Our Story

Shook Kelley was co-founded in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1992 by two renegade architects—Terry Shook and Kevin Kelley—who wanted to create a new kind of strategy and design practice that could solve some perennial conflicts between the worlds of business and design.

As Terry and Kevin saw it, there existed a large chasm between the best minds and thinking in business, science and design. Clients were frequently having to hire several different types of experts and consultants, each with their own set of biases, agendas and solutions, to work on a common set of client problems: How to reach the ever-changing consumer? How to deal with the onslaught of aggressive competitors and market disrupters? And, ultimately, how to improve business conditions?

Far too often, clients were forced to connect the dots between multiple consultants on their own, or worse yet, make sense of and decide between their consultants' competing and often contradictory agendas. Advertising folks wanted to run ads that captured the immediate attention of audiences, regardless of whether the company could actually deliver on the hype. Architects wanted to build towers to enhance the aesthetic experience, regardless of whether the customer even noticed or cared about these enhancements. Branding experts wanted to change the name of the company and redesign the logo to build a more contemporary image and identity, regardless of the historical market equity that a company worked so hard to establish. And Social Scientists wanted to do studies and reports, regardless of whether or not they could tie analysis back to business objectives. In short, clients were having a difficult time separating out the noise from the noteworthy parts. Terry and Kevin saw an opportunity to create more of an orchestra approach to consulting that offered a wide variety of instruments and voices, but that also came together in a more integrated and symphonic way.

In addition to the issue of competing agendas, Terry and Kevin also regularly observed a major disconnect between the strategy of an enterprise and the end result of the places they created. That is to say, what was ultimately built oftentimes had no direct connection to the marketing vision, brand strategy or client value proposition. Worse yet, industry design awards, advertising awards and marketing accolades were often given to projects that in reality failed to satisfy their business objectives. As Terry and Kevin saw it, something was broken with the institutional ways of consultant thinking, and they wanted to create a new way to advance the real goals of clients.

So, in 1992, Terry and Kevin set about to create this new kind of integrated consultancy based on a philosophy and approach of convening. They built a Noah's Ark of professionals from the fields of business, science and design. And they resisted the tendency to fall into the old paradigms of their architecture background, as well as any other traditional rules or structures of their newly diversified colleagues' disciplines. While each discipline brought knowledge and experience into the organization, Shook Kelley came to develop a new lexicon for talking about strategy and design.


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