in a tone and style that’s right. See our portfolio to read what we’ve been able to do for others.


Legacy-making starts with critical thinking. What’s your legacy?

When you are asked, “tell me about yourself,” does it terrify you? I mean, do you find yourself grabbing whatever’s on the top of your mind to ramble for a few paragraphs about the latest, newest, or most flashy-sounding soundbite at hand?

Deep breath. The secret is this.

It doesn’t have to be hard.

But who has time?

imageEnter Dr. Seuss. Oh, the Places You’ll Go.

Ever read this book? If you haven’t, please stop here and go read this book.

Now that that’s done, I’ll tell you one thing. Most people don’t want to talk about legacy. Their purpose. That big stuff. It’s too… hard. It’s hard! Yes, of course it’s hard. But it’s like starting something that you know is important. It’s often the things we care about most that we save until last.

But sometimes, there’s not that much time left.

DK's Dipika Kohli at TEDx Raleigh.
DK’s Dipika Kohli at TEDx Raleigh.

(Here’s the video.)

Clarifying your purpose is big, big stuff.

Huge. Super huge.

But once you start to ask the questions, the concept makes itself apparent. Ever get lost in a piece of writing or a doodle, not realizing when you discover yourself coming up with a totally unrelated solution to something else? Our subconscious can tell us so much. It takes a skilled hand to guide us there, though. In my work at Design Kompany, I’ve discovered that often, people start off saying, “I need to refresh my website,” or “I’m moving to a new address so I need business cards.” But what happens is something deeper. Just by talking about the “why” of work, people find out something even more important.

A core purpose.

A reason for being here.

Which leads us to talk, openly and honestly, about legacy.

Why does the work you do matter? What’s in it for you? What legacy do you hope to leave at the end of all this, when they call your number?

For us at DK, helping people start to think about setting an intention about legacy is big. Art and beauty and meaning are huge for us. Super huge. DK didn’t get on stage at TEDx Raleigh because we like talking about death and endings. We got there to talk about life and new beginnings. About Tagore, Planck, uncertainty, and the contrast. We live more fully in life if we can pay attention to the breaths we have.

Purpose-making. Finding meaning.

We really believe this: desig is about making meaning.

We woudn’t be able to do the work of Design Kompany if discovering a life purpose wasn’t something people need. More than 500 people have been part of the process, and have shifted, because of the work we’ve done together to dig deep for a clear, bright concept.Finding the clarity. Knowing what counts. Saying it clearly, to the world, but more importantly, to each one of us, individually, too. Knowing our “why.”

See our portfolio to read what we’ve been able to do for others.


New in 2014! Coaching and workshops: DK&U

After 20 years of discovering and articulating brand stories for CEOs, Executive Directors and solopreneurs, DK is excited to bring our wheelhouse to a wider circle.

This year, we are focusing on a very special and newly designed series of new workshops, DK&U< that are combinations and permutations of: personal coaching, group conversation space-making, and online teaching sessions. See below to find out more about our story.
Sugh giant questions, about purpose and stuff. But that’s what design is for.

To make sense of a soup of ideas and stray comments, and give the color that emerges some form. A clean, easy to understand shape.

That’s all. This is really a kind of design. Designing your life. But it takes some stuff. People who know how to help you discover it, for example. That essence stuff, I mean. Designing well is to simplicate and add lightness. Henry Ford said that. Like we said at the start, real efficiency isn’t about how smoothly you get from A to B. It’s knowing where Z is.

Real efficiency starts with gaining clarity on what it is you want to say. And designing clean is saying that exact thing—once you know what it is, of course—very simply.


The work of Design Kompany and our promise to you

DK—that’s Dipika Kohli and Akira Morita–exists for one purpose.

To help you simplicate.

Simplify, and add lightness

Our two-person team gets rid of noise. Excess baggage that’s keeping you from telling your story without garbled, cumbersome clutter.

We are in Southeast Asia now, have been moving about with one less suitcase every time we have to cross a border. It’s weird, but it’s the analog version of what we do for Design Kompany clients.


But not just editing.

Editing with intention. Consideration. Clarity. In search of the golden nugget of the thing that makes a story beautiful.

Who said beauty is dead? No. Not so long as we’re each alive, in search of realizing our fullest potential.

And that doesn’t mean editing everything to leave you contentless.

It means peeling back layers to uncover meaning at the center.

Of your work. Of your life, even, if you want to get philosophical with us.

But let’s start at the top.

Maybe you can relate to one of these things:

  • Garbled message?

  • Super complex idea?

  • Overbusy graphics?

Let DK help you simplify.

