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Every design project begins with a conversation. The quality of this human interaction affects the quality of the final design. Better planning questions lead to construction that stands the test of time–and places people love.


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I use an evidence-based process to assist decision-makers in defining their priorities, understanding their options and identifying greater possibilities. Strategy by Design brings diverse voices together in support of a unifying  purpose and shared values.

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I facilitate strategic visioning, decision-making and lessons learned workshops.

During the past 15 years, I’ve led over 300 facilitated sessions and presented at more than 30 design and management conferences worldwide. Strategy by Design sessions have been integrated into projects by design firms, corporate businesses, health care organizations, consulting engineers and non-profits across North America and internationally.

In 2002, I originated the design visioning and planning workshops known as Common Ground which provide criteria for a Design Impact Balanced Scorecard. I also developed the Critical Eye™ visual literacy workshops. The purpose of Critical Eye™ is to  explore how the project’s intended message can be translated into physical space.

My “tight-loose” approach to these workshops draws on research in group dynamics and adult learning principles. Participants agree on boundaries while being encouraged to explore what if…? opportunities.
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Why “reliable magic”? The best ideas emerge through exploration. Guided by meaningful statements built on shared values, a major transformation of thinking always happens.

Here is a PDF summary:  Strategy by Design_vanderkaay

Over the past two decades, I have presented my design thinking and strategy approach at the Conference Board of Canada, the American Institute of Architects National Convention, the Texas Society of Architects, NeoCon Chicago, IIDEX Canada and the Association of Professional Design Firms. My frontline experience as a design consultant includes 25 years working for Toronto-based international architectural firms. I hold a B.Sc. Design from the University of Michigan, College of Architecture and Design.

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VanderKaay JanesWalk 2015
Sharon VanderKaay facilitates a Jane’s Walk titled “Diagnose Your Habitat”