Willoughby Design Leaves Westport for West Bottoms

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(Left) Megan Stephens and Nicole Satterwhite, co-owners of Willoughby Design, outside their new office space at The Yards development.

By Kevin Collison

Willoughby Design, a Westport stalwart since the Seventies, is relocating to office space in The Yards apartment development in the West Bottoms later this summer.

“As we started exploring our options in the city, we were drawn to the up-and-coming creative energy in the Stockyards District,” said Megan Stephens, managing principal.

“It’s still a little off the beaten path but, at the same time, connected to the heart of downtown.”

The design firm was founded by Ann Willoughby in a former apartment building on Westport Road in 1978. It’s the longest continually operating women-owned and operated graphic design business in the United States.

Ann Willoughby sold her business to Stephens and Nicole Satterwhite, principal designer, in 2016.

“Our three-story building in Westport served us well for almost three decades but a few years ago we started thinking about moving to a single floor space that would be more conducive to collaboration and hoteling,” Stephens said.

The firm, which employs a dozen designers, strategists, copywriters, account managers and “several furry assistants,” had done design work helping to brand the Stockyards District a few years ago.

It also helped create brands, graphics and a video for the West Bottoms Flats apartment development on the north side of the West Bottoms.

National clients include Atlanta-based Dixie, Pet Supplies Plus in Detroit and St. Louis-bsed Panera. Other local clients include the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, the KC Campus for Animal Care and KC Pet Project, and the Build KCI campaign.

Stephens said the work her firm did in the West Bottoms helped make the case for relocating there.

The Yards apartments in the West Bottoms were developed by Flaherty & Collins.

The 3,100 square-feet of space at The Yards apartment project, which opened a year ago, will not only provide room to work, but staff also will be able to use the amenities of the apartment project including its pool and rooftop terrace.

“We wanted this for our current team and also believe that an inspiring location and studio space will help us attract new talent for the future,” Stephens said.

“Since our team is divided pretty equally between the northland, downtown and southern KC, this location is a reasonable commute for all.”

Willoughby hired KEM STUDIO, a local architecture firm also located in the Stockyards District, to help design the new space so that it integrates the firm’s company culture, brand and working style.

“Because hospitality, collaboration and considered design are at the core of everything we do, you will enter our space into a big open kitchen,” she said.

“There is nothing more comforting and welcoming than gathering around a generous kitchen table, which will be at the center.”

The office will be a blend of open space for collaborative work, and individual desks. There also is a formal conference room, a mother’s/meditation room and a huddle room off to the side available for either personal space or a small group meeting space.

The office also features a large outdoor patio that will be available to the staff.

“Since we don’t know what the future holds in this new pandemic world, it was important to us to create an environment that is as flexible as possible to best meet our ongoing needs as a creative agency,” she said.

Stephens said the firm expects to complete its relocation to The Yards by August.

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