A quick trek through the Crossroads Arts District effortlessly affirms that Kansas City is a hub for creativity.
And with Kansas City Design Week, those creative-types have a hub of their own.
The KCDW, set for April 7 through 16, brings together a plethora of creative minds to challenge skills, connect designers with business resources and celebrate the area’s vibrant design community.
We sat down with KCDW co-chair Annie Monfort to discuss the area’s creative capital and its relationship with entrepreneurship and the startup community.
What influence can designers have on startups?
There are a lot of different ways that design influences ideas and makes them a reality. Let’s bring in the business guy who wants to do a tech startup and get them talking to designers who can help him establish his brand identity or solve a UI problem.
Entrepreneurs should partner with designers to enhance their businesses, and partner with them on a strategic level — not just as the end person who makes something look pretty. Designers have perspective on the human factors, the things that people connect to. If you get in early, you’re only going to get better results. Don’t be scared of designers.
Are people scared of designers?
Not a lot of people know what design can do for their business or what a designer does. We’re going to break that down.
I see two reactions. “Oh, my kid has Photoshop; you can’t be doing anything that hard.” I also see people who have a curiosity. “Everyone is talking about design, what does this mean? I don’t quite get it.” I think designers are often poor communicators in expressing that. We’ll show you pictures instead. We’re not scary — we’re fun.
How has Kansas City’s entrepreneurial boom affected the design community?
Last year the mayor sponsored a resolution to declare that Kansas City Design Week was an important economic factor in Kansas City. The city is recognizing that our creative force and businesses are part of what’s driving this entrepreneurial spirit that he is such a huge fan of. I think each year we get more people saying ‘I want to be a part of this.’
I think you see a lot more people who don’t feel they need to be part of a bigger corporation or a bigger company but can find their own little place of passion, where they can influence very specifically.
What role does KCDW play in fostering Kansas City’s entrepreneurial spirit?
I think KCDW brought us together. I think you’re seeing more individual businesses and individuals who are designers feeling like they have a place where they belong. … We’re making a mark, we’re part of this economic and cultural shift that has made Kansas City so on-the-radar. You can make an impact here. You can actually start. That’s kind of the theme for Design Week this year — you can start here.
Any words of wisdom for a new Kansas City designer?
We are fortunate to have tremendous amounts of talent, and I have yet to find people who are petty and envious and undercutting each other. You get into some larger markets where everyone is so competitive that it’s really hard for people to learn from each other, because everyone is protecting their secrets. I think that’s detrimental. Kansas City isn’t like that. People grow when they can learn from each other.
See a full schedule of Kansas City Design Week events here.