Seattle Designers Find ‘Power’ in Different Ways

The Seattle Design Festival explores "power" through fashion, architecture and more.

By Nia Martin


September 7, 2017

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Seattle Magazine.

The seventh annual Seattle Design Festival kicks off this month (September 9–22; various locations;, and with it, a two-week-long citywide series of events and exhibits to celebrate design in Seattle. This year’s festival theme, “Power,” explores related topics, from social dynamics to electricity.

Seattle magazine asked local designers in three different fields—Trevor Dykstra, an architect with Lane Williams Architects (also an organizer of the Seattle Design Festival); Luly Yang, fashion designer of her eponymous brand; and Kate Harmer, founder and creative director of design and branding studio Hum Creative—for their thoughts on the creative and transformative process of design in our city. 

On the Power of Design:

“The internal effect of wearing design is being confident in one’s self and the power that comes from that…if you do it right, you can communicate an emotional and complex message at a glance.” Luly Yang 

“The design of a really great brand can do so much to establish a cause-based organization, or whoever you are branding for, as credible, trustworthy, smart…giving credibility to an organization gives them a huge amount of power. … The hope is that people can use design not just to react, but also lead the way.” Kate Harmer

“Design is about the inception of things. Decisions you may or may not be thinking about can have major systemic impacts…design sets the ground rules, which sets the power dynamic. Things you leave out [also] set the power dynamic.” Trevor Dykstra

Photos by Vivian Hsu and Kevin Scott. From left to right: Trevor Dykstra, Luly Yang and Kate Harmer.

On Design in Seattle:

“I hope Seattle’s aesthetic continues to be eclectic and varied. But, there are a lot of local aesthetics that we shouldn’t forget…like First Nations art and the music history here. There’s so much that is true to Seattle’s history that I hope that whatever the Seattle look turns into isn’t all new. I hope it looks both forwards and backwards. I think the result of combining those things will be very beautiful and really rich.” K.H.

“With Seattle architecture, you’re using the material for what it is; if you use steel, you see the steel. … There’s an appreciation for ‘authenticity,’ whether it is or not.” T.D.

“Seattle’s a beautiful place surrounded by nature. I love the juxtaposition with the architecture…the manmade beauty with the natural beauty. I think [Seattle is] changing with our population, with people moving here from all over the world. I see it becoming more international…the people are shaping it differently now.” L.Y.

On Design Inspiration:

“As you progress in your design field, you realize the process, including inspiration, is driven by collaboration, versus when you first begin, you tend to believe it’s about individualism. Most of the designs are about a service as much as they’re about the pretty outcome.” T.D.

“Curiosity is what inspires me the most. I’d love to make a dress that could evolve and morph with a person’s mood…to have a garment be alive and grow with you.” L.Y.

“We consciously carve out time in our calendar to make sure that we are getting inspiration and outside influence. By making the act of being inspired a practice, we get really intentional about it. It means we’re looking at things differently, because we want to come back and tell each other about it.” K.H.


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