Peopledesign co-founders Yang Kim and Kevin Budelmann have been collaborating since they met at Carnegie Mellon University pursuing degrees in design. They worked on projects, together and separately, as freelancers and interns, at a variety of places, working at being students of the world.
After college, they both moved to Michigan to work for Herman Miller. Yang quickly developed a strong relationship with the company’s legendary Creative Director Steve Frykholm. Their collaboration resulted in many award-winning projects, most notably a decade of award-winning Annual Reports. These ten books marked the end of an era of printed annual report design and were held by many as some of the best in the category. Kevin worked on many programs and initiatives, notably helping to start the company’s first website. This new territory was an exciting wild west for communications and brand design, and a place he could begin to spread his wings in the emerging fields of interaction and UX design. In January 1997, Yang and Kevin left their positions started a new company with colleague Michael Barile and BBK Studio (the original name of our company), was born.
Our living room was our first office – but that didn’t last long. Within a few months, we had moved to an office just north of Grand Rapids. The Plainfield Avenue office was our home for several years, where we experienced the freshness of a new business and rapid growth. We continued to work for Herman Miller, on their annual reports and website, for others in the category like Steelcase and later Knoll, and also for notable brands like Jaguar Cars and X-Rite (who now owns Pantone), and many other companies. From the start, our work was a 50/50 split between traditional and new media. We work naturally across media, which served us well and remains a core strength.
In 2001, we moved to a building in downtown Grand Rapids. Things were changing. The company had grown, and we were now in a post-dotcom and 9/11 era. Michael left the company, and we were starting on a new path. Our work garnered attention from many design competitions, and we were being asked to be judges and speakers for industry events including AIGA, AAF, PRSA, PDMA, and others. We were included in publications recording the early years of UX design by Encyclopedia Britannica and Graphis. Our work continued to be published in books as we expanded our client reach, and Yang and Kevin were asked to speak at the Mexican National Design Conference in Acapulco.
A new direction
In 2007, on our tenth anniversary, we changed our name to Peopledesign to reflect our maturing outlook on user-centered design and collaboration and threw a party for ourselves to celebrate. We starting taking on larger challenges, focusing more on user research and strategy. We spent time learning more about how design and business intersect at Harvard Business School and other places. We helped launch Spout and ArtPrize, and managed a large rebrand of The HON Company. Recent years have led to doing more research, strategy, and brand development for firms around the country including innovative work for Interface, Guilford of Maine, and USAI Lighting.
In 2010, our first book, Brand Identity Essentials, was published. It is now available worldwide and has been translated into six languages. Kevin earned a Masters in Design Methods degree from The IIT Institute of Design, furthering our depth and reach. Longtime team leader Scott Krieger continues to inspire and amaze us with his creative technology prowess. Yang continues to be recognized for her creative leadership, recently being named by her peers as among the “most influential graphic designers working today” in GD:USA, earning a Silver Medal from the AAF, and was selected to be an AIGA Fellow.
In 2013, we moved our office for a third time to a renovated office building in the historic heart of Grand Rapids. Our office and current team are a reflection of who we are to today and who we aspire to be tomorrow. More recent strategic initiatives include large-scale strategy and product initiatives for Georgia-Pacific, Haworth, Amway, and many others.
The next chapter
Today, the Peopledesign offering is built to help organizations adapt to a changing world. In 2019, we welcomed our third partner, Jake Himmelspach, a long-time team member, and strategy leader. Later that year, the second edition of Brand Identity Essentials was released. By 2020, Kevin had become President of IxDA (the Interaction Design Association), having served on the Global Board of Directors for five years.
Our work in user research, design innovation, brand strategy, and customer experience design helps our clients solve complex problems, manage change, and achieve ever-greater heights by focusing on the needs of people.
We are honored to be surrounded by so much talent.
Here are our current and former teammates who have helped make it happen: Chas Appleby, Michael Barile, Josh Best, Ted Bingham, Carrier Borchers, Bill Braden, Michele Brautnick, Karen Bryan, Kevin Budelmann, Tim Calkins, Marie-Claire Camp, Gina Caratelli, Michael Carnevale, Devon Carlson, Emily Cowdrey, Kelly Beat, Von Franklin, Brian Hauch, Jake Himmelspach, Heather Jensen, Jennifer Johnston, Steven Joswick, Laura Kain, Jenn Karel, Yang Kim, Scott Krieger, Ross Labardee, Kristin Landgraf, Jessica Lee, Ryan Lee, Sarah Lockwood, Pete Lusch, Jackie McLane, Geoff Mark, Briana McNamara, Jason Murray, Michael Nykamp, Kelly O’Hara, Sharon Oleniczak, Kaila Parent, AJ Paschka, Alison Popp, Diana Racek, Jane Reardon, Adam Rice, Julie Ridl, Matt Ryzenga, David Schofield, Kelly Schwartz, Diana Sherman, Jeff Sikkema, Victor Sirotek, Jason Six, Jamie Smyth, Nancy Stryker, Chris Taylor, Aaron Vanderzwan, Kim VanKuiken, Jeanne Weaver, Andy Weber, Leah Weston, John Winkelman, Curt Wozniak.