Our story

Make better things. Make things better.
Peopledesign story

Yang's office at Herman Miller.

Prehistory

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 collaboration with the company’s legendary Creative Director, Steve Frykholm. A highlight of their many award-winning projects was a decade of annual reports. For many graphic designers, these ten books are some of the best in the category.

Meanwhile, Kevin worked on many programs and initiatives, helping 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 to start a new agency, BBK Studio (our original name), with our colleague, Michael Barile.
Peopledesign Story

Plainfield office.

Peopledesign story

Holiday dinner.

Early days

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 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, serving us well and remaining a core strength.

By 2001, things were changing. The company had grown, and we moved to a building in downtown Grand Rapids. Michael left the company in the post-dotcom 9/11 era, and we started on a new path.

Our work garnered attention. Graphis and Encyclopedia Britannica featured our projects as examples of leading UX design. We participated as judges and speakers at events by AIGA, AAF, PRSA, PDMA, and other design industry groups. As we expanded our reach, a Mexican design organization asked us to speak at a National Design Conference in Acapulco.
Peopledesign story

Mexican National Design Conference.

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 took on more significant challenges, focusing on user research and strategy. We learned more about how design and business intersect at Harvard Business School and other places. We helped launch Spout and ArtPrize and managed an extensive rebrand of The HON Company.
In 2010, our first book, Brand Identity Essentials, was published. It is now available worldwide in six languages, with a revised and expanded edition in 2019.

Kevin earned a Master of Design Methods degree from The IIT Institute of Design, furthering our depth and reach. We started doing more research, strategy, and brand development for firms around the country, including innovative work for Interface, Guilford of Maine, and USAI Lighting.

Yang's creative peers named her among the "most influential graphic designers working today" in GD:USA. She earned a Silver Medal from the AAF and became 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 team reflect who we are today and aspire to be tomorrow.

In recent years, strategic and creative initiatives include initiatives for Georgia-Pacific, Haworth, Amway, Nestlé, and many others.
Peopledesign story

Louis Campau office.

The next chapter

The Peopledesign offering helps organizations adapt to a changing world. In 2019, we welcomed our third partner, Jake Himmelspach, a long-time team member and strategy leader.

By 2020, Kevin had become President of IxDA (the Interaction Design Association), serving on the Global Board of Directors for five years. Today Kevin also teaches information strategy at Northwestern University.

Our work in user research, 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.
Peopledesign story

TEDx

Peopledesign story

Party cleanup.

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.