Design, Play, Love

Design Collaborative
Written by Pauline Müller

When looking at new projects, the idea often crosses one’s mind: what is good design? As it turns out, translating mood and ambience into color and texture is more complex than it might seem at first, which is why this question is perhaps the most pivotal guiding force for any design professional, underpinning their personal design manifesto and informing every new project they touch.

At home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the visionary designers at Design Collaborative see good design as a means of favoring the people it serves—with much heart and even more personal attention.

As is to be expected, the company’s website is a fitting showcase of its designers’ fine eye for detail, with visuals welcoming visitors in vibrant tones of mandarin and almost accidental notes of blue to compliment—all every bit as juicy and full of vitality as its professional design work. Staffed with a lively team of graphics experts, interior designers, engineers, and architects, the company is known for its work across several fields, including large medical, corporate, and learning facilities, to name but a few.

The Design Collaborative team is also well-versed in modern building approaches such as biophilic design and WELL Building Standard certification principles, which take design to the next level by considering the health and comfort of the building inhabitants. That also means that designers bring the outside in, providing end users with much-needed contact with living elements like plants, natural light, and aquatic features. That is just one of the approaches Design Collaborative employs in creating exciting workspaces that naturally draw staff into creating community.

With a strong focus on creating meaning, the team specializes in creating bright, feel-good spaces where people can thrive in their surroundings and be the best versions of themselves. Here, relationships are a guiding force that permeates every project from beginning to completion.

Established in 1992 by Pat Pasterick, AIA, LEED AP, President and CEO; Ron Dick, AIA, LEED AP, Partner and Senior Architect; and Terry Wagner, former Partner, engineer, and the first to retire in February 2022, the company is well-respected for approaching challenges with a can-do attitude chock-full of fresh and sophisticated solutions. As such, it is open about its people-first approach, prizing genuine concern for others in everything it touches. The result is a visibly positive work environment rich in smart, creative minds who are well-versed in delivering the superb quality the company has become so well-known for.

The company’s reputation for excellence is especially evident in the many awards it has been honored with in its time. The firm received four significant acknowledgments in 2021 alone, including the Building Contractors Association’s award for New Construction Under $6 million, which it received in recognition for sterling work on a 13,200 square-foot facility for the New Covenant Impact Center in its hometown. Responsible for everything from mechanical and electrical engineering and architecture to interiors, lighting, and plumbing design, the team is visibly pleased with its contribution to this tremendous community center that provides everything from mental health support to education, meeting facilities, and even counseling and guidance to help people in need to regain their footing and direction in life.

The company also won two American Buildings awards in the same year. The Building of the Year gold award honored its contribution to the Junior Achievement Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, an organization providing youngsters with crucial education and life skills in areas often overlooked, like financial literacy. It also received the American Buildings Excellence in Design Special Projects award for this project.

When it comes to designing workspaces, its approach is straightforward: align the design with the company culture. It is, therefore, not surprising that Design Collaborative’s creativity and innovation have made it popular amongst companies for whom it is important to move with the times through the creation of avant-garde workspaces. One great standout success illustrating the point is a project it completed for Aptera, Inc., a digital marketing leader in Fort Wayne based in a renovated former Sears.

Its bright, ample spaces and sleek design, color, and texture combine to create a balance between cool, light-reflecting surfaces and warm, raw brick accents among spaces that lend themselves to solo work and group gatherings alike. Creating this fun, welcoming space that draws employees into the office won the company the 2019 AIA Indiana Citation Award for its tremendous contribution to the preservation, adaptive reuse, and renovation of this legacy building.

Design Collaborative also thrives on taking care of those beyond its immediate circle of staff. To this end, it started its very own Giveback Gang that handles the technical work on charitable projects. During the summer of 2023, the team elected to support the local Harvester Community during their centenary celebrations of this globally iconic, heavy-duty truck. It was an enormous social undertaking, with the intern members of the gang responsible for designing a bus shelter and creating plans for a project to build a Redemption House for vulnerable women. The Giveback Gang also drew up extensive facility plans that will be used by the Harvester Community to re-establish its presence in the area and revive the city’s age-old reputation for being the home of this vehicle.

With its diverse portfolio of completed projects ranging from mixed-use developments, sports facilities, and hospitals to colleges, schools, restaurant and retail spaces, multifamily units, financial institutions, and so much more, it is inspiring to know that Design Collaborative’s longstanding history of creativity is shaping the future of so many cities. Embracing change and evolution with an indelible sense of fun, this formidable team knows that playing together means staying ahead of the competition.

By keeping its approach to design and teamwork fresh, the company appears to be well-prepared to continue inviting change and making a difference.



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