Based in Traverse City Michigan and available worldwide – Influence Design Forum (IDF) is a collaboration of professionals exploring the seams that make up the ecological and social context of landscape, art, pop culture, and the built environment.  

We work at many different spatial scales - We design public spaces, prepare cities for the future, celebrate rural landscapes, inject art into the landscape, design dwellings and insert creativity to retail and storefronts, explore intimate spaces, and imagine new possibilities by testing design ideas.

Our unconventional project teams bring our clients together with a diverse group of designers, planners, artists, scientists, engineers, and policy makers to problem solve, innovate, and research new ideas for the future.  Part think-tank, part creative agency, we like to think of ourselves as visionaries who think systematically how design works - From the importance of building a strong identity to support a brand to understanding social behaviors of public spaces to the workplace and back home again, transportation, rural landscapes, and entire neighborhoods

Meet Nate.  Nate Elkins founded IDF in 2011.  He wanted to raise the bar for architectural design, planning and research in Northern Michigan by building a collaborative of independent professionals with a focus on interjecting pop culture, technology, and futurism into small towns.  Nate has a collection of knowledge working on a range of projects at many different spatial scales – from small intimate public spaces to rural landscapes and everything in between.

Hello Sean.  In early 2017 after collaborating together over the past decade, Sean Sommerfield joined IDF as a permanent fellow.  Sean’s background in architecture, digital modeling and visual arts allows the duo to collaborate and express designs in augmented realism and virtual 3D.   IDF captures the pair’s heterogeneous know-how in the world of everything possible and a heavy dose of caffeine and optimism fuel their passion to problem solve, innovate, and research new ideas for the future.  

More about Nate.  Diving head first into the profession of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design Nate has seized the opportunity to work with other professionals in the design world to help individuals, companies and entire communities build better places – as the founding principal of Influence Design Forum this has been a reflection of his strength and willingness to work with others.

Graduating with honors from Michigan State University’s Landscape Architecture Program with a Specialization in Environmental Studies, he has returned to his roots in Traverse City Michigan – a small, but growing Lake Michigan coastal community.

His experience in the realm of public projects has ballooned while working with small Northern Michigan Communities – experience has ranged from successful grant writing projects to brick and mortar development of public spaces, park and waterfronts.  Nate also has a range of experience in natural resource management, recreation planning, site development, streetscape and urban renewal projects, multi-modal trail planning, LID design, environmental and wayfinding design and public process coordination. “Nate continues to push the envelope in the profession - He is always on the look out for better ways to improve public life through developing alternatives to conventional design.”  Nate is a strong believer in ‘design for social change’ and that design can bring people together, it can overcome boundaries and be the catalyst for improving our quality of life.

He continues to support his community and build relationships by serving on local boards and non-profits including the Traverse City Parks and Recreation Commission, Traverse City’s Bayfront Revitalization Steering Committee,  Botanical Garden Society of Northwest Michigan and Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA).



Community Engagement 



Strategic Planning 


Workshop Facilitation

Architectural Design 

Urban Design

Feasibility Studies 

Graphic Design 

Interior Design

Model Building

3D Computer Generated Imagery (CGI)

Grant Writing


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Influence Design Forum was formed in 2012