We help you develop a better understanding of where communities, cities, and cultures may be headed. We collect, map, and analyze current trends—from the social, demographic, economic, and cultural to the technological and political—and use these to imagine potential future scenarios for museums, architecture, brands, neighborhoods, and public spaces.
Our work is centered around three straightforward components:
1 – Cultural Forecasting, 2 – Concept & Strategy Development, and 3 – Implementation. For each project and client, we develop a bespoke process. We begin by producing an industry-specific forecast, and for some clients, this is all they need. For others, we build on the forecast to develop a strategy or concept, and for some clients, we go all the way and work with them to get those strategies into implementation mode.
We believe that working with forecasters should give you opportunities to further expand your horizons and networks. This is why DVDL uses a highly participatory and interdisciplinary forecasting process.
Between Intel and Intuition
We constantly scan and visualize data to harvest and analyze information for our projects, but what sets us apart from other forecasters is that we understand the value of bringing the human and the emotional into the process. Together, gut feeling and actual data allow us to get a sense of where things could and should be headed for projects to stay relevant. We look at topics ranging from the future of work, leisure, travel, education, and many other topics to determine foresight for each of our projects. For some projects, we roll this research out as a radio program, while for others we produce reports or documentaries.
We love being around people, but we don’t see the point of having hundreds of trendwatchers worldwide. We firmly believe in learning from experts–young and old– and communities that help us read between the lines, identify undercurrents, and rethink macro trends. This is why most of our projects have strong stakeholder and community engagement components—both internally and externally.
The way we plan for the future changes the way we act today. We help your organization become more agile, future-proofed, and people-focused. We largely avoid writing traditional strategic plans and focus our concepts and strategies on human-behavior, impact, and flexibility.
Many of our strategies help clients activate neighborhoods and institutions. We never ignore objects in museums or infrastructural needs in cities, but we always prioritize people and see how we can make places more fun and functional for them. In some cases, that means helping institutions identify new services that communities may need besides exhibitions. In other cases, that may mean that we are looking at building out activation coalitions of local organizations to bring diverse and ongoing programming to public spaces.
Many of our clients may know it is time to break through silos internally and externally, but embracing interdisciplinary programs for institutions and public spaces can be scary. We help our clients understand the needs of changing audiences and their behaviors as we develop ideas to bring together unexpected programs in hybridized concepts. We believe that in the future, “museum” will mean something entirely different from what it means today, and no public space will just be a space to sit in. There are more exciting opportunities to explore.
While foresight and strategies can change the direction of cities, institutions, and communities for the better – we believe that our vision means nothing without good implementation plans. For that reason, we help our clients with space programs, outreach strategies, business plans, and in some cases, we go as far as developing completely new institutions.
DVDL clients and collaborators range from institutions (educational, cultural, museums, and health care), to corporations (real estate developers, hospitality, art fairs, and retail), to individuals and families, and design firms. DVDL clients come to us for thorough individually tailored research about where the world is headed, what ideas, programs, and institutional missions to develop, and what types of architecture to create.
Current and recent clients and collaborators include:
Abu Dhabi Art
Cultural—Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Academy of Natural Sciences
Museum/Cultural—Mexico City, Mexico
Band of Outsiders
Retail—Los Angeles, CA
Design Firm—New York City, NY
The Fitler Club
The Forman Family Foundation
The Guggenheim Museum
Museum—New York City, NY and Bilbao, Spain
The Kennedy Center
The National Academy of Design
Culture—New York City, NY
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Museum—Kansas City, MO
Pennings Real Estate
Developer/Museum—Rosmalen, The Netherlands
Van Alen Institute
Culture—New York City, NY
Design firm—Stockholm, Sweden
Design firm—Copenhagen, Denmark
Some of our projects are confidential or in the planning stages, and, for that reason, are not listed.