Here’s a quick slideshare to give you an example: cleaning up writing.

Say it Simple. Viewed more than 2,000 times on Slideshare.

Our work so far’s been in stuff like: Journalism. Tourism. Traveling. Meeting a lot of different kinds of people who all have vastly wide ideas about life, and purpose. Parenting. Shaping the world of creative thinking by discovering what matters, what works, what doesn’t, and trying and failing more times than we’d care to admit. Mostly, though, on the gut instinct of steering the conversation in ways that help other people realize insights—all on their own.

It’s magic, really.

It’s pure and beautiful when you see the crest of the wave, because you know after some time how it is when people are about to figure something major out. Maybe I am good at this because I come from a family of psychiatrists. Maybe I’m good at it because I turned out fairly normal even though I come from a family of psychiatrists. But partnering with my level-headed husband Akira Morita back when we met, in 1994, has definitely added oomph to the repertoire of DK’s toolkit.

People in Europe, Asia, and both US coasts have told DK that our process is surprisingly revealing and often can’t believe how big a shift internally they soon take. Many are couples in business together. Most are highly achievement-oriented and receptive to new ways of thinking. Almost all sent us a card when we added a new team member:

Dipika, Kush, and Akira are Design Kompany. 100% minority owned. Kids always welcome.
Dipika, Kush, and Akira are Design Kompany. 100% minority owned. Kids always welcome.

Are you ready to discover the real core of who you are, what you do, and why it matters? Of course these are giant questions, but they can be tackled. It just takes starting. The journey of a thousand miles and first steps and stuff.

To make it easier, we offer a free 20-minute consultation by phone or Skype. That can happen when we get whatever you decide to write in this box. Individuals are welcome, and so are groups.

How can we help you?

Even if you’re not ready to talk to us this minute, be sure to join our legacy design tribe to get updates on what’s coming out next. Just add your name below.

Join our Legacy Design Tribe

My primary e-mail is…


We gather periodically via email to share tips, news and stories about designing our legacies.

The beauty of simplicity and play: zine-workshop, Chiang Mai

imageimageimageimage Our first-ever zine-making workshop: at Brainergy Schoolhouse in Chaing Mai, Thailand.

Cutting. Pasting. Collaging.

My favorite activity in the world that has to do with making and doing is zinery.


Little books that you can create, on your own, with words, pictures, and imagination.

“Wait! Where’s the advertising?” said one guest, who was half-kidding. Still, the idea that you expect to be sold to when you pick up a printed (or collaged piece of art that’s been photocopied, in the case of zines) is a little disconcerting to me. I believe in the idea of exploring to find something new, something that comes from within, and the workshops that we are *just* starting to create and deliver now while we are in Asia and still experimenting with the process of trusting the process, if that’s not meta I don’t know what is, has begun to begin.

Design Kompany exists to make space for exploration, play, and learning by doing. It’s not about to-down esoteric concepting that you see from giant ad houses that want you to buy what they say is cool. (Think Mad Men.) For us, real design is about stirring up the unique and authentic that’s already there, within, and creating a forum to discover, articulate, and express that through visuals and words.

In the past, this has been mostly brand identity designs, so logos and brochures and business cards. Expressing the story. But now, we’re moving towards more experience-making spaces. More workshops, that are lighter but still very much rooted in DK’s core philosophy: trust the process.

Get lost a little to find center. The locus might not be where you think. Saving time in life by learning what’s important to us, and what makes us who we are, that’s big.

Came across this on tumblr:

“Sometimes people ask me, “If I realize that I as a separate identity don’t really exist as I thought I did, then who is going to live this life?” Once you touch upon this radiant heart of emptiness, then you know what is living this life, what has always lived it, and what is going to live it from this moment on. You realize that you are not living this life; this radiant heart is what is actually living this life—along with this radiant, empty mind. When you give up being who you thought you were and let yourself be who you really are, then this radiant heart lives your life. Then no-thingness becomes your reality, and nondual awareness is what you are.”
Adyashanti (via lazyyogi)

We gather periodically via email to share tips, news and stories about designing our legacies.

Introducing COJOURNAL: Making space to get creative

Thie is something different. It’s from the work I’m doing over at my personal writing site, Kismuth.


Are you finding it hard to get any quality, focused writing done? Introducing a new guided ecourse, based on methods developed in 10 years of design thinking and exploration here at DK.

Get accountability and structure to make it happen starting TODAY

Free two-week trial

On this page you’ll find:

  • You’re not alone in wanting to create and feeling stuck on how
  • A group of fellow writers that gets you, and wants to see you realize your best work
  • What Ira Glass said about making art
  • A new structure to create your weekly writing space

All you’ll need is internet once a week, stuff to write with, readiness to commit to your own self-improvement, and a timer.

