Lindsay Kinkade: Design RePublic

Combining her skills in journalism and design, along with her passion for urban planning and community building, Lindsay Kinkade created Design RePublic, a collaborative effort to help Phoenicians decide what kind of downtown they want. With the use of easy-to-use tools and a gallery full of portable gear, Lindsay encourages citizens to discuss what they want for the future in a creative and open way. 

Design Territory

Because of her parents’ jobs, Lindsay Kinkade spent most of her childhood moving around the country. While most kids would be totally ‘bummed out’ by this, Lindsay embraced it.

“Part of what I got to be really good at was learning how to be a local in a new place,” says Lindsay. The only problem was “not being a local anywhere.”

After living in a “cookie-cutter” neighborhood for her high school years, Lindsay immediately decided it was “an unfulfilling place… it didn’t give me the space to be different. I was curious about a lot of things that seemed to be different.”

Lindsay headed to college to become a journalist. “I basically used journalism internships to cross the country because I wanted to go on these adventures,” says Lindsay, who would pack up her car and travel the country to internships at the Boston Globe, a small alternative paper in Denver.

She also worked for the Oregonian where she spent a brief period checking out the Portland scene. When she quickly decided Portland was nowhere near what she wanted in terms of people and things to do, she decided to head back to the “bustling” diversity of Boston.

“Boston is tiny. It is a tight, tiny little neighborhood city. You bump into people, it’s bustling… it has so much diversity… There’s young people there, older people, retirees… Every different ethnic group you can imagine. There are enclaves, but there are also neighborhoods where everybody is mixed together — it doesn’t hurt that it has 250,000 college students either.

Design Territory“It’s a place where people come during the most curious part of their lives. where they’re most open to learning new things, breaking boundaries, and being wide open — I love that. That’s the kind of city I want to live in. A place where it’s really cool to be curious and there’s good stuff to find.”

But Lindsay’s curiosity continued to grow and led her to quit her job at the Boston Globe after 7 years and head to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

“I went to grad school because I only knew how to design newspapers at that point,” Lindsay said, adding, “I didn’t know how to design anything else. I was curious about a lot of other things. I knew how to ask questions and I knew how to follow a really rigorous research process from being a journalist. I knew how to find things and how to make them visual, I knew how to tell a story, so I went to grad school to learn how to do all that stuff in any medium.”

RISD is really focused on making things by hand, so I learned a whole lot of craft… I learned how to work better with wood, I worked with metal, [I learned] how to do more sculptural work… The process that I got in grad school was one of making things with my hands… figuring out what a system could be for pushing it through the computer to scale up, then pulling it back out of the computer so it still feels real and authentic.”

Soon, Lindsay started to see how she could apply her newly found skills to her everyday life by helping to care for her community, and became an advocate for the general welfare of her neighborhood and the surrounding areas. It didn’t take long for Lindsay to have the breakthrough that would lead her to the development of Design RePublic:

Design Territory3

“What I realized was that I didn’t want to keep my life and my work as two separate things. I realized that my life and my work were the same thing, and that I wanted to use design in the city to figure out how do we become

better neighbors. How do we get to know each other? How do we create the fabric that makes a city?

“It seemed like there was an opportunity; a need for someone who knows how to tell a story, someone who knows how to speak clearly, someone who knows how to make things visual, and someone who knows how to ask an open ended question.“

Having been in Phoenix for almost 2 years, Lindsay has come to discover that Phoenix is going through an identity crisis.

“I’m an outsider that is now choosing to be an insider. Phoenix doesn’t know what it wants to be yet, and that’s totally okay! It’s such a young city.”

Lindsay likes to think of Phoenix as a teenager “trying on” different phases. “Do I want to be like this? Or do I want to be like this?”

“It’s an identity thing and it’s totally fair and reasonable and every city anywhere has gone through this… It was almost like the bones were building so much so fast that it didn’t get to think about it. We didn’t have time to think about and process the decisions we want to make to become a fully renaissance individual.”

One of the biggest problems, Lindsay believes, is that the citizens of Downtown Phoenix are excited about the future growth, but “don’t always feel permission to design it.” Which brings us to the creation of Design Territory.

Design Territory is a process that can happen anywhere, in many situations.” Currently, Design Territory resides inside Combine Studios, a storefront gallery just south of Roosevelt on 3rd street.

Design Territory

Lindsay has also created a space that can literally be packed up and fit in a small station wagon.

“I want to be able to go to where the conversation should happen in an authentic way with the community that wants to have the conversation. It doesn’t make sense for me to have a design studio downtown and expect people to come to me. I need to go to where they are and hear what they have to say when they’re comfortable… Phoenix is such a big place. If we’re going to figure out what the future of it is going to be, we’ll have to go out there.

“The idea is that this is a pop-up process that makes a space for anyone to become a designer and to share some of their design tools in a pretty democratic way… where else could this happen? Where else could we pop up. I would love if Design Territory had a pop-up in the library. I would love if we did something in city hall, I would love to do something at a cultural center.”

The goal of Design Territory is to bring the community of not just Downtown but the surrounding areas together to finally discuss what it is they want out of the growing city landscape.

“I like to invite all different kinds of everybody into the conversation. That’s where Design Territory comes from. The point of this is that it’s a public engagement project for anyone to come in off the street,” Lindsay said, adding, “Let’s design the future of Phoenix.”


Design Territory is open from July 5-July 27th. 

Photos provided by Little Giant Studio