“In 2017, we contracted David van der Leer to lead our design selection process for a new, dynamic, multi-disciplinary art center in Philadelphia. Not only did David create a world-class search process that was all about getting to know people and their design skills, he helped us develop an exceptionally creative program brief, and a series of trips that helped mobilize funding and strategy and gave us new insights into what we wanted from our building. David’s contributions are so valuable that we have retained DVDL Design Decisions to consult with us during the actual design process.”– Harry Philbrick, Founding Director, Philadelphia Contemporary
“We hired David van der Leer to create an Intuitive Assessment around possible future developments for our art fair. David conceived a number of ideas for this, from highly innovative moonshots of what Abu Dhabi Art could be, to small incremental changes. David’s clear perspective and creative suggestions were both insightful and productive. It was a pleasure to collaborate with him.” –Dyala Nusseibeh, Director, Abu Dhabi Art
“David van der Leer advised us for almost five years while we were conceptualizing a new foundation focused on art and literacy in Mexico City. David took me to far flung places around the world and taught me about the value of design. He created a selection process that connected us to fantastic designers, but, more importantly, his creative insight helped us shape our programs. For instance, he suggested that we create a library bus connecting us to underserved communities around the city. I would work with him and his new agency again in a heartbeat.”– Moises Coscio, founder, Alumnos
“I met David van der Leer on a jury competition in DC and felt the process had integrity and focus. I subsequently invited him to advise us on design direction for the visitor experience at the Kennedy Center. David developed a very inclusive process that brought together various constituents including patrons, cultural leaders and our staff and board to envision how to activate our building further and bring together new and diverse audiences. We are in the design and future implementation now and excited to realize the full potential of the Kennedy Center”– Deborah Rutter, President, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
“I run a successful business and have a great affinity for art and design. We collaborate with DVDL Design Decisions on various design projects. It is a pleasure working through the research and selection processes with David. His approach is always surprising, yet solid, and educational. He helps us see new program possibilities in both our existing and newly acquired properties, and he has introduced us to great designers along the way.”– Michael Forman, The Forman Family Foundation
“When I was dreaming up a retail concept for Band of Outsiders, it was vital for it to be fresh, modern, thought-provoking, and outside of the norms and tropes of typical fashion retail. So, naturally, I went to David for advice. He was sensitive to my pragmatic needs and creative goals and was able to guide me through the process of vetting architects, and, ultimately, lead me to LOT-EK, a wonderful firm who worked on two of my stores and have become like family. I couldn’t have found them without David’s guidance and foresight.”– Scott Sternberg, founder, Band of Outsiders
“At Pennings, we develop and build buildings every day, but conceptualizing a cultural building within a historic structure was something we needed help with. David van der Leer helped us think through scenarios and presentations for what we believe can become a major new art institution in The Netherlands.”– Frank Homburg, Director, Pennings
“Sometimes as designers you need an informed outside voice to give you new ideas, shake things up, and bring people together. Over the years we have occasionally brought in David van der Leer to do exactly that. David is a great listener, strategist, and moderator. He gives great design direction that helps us develop our ideas further.”– Kim Herforth Nielsen, founder, 3XN
“We hired DVDL DD while we were deep into plans to open a new pop culture museum in New York City. With a potential opening still three years away, David did cultural forecasting to anticipate what audiences would want and need by the planned opening in 2023. Building on his findings, he then led several inspiring workshops with me and local cultural creators to re-envision the exhibitions and public programs. David’s team developed a curatorial masterplan and from there a critique of the existing designs for existing exhibitions as well as for our overall architecture. The results were exciting and highly creative, and his process was always thoughtful and thought-provoking. I only wish I’d started working with David much earlier in the process to benefit from his research and insights.” –Jasen Emmons, Curatorial Director, Museum of Pop Culture NYC
“As our team was reimagining all the traditional aspects of our institution, David helped us see that a series of fairly small temporary interventions could offer high-impact, low-cost ways of engaging people. We hired David and his team to develop these interventions, and came away with a solid plan for implementation. In a collaborative process around the future of culture and the future of behavior, DVDL DD developed a roadmap for us that is highly flexible, open-ended, and participatory.” –Scott Cooper, President & CEO, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University