Lindsay Kinkade: 2013 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Design

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You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our Big Brain 2013 Finalists.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award awards announcement and celebration on April 27, Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch will introduce the finalists.

Up today: Lindsay Kinkade

Lindsay Kinkade's studio, Little Giant, might be hard to find on a map. The 35-year-old designer claims the streets of downtown Phoenix as her true workspace; she is most often found riding her bicycle, gleaning inspiration from the real world.

"Everything about the way that I'm building my practice is about being on the street, being in public life, being in the space where people bump into each other and where interactions both good and bad and messy and clean happen," she says.

See also: - Announcing the 2013 Big Brain Finalists - Meet New Times' 2013 Big Brain Finalists and Celebrate the Winners at Artopia on April 27

Kinkade's desire to work in and with the public was influenced by an initial career in journalism. After spending seven years at the Boston Globe, she knew she wanted to get out of the office and back into the community space. But this time, she would do it as a designer.

"Most of my studio work is about creating a space to believe in possibility -- to sketch what is possible, to imagine what is possible, to believe in the best possible future, and try to figure out how to make that happen," she says.

Attending graduate school at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) gave Kinkade the opportunity to construct a new path using design thinking to facilitate public engagement and community development. Designing interactions and inventing new economies is a big aspect of this type of work, she says. But it's necessary for a designer who wants to improve the public sphere.

The aptly named Little Giant focuses on doing small experiments and using the process to translate results to a larger scale. In a recent project with Phoenix Center for the Arts, Kinkade filled an entryway with pieces of brightly colored paper that read "We are the center of." Anyone passing by was invited to complete the statement and contribute to a what she calls a participatory visioning process. The exercise is small, but it helped kick off an identity redesign for the center that manifested in things like a website rehaul and a mural on the exterior of the building.

Though this type of work may seem somewhat intangible, the results can be very concrete. Kinkade taught a class on public policy and public engagement at RISD and has written a book on the subject. This is her passion, she says, and she can't imagine working in any other way.

Since moving to Phoenix a year and half ago for the increased sunlight and the larger population, Kinkade has been focused on reinventing what she calls the user experience of downtown. Projects like Welcome to Phoenix, a website she is working on with Jim McPherson, seek to reframe how people view the downtown experience. For Kinkade, it's all about increasing awareness of what is out there and constantly inviting people to get involved.

"If the thing we're creating is the best version of a city, we should be inviting all the people of the city into that process," she says.

There aren't too many designers around the Valley doing this type of work, Kinkade knows, but she isn't worried. "We can sit around and be grumpy about Phoenix forever," she says, "or we can see it as a place of constant invention."

Buy a $10 ticket to enjoy an evening of food, drink and entertainment April 27 at the Monarch Theater in downtown Phoenix. Meet the finalists and learn who won during our Big Brain celebration, Artopia.

Follow Jackalope Ranch on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest.

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