For eight of the past 10 years, Design Collaborative has received the Best Places to Work in Indiana Award. Though it was unsuccessful on its first attempt in 2008, staff learned a lot that helped them make internal improvements and then collect three straight wins before sitting out in 2012. Since then they’ve been on a roll, one that has placed them among the elite firms in the state.
Design Collaborative has made its shop an outstanding place to work by combining good compensation with a creative environment and a free-flowing give-and-take between employees and leadership. Jason Villarreal, director of business development and marketing, says “everyone here makes a difference, and no one has to be around for five years to feel comfortable in contributing. Everybody’s ideas are valued. We all congregate every Monday morning in a social setting to talk and find out how everyone’s weekend went before knuckling down to the week’s challenges. Then, late Friday afternoon we get together again, celebrate staff birthdays, family milestones, special recognition, have some fun and discuss coming events before going off to get refreshed for the coming next week. It makes for a totally laid-back atmosphere for connecting and sharing that we highly prize.”
Founding partners Pat Pasterick, Ron Dick and Terry Wagner have always wanted their firm to be closely connected with downtown Fort Wayne. They started in 1992 in a small office on The Landing, as Pasterick says, “before it was cool to be there.” After five years they moved to bigger offices on Barr Street across from the farmer’s market that encompassed three floors. When they outgrew that place, they moved to their present digs on the sixth floor of the 1st Source Bank building across from Arts United Center at 200 E. Main St. in 2007. “We thought about moving to the suburbs, but downtown is where the action is; there’s a great atmosphere here and this is where we feel most comfortable,” Pasterick said.
Now, with 57 employees and the seams bursting, Design Collaborative has taken over the entire sixth floor, which raises its total floor space to 19,425 square feet. With it comes a 360-degree view of the city and many of the projects the firm has worked on or is presently involved in. Some of those projects include Skyline Tower adjacent to the new Ash Skyline Plaza, Cityscape Flats next to Parkview Field, some interior work and the plaza in front of the Indiana Michigan Power Center and the City Exchange Shops on Wayne Street. They can also look west to the renovated University of Saint Francis downtown campus that includes the Goldstine Performing Arts Center in the former Scottish Rite building, the Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurship in the former Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce building and the Music Engineering Tech Center in the old Scottish Rite Auditorium. The firm is also involved in the first phase of the Riverfront Development Project.
With the addition of more space, they’ll be adding 31 architects, engineers and interior designers to the staff who will work in the latest and most creative office environment possible. The new space won’t have offices or cubicles. Instead it features more collaborative work areas with standing desks, soft seating, casual private spaces and even phone booths for personal calls. Pasterick said, “We’ve not only designed this space to suit our needs and especially those of the millennials who will occupy it, but as sort of a laboratory to show clients. Our theory is that ‘change is mandatory, progress is optional.’”
It has made itself into a design guinea pig for the purpose of trying new things, unusual configurations and cutting-edge products. After installing three glass overhead garage doors opening into their conference/community room, a number of clients used the idea into their firms.
The company’s creativity, expertise and attention to detail is not confined to Fort Wayne. They did the design work on the Trine University Thunder Ice Arena in Angola, the Indiana Wesleyan football stadium in Marion, residence halls at Southern Wesleyan University in South Carolina, the Lincoln Financial office in Greensboro, N.C., and recently completed the Oak Ridge (Tenn.) National Laboratory’s credit union.