A weak empathy muscle is not the only challenge for studios. Over the last year, Amy has witnessed more companies speaking about equity and diversity. “While it's great that there is interest, it's interesting to see how much of a challenge it is to really uphold the statements they put out. There’s intention but it takes hard work,” Amy said. This hard work will undoubtedly require empathy, dedication, vision, time, money, resources, and effort.
And then, of course, there’s the work itself.
“We’re a design firm. The work we do is rigorous, intentional, beautiful, people-centered. I do believe design when done well with people who represent the work, is design. Though I support those doing this for justice, I want to make sure it's done in a matter that still speaks to what dsign is supposed to be,” Marquise said.
He explains that a studio’s truth emerges not just from a click search on their site, but the actual work they produce. “I hold that there are other firms that will be born out of this moment that are more reflective of the community. Our diversity is not the only selling point—I want our work to be the differentiator,” he said.
The truth of Openbox lies not just in Marquise, Amy, and the team but also in the studio’s core design thinking practice, which incorporates both qualitative and quantitative approaches to solve the small, medium, and large problems.
A good example is a project with the San Francisco Planning Department. The department collaborated with Openbox and Stae, a partner in civic data management. Over the course of a month, they combined qualitative research with quantitative data analysis to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of parklets on San Francisco’s residents and businesses, and published the results in an online, interactive format designed to inform and inspire the public.
“A lot of companies focus on the what,” Marquise said. “We can add fidelity to the what with our qualitative research, to make sense of the why.” Openbox excels at understanding why people come together, live in cities, and gather. It channels the powerful inputs of residents, cities, designers, and businesses to secure better urban living for all.
“Commerce has changed, particularly after COVID. So, now, what does it mean to live in a marketplace, what does a built environment look like both because of the digital experience and the changing of neighborhoods? We help provide that why for clients,” Marquise said.