For more information, see this page. (Password=”springcleaning”.)

We gather periodically via email to share tips, news and stories about designing our legacies.

Design Thinking: Drawing chords of a circle


It used to be that design was about looks.

How it felt to consider a thing, that is, started with the visuals.

You approached a brand, for example, like you would a person. If they happen to be good-looking, you think, “Yeah, they’re probably good at what they do.” (See “halo effect.”)

The present and future of media, journalism, art and design (and yes, that’s a lot)

Truth is, though, that in the new era (and who really knows when it changed over to “new”) of media and conversation and branding and design, the first impressions are hardly those of a brand’s look.

Sure, they’re important. You want to see clean design that confirms your ideas about a thing, person, idea, or service that purports to be professional. In order to imbue trust, you want a brand identity that matches a perceived value of class, taste, quality and reliability. But here’s the thing. Great design is now a given. If you don’t have it, you’re going to be overlooked.

There are way too many other people, too many colors, sizes, shapes, snazzy presentations, clever tweets and pithy, agonized-over Facebook updates to be bothered about someone who has ONLY a pretty face.


I’m talking about noise.


My least-favorite thing, ever.

I’ve been talking a lot about this, this being the way it feels to talk about “branding” not as logo design anymore (that was 2006 and before) but about a way of being. Authenticity was the buzzword for a couple of years there, and that was right, but not enough. It’s more than that. It’s a total package.

It’s about being Human.


A human heart and hand have to be part of a brand or you’ll soon throw it out the window because it’s more plastic, made-in-China, faceless, nameless, giant and cumbersome and electronic or not messes of stuff. Stuff isn’t what we’re needing. Read on to find out what is. (And: the picture above will make sense then.)

Yes, all this stuff I’m talking about today, mostly to myself, because you do that when you are on the road for a long time and “practicing the unknown, uncertain and different” through a wacky but deeply confidence-testing project Orangutan Swing (thank you, Akira, for bringing me into this box of putty, where there aren’t any surefire corners, and where the things that emerge are sometimes troubling, but sometimes eye-popping epiphany-making stuff.)

Didn’t really know that we could manage eight months on the road like this without much going on at our DK office, which went virtual in 2008, the same year we had our son. Cashflow issues set in, immediately. So we had to improvise, even back then. More workshops, like this one for University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on design thinking. More creative thinking kinds of projects. Roundtable designing. Events. Even merchandise (but that wasn’t long-lived).

Everything changes when you have a kid, they say, and “they” are totally right. Striking a chord between what we wanted Design Kompany to become, and what we knew we could offer, required taking time to think clearly once our son got old enough to walk around on his own. That was 2013, the year we left, metaphorical notebooks open and ready to report on the things we’ve found in the world.

The world.

So big.

So we made it “Asia.” Then, “South and Southeast Asia,” Then, four cities:

  • Durham (okay, this is the outlier)
  • Gangtok
  • Kathmandu
  • Amritsar

Trying to build conversation spaces out of thin air. The work of not just design thinking—look for the unknowns in the places you’d never imagine them—but also of dialogue-making. Journalism meets design when you try to find unique sources. Art happens when you can connect people in a way that makes them talk not just through a conduit (say, Big Media, or advertisement-driven Facebook), but in a space that feels safe, comfortable, and inviting. A space that has to be, for all intensive purposes, designed. That sounds hokey, but in these eight months, it’s been a real fascinating thing to watch it happen. Go somewhere new. Meet people. Find out what’s going on. Look for the story. Create a theme. Invite. Make up a circle. And then, the conversation begins. The conversation that happens from one person to another, but not in the way we’re used to when we go to School and have our Desks in Rows. Nope. We’re circle people here.

Chords. Chords of conversations across the circle.

That’s the magic.

And, if you want to know a secret, it’s where we find out we’re not really so very much different. Or alone. Or in need of something to buy to fill up our hearts, or make something happen that will give us meaning. The conversations ARE the meaning. The so-called village, the one it takes to raise a little child, the one I swore I’d go in search of because, by God, being a new mother and trying to run a, well, I’ll call a spade a spade, a “lifestyle business,” wasn’t exactly a cake walk. Add to that your co-parent is your business partner, and your mother thinks you should “get back to reality” because art-making is a giant waste of time.

You don’t get much help from the ones who don’t see it, though.

The circle. The chords. The art.

We gather periodically via email to share tips, news and stories about designing our legacies.



