Put a Pin in it: Creating Connections Through Change

August 1, 2023

We cherish creating shared traditions at Populous. One such tradition happens after the completion of a new build in our Americas region. Employees are given a “project pin” to commemorate the completed build. Take a stroll through our offices and you’ll see pins proudly displayed as small pieces of history from projects spanning the globe and several decades.

While our focus is firmly on the future, we find that our own crafted traditions create a sense of unity and belonging among the firm. These traditions, grounded in our collective creativity, act as a powerful catalyst, reminding us of the strength that lies in collaboration and shared values.

The pins are artistic representations of the work we completed, each as unique as the project itself. They are packaged on a piece of cardstock that summarizes our work on the project.

These pins do more than commemorate the completion of a project — they unite us as a diverse group, further solidifying our firm’s unique identity. To celebrate this unique identity, POPtogether, an employee resource group aimed at addressing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, came up with a pin design competition.

The pin design competition was centered around an artistic representation of diversity at Populous. Our differences allow us to transcend the limitations of conventional thinking, and POPtogether wanted a way to materialize that through a tradition that was already special to us.

The creativity and thoughtfulness that went into the designs that were entered into the competition were reflective of the overall nature of those we work with. After much deliberation, we landed on a design that embodied all things good at Populous: diversity, change and constant collaboration.

Justin Bae, the winner of the Pin Design competition said he wanted to “design an interactive pin to celebrate how different people come together at Populous and become harmonious.”

  • Justin Bae
Putting the Pieces Together

For his winning design, Justin wanted something reminiscent of a jigsaw puzzle, but that embodied more function and was capable of movement and change.

With two daughters under the age of five, Justin’s brainstorming for his pin design started after 10pm on any given night. Justin said the process of designing the pin was a lot of fun, as it was the first time he had designed something other than a building.

The design was inspired by Truchet tiles, which are individual tiles that generate interconnecting patterns when placed squarely in a grid. Depending on how you place each tile, the overall pattern changes, allowing for infinite variations. Justin’s design seamlessly integrates so many abstract notions of change, diversity and collaboration into an interactive pin that changes based on where it’s placed among other pins.

The goal of Truchet tiles is not to complete a picture like a traditional jigsaw puzzle, but to create a unique pattern without a specific goal. Justin thought the idea of individual tiles that, when placed together, allowed for infinite change depending on arrangement, aligned with the vision and values of POPtogether and Populous as a whole.

The design of the Truchet tile pins come in four variations: type A, B, C and D. Each tile has four straight edges with curved lines connecting each of the four edges. The curves are formed into tracks, or stripes, that are colored red, yellow, green and blue – each color corresponding with a core vision of POPtogether. To create a deeper contrast, one track on each tile has no color. This allows individuals to be more purposeful with the layout of the tiles to form specific words or patterns. The backdrop material of the pin is black gunmetal, juxtaposing the vivid colors and allowing them to pop.

  • The pins connect to spell "Populous"
Creative Connections

Justin is a senior associate and architect at our Americas’ headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. A dynamic thinker with an ability to break down complex concepts into simple designs, Justin is integral to every project he works on. He believes that design needs to be clear and self-explanatory, so that everyone has the ability to understand it, not just those with the necessary acumen, experience or education.

Justin was born in South Korea and immigrated to Toronto, Canada, in middle school. Toronto was a city teeming with diverse cultures and shaped Justin’s views of embracing unique differences in people. He used this background as an inspiration for the design of his pin.

If you walked around one of the Populous offices and asked people why they liked to work at Populous, we suspect one key theme would emerge: unbridled creativity that comes in incredibly diverse forms. Working in a truly creative environment, surrounded by like-minded individuals who fuel our passion, is a rarity that we cherish. Creativity and diversity in thought and experience allow us to craft spaces that evoke emotions, challenge conventions and inspire awe.

At the heart of our continued success is our ability to bring people together through innovative design and our success as a firm is driven by our people. Diverse and inclusive teams are at the heart of our culture and how we work. We believe that diversity, in all its forms, fuels our collective ingenuity and propels us towards innovation.

It is in the moment that Justin presents a design that perfectly captures our values within a singular pin when we realize the rare privilege it is to work among kindred spirits. Working with others who understand and appreciate the power of creativity is a constant reminder of the extraordinary impact our collective efforts can have on shaping the world around us.

The cool thing about Justin’s pin design is the act of bringing our pins together to create different patterns by connecting them with other pins in the office. How will you connect?


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