LLM Design + MURAL: Bringing Imagination to Life from the Ground Up
Susan Grant Legacki
March 23, 2021
Founded in 2013 and proudly women-owned, LLM Design is a Boston-based brand strategy, graphic and interior design, and marketing firm. Over the past year they’ve used MURAL to help collaborate on a number of projects, from interior design to environmental graphics and signage for some of the most popular destinations in downtown Boston.
We sat down with LLM Design’s marketing director Sarah Lawson to learn more about how they recently used MURAL to help recreate the fun, visually collaborative atmosphere of their pre-pandemic visioning workshops.
Tell us a little about your business and what projects you’ve worked on recently.
Started in 2013, LLM Design is a multidisciplinary design studio with a focus on creating brand experiences. Our team is made up of graphic and interior designers, filmmakers, and brand strategists. Each of us has varying backgrounds in design, while also practicing and teaching extensions of traditional forms of design. We seek ideas, inspiration and solutions from all avenues--and we believe that there’s no such thing as a bad idea. In fact, quite often the wildest ideas generate the greatest creative disruption and ultimately, the best result. Collaboration is key to that effort.
This past year, we’ve been finishing up the design of environmental graphics for The Skating Club of Boston (one of the country’s most historic skating organizations) and Craft Food Hall Project (a new restaurant concept) in several locations; interior design for Corbus Pharmaceuticals’ new headquarters, a marketing campaign for One Post Office Square (an office tower in downtown Boston), and signage and wayfinding for Pier 4 (a residential and commercial development on the waterfront in Boston’s Seaport district).
How did you like to work with clients before the pandemic?
We believe in a collaborative, inclusive, and iterative process for all of our design projects. This collaboration is at the heart of what we do. Pre-COVID 19, we scheduled off-site visioning workshops with all team members to begin our creative process. We ask questions and listen to the variety of views, recognizing all sides of the scope. These sessions help us not only to reach a consensus on project goals, but also to gain a thorough understanding of the brand vision so that we are better able to translate it into a physical experience.
What problems were you running into when things went remote — and what were you hoping to achieve with MURAL?
During the pandemic, we knew we needed to recreate these sessions as best we could while still remaining safe at home. We needed a virtual replacement for the whiteboard and the real-time interaction that forms the foundation of so much of our work. We were missing that spontaneous collaboration where one person has an idea that spurs someone else into a different direction, and we just organically keep building on ideas until we’ve landed on the big one. We started using MURAL early on in the pandemic; first for internal collaboration (because we still needed to bounce ideas off of each other), and then with clients as part of our new project intake and vision sessions.
How have you reimagined the way you work (and how has MURAL helped)?
While our tools have since changed, we haven't changed our process. Our vision workshops now happen virtually and are guided through MURAL. We find now that many clients also use MURAL, so we don’t even have to spend time explaining how to use it. We set up at least one canvas at the start of every project. One for a full team brainstorm, another for internal collaboration. Sometimes they’re mood boards, sometimes they’re website wireframes, and other times they’re full brand explorations.
We’ve had a lot of success working with the LUMA Workspace, which has specific templates available in MURAL. We start with those templates and then can customize them for our particular needs.
We've found that the new virtual workshop actually adds a new layer of interaction by allowing team members to participate after the session has ended. Stakeholders often prefer to think about what they've heard before committing to a response or opinion. Through MURAL, they can return to the workshop brainstorm after the meeting has ended and provide additional feedback and thoughts.
How do you see your work changing in the future?
That’s a question that we as a company have spent a lot of time discussing. Many of our clients are relying on us to help them with their workplace strategy, designing a work environment that supports a return to work that is better than before. For us, we will most likely continue to work remotely, coming together for meetings when it’s safe but leaving the actual “place” of work up to employees.
We also know that this may be the situation for many of our clients as well. And that means we will continue to need virtual collaboration tools. Even for in-person meetings, MURAL will still have its place as it’s a great way to record the thoughts and discussions that come up during meetings. Those ideas are not only recorded, but they are also then easy for the whole team to access and review. It’s no longer going to be about one person taking a photo of the whiteboard on the way out of the conference room.
Anything else you'd like to share with us?
LLM Design has been involved with Wentworth Institute of Technology’s co-op program, and we naturally introduced the students to MURAL as well. We’ve used it for icebreakers and team-building activities when they first join us. The students then have been using it in a slightly different way as they select their workshop topics and move through the design process.
Each team has their own canvas, and they get deep into concept mapping where they can lay out their ideas and easily visualize the synergies and the pitfalls. MURAL has helped them organize their thoughts, and the workshop mentors are able to look in on their boards and offer guidance when they see that ideas and concepts have stopped moving forward.