The first step to inspiration reboot? GET BACK TO THE HEART

SUMMARY: This is a new course from Design Kompany and Kismuth, a memoir project by DK co-founder (and DESIGN FOR POETS host) Dipika Kohli. DESIGN FOR POETS is about getting conversations started about what really matters, besides things like pixels and typefaces and rules. Please join our e-mail list to be informed of updates on what people say about our e-courses, and future installments.




DESIGN FOR POETS is a two-week e-course designed to:

  • Inspire creative people who may be feeling uninspired
  • Remind ourselves of great poets’ words
  • Refresh our love of design so we can

engage with love in projects of meaning.



Are you in a creative rut? Get unstuck in two weeks. Here’s how.

  • Replenish your creative thinking muscles from the comfort of home
  • Connect with like-minded design professionals who also crave meaningful connection
  • Learn which poet is most your style
  • Build on that knowledge so you can create clearer, brighter design
  • Discover how to more acutely discern which freelancers you want to hire, when it makes sense
  • A new lease on how to enjoy the creative process all over again
  • Opening to a poet’s handbook of new ways to see

A quick game:

Name the poet!

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty
That is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Who said that? Where did it come from? I’ll e-mail you a poem each day, with the name of the poet and source the next day. (The first day I’ll tell you who wrote the above! Just join DESIGN FOR POETS by registering below.)

I’ll also seed a converation about what we might learn from it as design thinkers.

You may want to get a new notebook, and if you’re a true design geek, some kind of fancy pen (My partner Akira has a $12 one that’s orange, and  I have a couple of Muji notebooks hanging around from when we stocked up in Japan).



Without attending to the heart, we can’t possibly make great design happen. This is a course designed to stir a new wave of enchantment, because that’s what matters now.

About ten years ago, great design was about finding authentic voice.

Today, it’s about heartwork.

And what is left that connects us all, throughout time, across humanity?


Let’s examine this a bit together, in DESIGN FOR POETS.



DESIGN FOR POETS is for people who are, at heart, artists.

Do you enjoy the storytelling style of people who like to play with words, with the cadences and sounds, the lilt and color? This course is created to reinspire people who dream. People who love. But while doing both, look deeply and reflect thoughtfully on the substance of that which is there.

It’s for philosopher-artist types. It’s for those who like literature, but the really old books as well as what’s popular and new. Poets. It’s for those who think about big things because they have space to do so, or see art movies, or fall in love with the edge of a building against the sky because architecture is expression, too.

It’s for us existentialists, who question why things are the way they are, and ask big questions. Things we wouldn’t bring to some of our best acquaintances, or even our dearest friends, but that we’d talk about in a room of strangers at a getaway to Europe if the chance was there.

It’s for people who like to look at the stars and be still for long periods of time. Introverts. It’s for people who wonder, always, how can I do this better next timef? How can I realize my fullest potential? Because in the wondering, there’s some daydreaming, and in that, there’s new light.

DESIGN FOR POETS is for people who work in creative fields, but don’t feel inspired anymore.

Sound familiar?

About 99% of the content you’ll find is derived from eight years’ worth of living the creative process as part of the two-person design studio Design Kompany. It will be hosted by Dipika Kohli (a poet at heart, secretly.)


Dipika and PoetryDipika Kohli, one half of Design Kompany, was a journalist in both Ireland and Seattle. Now, she’s writing daily for her memoir project, Kismuth. As a result of many conversations both about writing as well as design in recent months, she decided to create this e-course for people who love to explore, look, listen, and ask big questions about “what it all means.”

DESIGN FOR POETS is an e-course. It’s a two-week e-Course delivered to your inbox via daily e-mail lessons.

But it’s also a conversation starter, and a way to connect with like-minded people. By far the best thing people who joined our last e-Course, STEER, told us was the feeling of connection with other participants in this way.

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • Carefully crafted e-magazine style conversation starters sent to your inbox daily for two weeks
  • Access to an online forum where you can meet other people, and engage with your host, for questions and sharing of your own words and thoughts
  • Someone who “gets” it when you say “design thinking”
  • Dozens of sources of inspiration that we’ve used at Design Kompany over the last eight years to help people rejuvenate
  • Find the nugget of love that drew you to creative work in the first place


Now, the big question is probably, “But what if I don’t like it?”

Two things. First, if you don’t like what you see, in the first week you can let us know and we’ll give you a 100% money-back refund. It’s our guarantee that if you don’t like it, and tell us the first week, we’ll give you all your money back.

The second thing is this. We’ve been working with people for the last 15 years as a two-person consulting studio. (For the last 8 years we’ve been at DK full time.) Poetry books are commingled with ones on typeface here on the shelves of DK, and we’d like to share our favorites, and the feelings they inspire in our work and approach to design.

