Our commitment to innovation and research is closely tied to two of our core values: passion and curiosity. Our minds are always open as we explore test and learn to innovate and solve the emerging challenges of our clients and our world. 


Innovation & Research


Applied research integrates the resulting insights into our design thinking to ensure better outcomes for the people inhabiting our buildings. Serious research situated in real world settings is more likely to shift our thinking in practice. Research at our firm works in three ways. First, we expand opportunities available to practitioners to engage in research activities across the firm. Second, we communicate how research methods and results benefit design thinking. Finally, we seek researchers outside the firm to partner with to pursue productive lines of inquiry. 




Derek White Innovations & Research

Derek White, Vice President, Chief Information Officer

As SmithGroup’s Chief Information Officer, Derek propels SmithGroup’s design work forward by leading our design teams to the edge of technology, making sure we're using the right tools for internal efficiency and for creating innovative solutions to our clients' needs. With an educational background and experience in Urban Design and Landscape Architecture combined with his 25+ years in the field of IT , Derek brings unexpected and insightful solutions to the table. Derek sees technology not just as an enabler but as a means to radically improve the design process, leading to a much better and more impactful outcome. 

Learn more about Derek



Liz Vandermark

Liz Vandermark, Principal, Director of Research

Liz’s unique role advances SmithGroup’s applied research capabilities by exploring how designers can better engage with a broader audience and groups of users throughout the design process. Having both an educational and professional background in architecture, Liz understands how to drive research to design solutions that are richer when they seek to solve social, technological and environmental complexities. Liz sits at the forefront of merging research and design to enable our designers and clients find innovative solutions that addresses all users’ needs.  

Learn more about Liz




Exploration grants are intended to offer our staff the opportunity to grow personally and professionally through a six-month period of self-directed research and investigation. The Exploration Grant Program was started in 2017 to open the door to critical inquiry, reflection, and discovery that is often hard to achieve when caught up in day-to-day project assignments. In addition to expanding an individual’s personal and professional growth, selected exploration grant topics generate ideas that radically shift our ability to Design a Better Future. 


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Contact Us

Derek White
Vice President, Chief Information Officer

(734) 662-4457
derek.white [at]

Elizabeth Vandermark
Principal, Director of Research

(734) 717.6702
liz.vandermark [at]