Mentorship in Design: Planning the SEGD Conference

On June 16-18 the long-awaited SEGD Portland Conference will welcome the global design community to meet in person after a two-year delay due to the pandemic.

This year a key theme is mentorship and creating access for BIPOC and young designers. As an example, one session in the agenda will feature three Portland area non-profits—Architectural Foundation of Oregon, Comma, and Diversity in Design—engaged in mentorship and community programs seeking to empower BIPOC communities and allies while connecting them within design fields. Together these groups will lead a workshop focused on the impact of informal and formal mentorship programs from high school to working professional.

Mentorship is also central in planning the conference. As conference co-chairs, Kathy Fry, Traci Sym and I collaborated with students in the Portland State University Graphic Design Department’s Design Club to develop conference branding. It was an exciting real-world opportunity with valuable hands-on experience for the students—and a lot of fun for us! They developed a bold, vibrant visual language for media graphics, signage, stage backdrops, tote bags and badges, and a custom bike donated for the SEGD Auction.

Working with the students has reminded me of the saying, “you get out, what you put in.” As a professional designer with over 25 years in this field, the mentoring experience allowed me to shed my seasoned designer lens and look at the world of design from the perspective of young and upcoming designers. It is rewarding and stimulating. I have shared my career observations with them, and they have opened my eyes with curiosity, personal stories and excitement for the future of design. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to devote time to build a connection with these promising designers.

I hope you will join us at the SEGD conference to see their work, share your experience and build bonds with our design community.


Conference Co-Chairs
Alper Yurtseven: Mayer/Reed Designer
Traci Sym: +&> Principal, SEGD Vice-President
Kathy Fry: Mayer/Reed Principal, SEGD President

Walk, Bike and Scoot Even “Better” Along Naito Parkway

Just in time for summer, “Better Naito Forever” officially opened on May 6 with a ribbon cutting and inaugural bike ride. This protected space for people walking and biking along SW Naito Parkway and Tom McCall Waterfront Park is now a permanent part of downtown Portland’s multi-modal infrastructure.

Linked with a similar project south of the Hawthorne Bridge which provides off street bike and pedestrian paths, the city has gained dedicated space for walking and rolling along 22 continuous blocks.

Mayer/Reed landscape architects and urban designers collaborated with David Evans & Associates (DEA) engineers on both segments, working with Portland Bureau of Transportation and Portland Parks & Recreation to establish human-scaled spaces that blend streetscape with park. “It was crucial to maintain a parklike edge, protect trees and create clear and welcoming park entrances,” notes Mayer/Reed project manager, Shannon Simms.

What began in 2015 as a temporary, volunteer-led pilot project to accommodate the influx of visitors to Waterfront Park during the summer festival season, “Better Naito” had grown to see wide support, eventually being designed, engineered and constructed. Now, in addition to providing space for daily recreation and bicycle commuting, the two-way cycle track and separate pedestrian sidewalk will offer inviting access for festival goers when outdoor events once again enliven our waterfront.

Celebrating Libraries

We celebrate National Library Week with a look back at Mayer/Reed projects that have become vital resources in their communities—providing access to programs, safe gathering and learning spaces and sense of connection from early learners to seniors. Wayfinding, placemaking and collections signage helps create a welcoming, accessible and inclusive library.  

Numerous local libraries are currently expanding their services with new and improved facilities. Mayer/Reed is designing visual communications for over 25 libraries including the Multnomah County Library system, Deschutes Public Library system, Washington State Library and Archives and the Gladstone and Concord Libraries in Clackamas County, OR. It is impressive to see an investment of this scale in our communities! 

Top: Vancouver Community Library
Middle: Odegaard Undergraduate Library, University of Washington
Bottom: Oregon City Library

World’s Smallest Park Endures and Endears In Portland, Oregon

Throughout our history, Mayer/Reed has worked on parks big and small, but none as small yet so significant as the recent redesign of Mill Ends Park in Portland, Oregon.

For being only 452.16 square inches, Mill Ends Park certainly has a large reputation. Since 1971 it has held the title of World’s Smallest Park in the Guinness Book of World Records. The park’s origins are in the midcentury as a twinkle in the eye of Dick Fagan, an Oregon Journal columnist, whose imagination was sparked by an empty utility pole hole in the middle of SW Naito Parkway (called Front Avenue at the time) at Taylor Street. Looking down from his office, Fagan dreamed up a mythology for the park having to do with a leprechaun named Patrick O’Toole. The park was an object of controversy in 1954 as Fagan battled City Commissioner Bean over the name of the park, which ultimately was called “Mill Ends” after Fagan’s column in the Journal. On St. Patricks’ Day 1976, Mill Ends was officially dedicated as a city park, which makes it two years older than its 36-acre neighbor, Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Portlanders show this quirky little park a lot of love, frequently decorating it and adding small figurines. It has been the site of protests, weddings, snail races and ceremonial rose plantings. It has hosted every imaginable form of vegetation, which is carefully hand-watered by the staff at Portland Parks and Recreation. With the rise of the selfie era, so too has Mill Ends Park become extensively photographed and shared on social media.

Over the years, Mill Ends has been rebuilt several times as part of upgrades to Naito Parkway. In 2006, the park was briefly relocated to a flowerpot at the World Trade Center while Naito was repaved. More recently, Portland Bureau of Transportation’s bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Naito (known as Better Naito Forever) has again required a rebuild of Mill Ends Park.

Tasked with the redesign, Mayer/Reed, drafted multiple design iterations before selecting a quatrefoil shaped steel form cast in concrete. The new park is located a smidge northwest of its previous location but is not a hair larger than its record-setting size.