8 Aspire Conference Takeaways: Trending Issues and Challenges

Many important issues of today’s design industry were explored during The Aspire Experience recently held in Asheville September 11-13, 2022. This unconventional design conference, for which Thinc Strategy was a partner, gave participants tremendous insight into the main issues and challenges facing all design professions and society in general. These unique challenges are wide-ranging and critical to the present moment, with the conference highlighting issues such as sustainability, work-life balance, diversity, and community engagement. 

Due to the importance of these issues, a design business operating in professions like architecture, engineering, and landscape architecture needs to acknowledge them and devote preparation time to properly address them. The design professionals and leaders within these fields can implement specific business strategic planning to effectively and efficiently address many of these issues. As you prepare your design firm to meet today’s most important and trending issues, learn more about the top focus points and challenges highlighted during Aspire.

1. Sustainability and Resilience

With the adopted AIA Climate Action Plan, addressing sustainability and resilience in design is imperative for design professionals. While climate-conscious design isn’t new, the need for design firms to achieve net zero emissions with their work is crucial. The conference highlighted the importance of using more sustainable design solutions and being more proactive with clients to achieve net-zero goals. The conference also noted that design practices must be tactical to achieve this mission, making strategic planning of any design firm integral to its success. 

2. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

In recent years, the goal of addressing systematic issues within society is more recognized and accepted. To achieve equity, diversity, and inclusion goals, companies must place greater attention and take more action at all levels, including their recruitment, hiring, design, and construction practices, as well as their sensitivity to the places within their plans and designs. As a design business works toward addressing systemic injustices, it can benefit from strategic prioritization that aims to properly and fairly address past deficiencies. 

3. The Future of the Professions

All design professions are experiencing a revolution in how their work is produced, with recent pandemics accelerating how people work and what technology they use. While great technological advancement has already occurred in the design industry, technology and the advent of Artificial Intelligence crafted to assist design professions will bring about unprecedented change in design practices in the future. Constantly evolving tech and new breakthroughs will require new business strategies to prepare, integrate, and work within the new advancing work parameters.

4. Emerging Leadership

Most design firms are now coping with finding and retaining top talent, as more young architects, engineers, landscape architects and other design professionals are needed to keep up with demand. The successful development of these young professionals is more important than ever to meet the design needs of these professions. Since attention to these needs must be intentional, companies can benefit from strategic planning focused on recruiting, retaining, and professionally developing young talent expected to eventually attain leadership positions. 

5. Work and Life Balance

As you attempt to retain and develop emerging leadership, sometimes referred to as Emerging Professionals, it’s important to understand that many young professionals have differing priorities. Alongside their focus on professional development and achievements, they often value a job that feels meaningful and allows for a balance of work, family, and quality of life. Creative changes are taking place in these professions to meet the desires and demands of these young professionals. Firms need to be open to the strategic responsiveness to these cultural business practices.

6. Designing for Health

Past and anticipated pandemics, as well as their impact on mental health, have heightened concerns for addressing health concerns within society. An aging population further intensifies the necessity for good design for promoting wellness and addressing these needs. As design firms rise to meet the challenges of pandemics and an aging population, they’ll need to pay greater attention to how their designs can create or enhance healthy environments and aid healthcare delivery. Specific strategic decisions and plans can ensure that a design firm prioritizes health throughout the design process.

7. Community and Public Engagement

As more people engage with their communities, design companies can see heightened benefits from engaging with the public and clients. Also, there is a greater sensitivity to equitably serving communities that are less served. Many design firms are systematically and intentionally addressing these issues with intentional strategic planning.

8. Future Building Types

The conference also highlighted the trend of increased needs for specific building types, including education, affordable housing, healthcare, and senior care. All design professionals need to prepare to be relevant for the future needs of society. This requirement may require re-focusing the resources of a firm to develop the expertise needed to effectively address these design needs. Strategic planning is necessary to establish and update these priorities and adopt tactics to meet those challenges.

The Importance of Strategic Planning

These wide-ranging topics all have one thing in common. Within the design professions, addressing current and future challenges begins with strategic planning. So, how does strategic planning for your design businesses relate to these and other future trends? Strategic planning is all about forward thinking and future planning for your business. What are your goals for the future, and how do you plan to accomplish them? All these trending issues and challenges are among many that will likely impact you and how your design business operates in the future.

Any of the challenges described previously and at the conference could positively or negatively impact your firm in the coming years. As a result, it’s essential to take time to consider your business’s future and be very strategic about how to accomplish your goals. 

Choose Thinc Strategy for Strategic Planning Assistance

At Thinc Strategy, our strategic business planning consultants can help you prepare for the future and achieve your goals. As experienced and knowledgeable professionals, we will provide confidential, sensitive, and necessary guidance through the creation of a living strategic plan to take your design practice to where you aspire to be in the future. Our strategic planning for design businesses services ensures your business growth strategies meet the new challenges and issues facing the design industry head-on.

Learn more about our strategic planning and growth services today. If you have any questions or want to schedule a free consultation, please contact us.