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About Us

We create warm, welcoming, playful public spaces that work.

J. Ember Design creates temporary to permanent infrastructure, elements, amenities, and spaces for programming, play, food, comfort, and joy. These humanizing details demonstrate care to communities and enable strong, beautiful, joyful, functional, maintainable, and durable spaces that meet your goals, truly serve the whole community, and can continue to evolve. We get there by being fully grounded in two pillars: community needs, and a deep understanding of how great spaces are effectively stewarded— whether that’s through active management or more ground-up means.  

With experience in urban and industrial design, and a range of projects from within in-house public space design and management in addition to consulting for public, private, and non-profit clients, we can tackle many scales and all phases of the design and placemaking process. We specialize in the human-scale details that people notice, that make them feel comfortable. 

In conjunction wtih long-term visioning and management strategies, we produce anything from iterative interventions up through complex, multi-dimensional permanent design. The strongest work with lasting benefits emerges from real collaboration with your team, partners, other expertise as needed, and most importantly the community. Together with the team, we will take creative steps to build up mutual community trust, ownership, stewardship, and sense of place.    

Great spaces bring people together and strengthen communities. We love making spaces that bring play and joy, and we believe that all communities deserve access to great spaces that meet their specific needs. We look forward to helping you get there.

J. Ember Design is a certified Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) in New York City, and WBE certification is in process in New York State and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

About Us

How we work + what makes us different

Collaboration and Empathy


We will work with your team in a collaborative, communicative way to come up with great solutions. Listening and asking the right questions to get to the heart of your needs, we think deeply about the end user and strive to empathize with all stakeholders.

We understand public space management and usage

Having firsthand public space management experience in the in-house design department of two high profile business improvement districts, Bryant Park Corporation and 34th Street Partnership, we know how important and integral management, programming, maintenance, and stewardship really are. We consider the design of a space and the deep understanding of its usage (and potential usage) as intricately connected. We understand the needs of both heavily-used spaces and underutilized spaces, and are comfortable working within a range of budgets and timelines. We know how to attract people and make things welcoming, while making things really functional and durable over the life of the space. All of this enables effective and strategic design that will work.

Making complex projects achievable

We can reconcile and integrate the needs of many different parameters, entities, and stakeholders into a cohesive, effective, and beautiful solution. We can work with complex operational and programming needs, and when there are projects with competing interests, we have experience finding commonalities and negotiating solutions. We have a great track record of getting and keeping complex projects moving and approved.

Sense of responsibility

We strive to meet not only your goals and needs, but also ask: is it welcoming and inviting, is it comfortable, does it encourage and include a diversity of uses and people? Is it responsible and sustainable? 

How we work

We believe

Great public spaces bring people together and strengthen communities

It’s so important to have access to public spaces in our daily lives; we've seen this so tangibly during the pandemic. They serve so many critical functions, including as connective tissue for communities, building support, and strengthening bonds.

Everyone deserves excellent public spaces 

We need more public spaces in every community, that serve and reflect each individual community’s needs, not one size fits all. 

People of all ages deserve play and joy

Great spaces enable people to feel free, comfortable, fully relaxed, or adventurous, and allow for a range of activity from passive to active. In spaces like these, people can fully connect: with themselves, others, and their environment. 

Design, management, and stewardship are fundamentally intertwined

Good management and stewardship are essential. And there are many ways to get to a well-managed, well-designed, high-stewardship place, for any size of organization or budget.

We must take care of our full communities for future prosperity

Communities include all inhabitants and their environments. We strive to continue to learn and push toward equity, diversity, and sustainability, so that all communities can thrive. It’s extremely important to have all voices at the table and to create ownership within the community. 

We believe

About Julie Ember

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Julie is a public space designer and leader with 15 years of experience creating vibrant spaces. She is passionate about bringing people and things together— to enable joy, connection, and community. With an empathetic and thorough approach, she loves making sense of complexities to create solutions that are welcoming, friendly, and comfortable.

Before founding J. Ember Design, Julie was the Associate Director of Design at Bryant Park Corporation and 34th Street Partnership. This gave her experience at many scales; she has seen through projects from small interventions, design and planning for programming and events from one-off to multi-season, to large multidisciplinary projects that iterated over many years. Julie led teams designing for permanent
and temporary outdoor programmed spaces, public plazas, street furniture, and architectural projects.

Throughout her work, Julie highly values working collaboratively to build the strength of communities: with inclusiveness, equity, and sustainability. And she is driven to cultivate a playful sense of abandon for people of all ages. To that end, she loves creating opportunities for play in spaces, objects, and activities, and— singing ridiculous songs at musical improv and live piano karaoke.

Julie has earned awards from Fast Company, the Chicago Athenaeum, Industrial Designers Society of America, Spark Awards, and International Downtown Association. She holds a Bachelors in Studio Art from Bard College and a Masters in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute.

Notable Past Projects

Bank of America
Winter Village
at Bryant Park

Seasonal ice rink, holiday market, and eatery at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan. While an employee at Bryant Park Corporation, Julie co-led the 3D design team in a complete redesign of Winter Village when it was brought under in-house management, in collaboration with the 2D design team and the full multidisciplinary team. The team's work included the design and layout of the site and all temporary structures, design for events and programming, and construction management / supervision. Julie also designed the 220 modular holiday shop kiosks, the illuminated dasher boards, skate-resistant benches, and led the lighting design.

Know NYC: History Signs

A system of 21 historical signs in the 34th Street district in Midtown Manhattan. While an employee at 34th Street Partnership, Julie designed and developed the sign structures with Ignacio Ciocchini, performed site and installation management, and was part of a three-person collaborative writing and graphic team. Know NYC was adopted by NYC PDC and NYC DOT as the city-wide standard for historical marker signs. 

The Tables at Bryant Park

The Tables is a ping pong area in Bryant Park. While an employee at Bryant Park Corporation, Julie led a full redesign, in conjunction with innovative programming, taking it from an underutilized area into a beloved and well-used space over several iterations in several years. In that time, it became more inclusive to casual players, women, and children.
The final design included vibrant color, branding, distinctive surfacing and furniture— creating a welcoming,
playful space.

Southwest Porch 
at Bryant Park

Southwest Porch was an outdoor food and beverage area in Bryant Park (now called The Porch at Bryant Park). While an employee at Bryant Park Corporation, Julie led this redesign of a temporary amenity connected to a landmarked kiosk, originally in an underutilized area of the park, into a permanent, city-approved space. The team created a pergola, perimeter, and deck that echoed the kiosk's architectural details, and was distinctive, visually light, open and inviting, with integrated electrical and gas utilities. Comfortable backyard-like furniture and heating in the cold months made it supremely comfortable in any season.

About Julie Ember
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