Writing tips for design pros, with Adam Regn Arvidson

city model

presented by SCC

Adam Regn Arvidson is the founder of Treeline, a business that provides land planning, design, and educational services. What caught my eye about Adam is that writing is a big part of his work. He likes telling stories that inspire people. His focus is on design issues, nature, sustainability, art, and ecology.

Most professional planners and designers are required to write a lot. But that doesn’t mean we’re good at it. 20 years of experience is not the same thing as 1 year of experience repeated 20 times. Adam talks about his own experiences and offers some valuable tips — regardless of your day job.


Creating “readable stuff”.

My favorite advice from Adam comes early in the show. (But I promise it’s worth listening to the whole thing!) He says design professionals should treat their writing as a design project. A road designer wouldn’t send out his first sketch to a client and claim it’s ready for construction. But when asked to write about a project, he will write a quick draft that includes basic facts and call it ready for prime time. See if you agree with Adam’s gentle kick in the pants.


Put your reader at the scene of your project.

The most compelling stories about design projects put the reader at the scene. For best results, try actually visiting the site of the project you’re writing about! This advice is just as true for your blog as it is your design write-ups. Put some real effort into it, just like you would for a paying client.


3 examples of design writing

  1. Coming soon to Landscape Architecture magazine, Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver. A case study of park design in an area of extreme poverty.
  2. “Power to the Pedalers”, covering on-road bicycle facilities in the May/June 2012 issue of American Planning Association, following the release of NACTO’s bicycle design guide.
  3. Promenade Samuel-de Champlain, covering Quebec City’s historic riverfront in the May 2012 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.


Are you merely influenced, or are you also influential?

Designers can easily geek out when they’re chatting up urbanism philosophy with each other or exploring the application of some common sense approach that has been prohibited by government regulations. They love their work. But how can we convert disenchanted neighbors into community activists? And on the flip side, what can non-professionals do to influence capital projects in their cities and states?


Connect with our guest

Want to read some of Adam Regn Arvidson’s writing and see some of his other projects? Of course you do. Go visit these links.



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