When did design get so stuffy, anyways?

Let’s get back to basics.

Emotion. The human heart.

Please join our e-mail list to be informed of updates on what people say about our e-courses, and future installments.




Conversations through our e-Courses are happening through this new medium across international datelines, a broad range of ages, and a wide mix of industries.

The thing everyone has in common? A desire to open our hearts. Get somewhere that matters. And an openness to being vulnerable, at least enough to take a chance on something that just might change their lives.

Ready to get started?

So are we!

Dipika Kohli & Akira Morita

Co-founders, Design Kompany

Yes! Send me previews and updates.


WHO is Design Kompany? Accolades and Awards

Akira and I have been working at DK for the last 15 years on one thing, and one thing only:  helping people figure out who they are.

Some accolades:

Dialogue roundtable on brand design, marketing strategy, for architects
Dialogue roundtable on brand design, marketing strategy, for architects. Photo by Victor Ng, 2008

When we set out to work with DK, I did not expect the level of passion, commitment, and rigor that Dipika and Akira brought to the creative process. They pushed us to think big and zero in on the meaning and contribution our organization uniquely brings. While some design teams are truly (and exclusively) artists, DK brought business savvy to the table, understanding the value of knowing your customer and building your branding and communications around them and your core value. They were tireless in delivering a high quality product. Where some designers would have said, “good enough,” DK doubled down to produce something magical. —Sarah Kate FishbackGreen Plus, Durham 2011

Money well spent! Thanks again for such terrific work. It all looks great! The envelopes look especially cool, really eye-catching and novel. Cheers all around and thanks for the millionth time. —Michael SalewskiHindsight, Seattle 2010

Setting out to launch a new organization, our board and staff were appropriately all over the map about what we’d call it. Design Kompany gave us synergistic tools to get us all to the same place and of the same mind. We wouldn’t be who we are without Design Kompany’s expertise and facilitation. —David YeaworthAllied Arts of Seattle, 2008

“That’s a big statement.”

We design identities.

More accurately, we help people figure out what they want to say to the world with the legacy they want to leave. And be intentional about that.

When you are just following advice of others, and coasting along … when you let others decide what your goals are … when you aren’t steering, you aren’t being intentional.

“You design legacies?” a new acquaintance asked me one day in a cafe. “That’s a big statement.”

“It is,” I said.

But then, I added this part: “It’s never too early or too late to start being intentional about what you do. About living a life that starts with being authentic, and true to yourself.”

Granted, DESIGN FOR POETS isn’t for everyone.

If you feel very comfortable where the creative work you’re doing and you’re totally inspired, you don’t need DESIGN FOR POETS.

If you feel like you’ve got all the community you need when it comes to dialogue on art and bigger-than-this-gig kinds of connections, you don’t need DESIGN FOR POETS, either.

But if you’re wondering if there’s a way to inch even a little closer, or maybe a LOT, to that ultimate goal of working in a way that is truly inspired, this is for you. If you are a curious person looking for questions to ask of yourself, not the ready-made answers that you can pick off the shelves… you will absolutely love this course.

Most people who’ve gone through Design Kompany’s process come away with something far more valuable than they ever imagined when they looked at our portfolio to see our design work.

They came away FOCUSED.

They knew, at their very core, who they were. Why that mattered. The big stuff. They worked with us to get there. And together, these individuals and the companies they work for have spent tens of thousands of dollars to tap the well that is their inspiration source here at DK.

I’m not going to pretend it’s going to change you. That’s up to you to do. But it will inspire. That, I can promise. Make a commitment to your inner artist. Sign up to get updates about  DESIGN FOR POETS today.

Get fresh updates on DESIGN FOR POETS



We gather periodically via email to share tips, news and stories about designing our legacies.

How we met 1,000 bright new faces in 2012

ayearofdialogue-bigOnce upon a time two people who worked together dreamed up the “Year of Dialogue” project, a series of 32 roundtables that convened more than 1,000 people on both US coasts.

This was inspired by a simple conjecture: how can we create containers for meaningful, offline dialogue? Because that, it turned out, was the key ingredient to doing design well. After eight years of conversations with CEOs of companies large and small, brilliant up-front dialogue is what we determined. More about that in the Orangutan Swing (the project site we set up just to test this thesis) Year of Dialogue Annual Report.

Design Kompany’s community service goal in 2013?


Look for more of how this’ll unfold over at Orangutan Swing. Currently underway is the grassroots, volunteer, Durham brand design project STITCH.


We gather periodically via email to share tips, news and stories about designing our legacies.