You Do What? Unique Jobs at CannonDesign

  • July 20, 2018
  • Author: CannonDesign

MARK HIRONS / Furniture Designer

As a design principal in our commercial practice, Mark believes truly great buildings are designed from within — responding first to those who use the buildings and ultimately enriching the lives of all who interact with them. He also believes good design permeates all facets of a space, from the colors and materials on a wall to the detail of a door handle and the furniture placed throughout.

Many years ago while working with an entrepreneurial client, Mark had the opportunity to create an extremely customized experience by designing functional sculptural furniture. Since then, he’s created more than 50 furniture pieces and launched two different lines, Vertex and Avant, which are sold and advertised internationally by Decca. When appropriate, Mark continues to design furniture for his clients spanning a broad portfolio including the University of Chicago Law School, Metropolitan Capital Bank, Millipore, Roche and Zurich.


LAURA PETERS / Photographer

From textile designer and wedding photographer, to trader on the Chicago Board of Trade and administration in our Chicago office, Laura’s journey weaves through decades of varied and vibrant life paths. After stepping in to help photograph local office events in her downtime, her talent was spotted quickly – she then became CannonDesign’s first ever in-house photographer.

Now Laura says she is truly “living the dream,” traveling the country doing what she loves: telling stories through photography. No two days are ever the same for her while she juggles photoshoots of our people and our projects — from large-scale hospitals and workplaces to many of the portraits you see in PRISM. “After only a year into my current position, I have seen such amazing work from our designers firsthand,” said Laura. “I also love working with a team for the first time in my career. They motivate me to be a better photographer and I feel like I’m contributing to something bigger.”


DAN GREEN / Facility Optimizer

Dan admits that maybe it was a “Brady Bunch complex,” but he has been interested in architecture ever since eighth grade. To help pay his tuition to Penn State University, he enrolled in the ROTC, which led to a 22-year career in the Air Force, including four years of active duty, and retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. During that time, Dan oversaw more than $50 million in military projects for the Air Force, Army Corps of Engineers and N.Y. Air National Guard.

Dan was hired as a quality leader in the Buffalo office in 2007. After realizing how many clients were struggling with operating and maintaining aging and inefficient infrastructure, he teamed up with Joe Cassata to launch Facility Optimization Solutions (FOS) — a service that helps clients more effectively manage their existing facilities and assets. Since its launch in 2013, FOS has become one of our firm’s core service lines, and collectively, the team has provided assessments for more than 225 million sf of space.


PAUL MOSKAL / Compliance Director

After obtaining his law degree from the University at Buffalo, Paul pursued a career in the FBI that lasted 30 years. He worked long-term undercover assignments as a marathoner, a hedge fund operator, and an organized crime lawyer allegedly using drug money to pay bribes and develop luxury hotels and golf courses. He supervised kidnapping and extortion squads, worked in the National Press Office, and tracked down spies from foreign governments. He’s traveled the world, working stints in London, Rome, Port-au-Prince and Toronto, to name a few.

Now as our firm’s director of compliance, Paul ensures everyone in the organization, regardless of job duty, understands the law and the firm’s policies and procedures, and adheres to them to further our firm’s goals. In addition to leading the CannonDesign program, Paul has partnered with nearly 30 A/E firms to help them kick-start their efforts. “I’ve never sketched a drawing, but I can help my colleagues navigate situations so they can do their jobs to the best of their ability and design buildings that contribute to the benefit of society as a whole,” said Paul. “Supporting my colleagues in this regard is a role I take great pride in.”


ERNESTO PACHEO / Design Visualizer

After studying Architecture at the University de las Americas Puebla, Ernesto moved to the U.S. and got his first job in Miami in the model shop of a small design firm that focused on coastal high-rise apartment buildings. He then moved to St. Louis and continued his education in graphic design, which ultimately led to his role as a design visualization lead at CannonDesign.

Ernesto is widely considered a “jack of all trades” in our St. Louis office, though his expertise is in 3D modeling, rendering, interactive design, 2D/3D animation and virtual reality. Since joining, he’s introduced a number of cutting-edge software programs to the design process and has created stunning animation videos of current and proposed designs. Most recently, Ernesto played a key role in our firm’s adoption of multi-user virtual reality — allowing multiple users to virtually experience a space at the same time. “Technology and advanced software allow us to push the boundaries of design, and our team in St. Louis is great at encouraging that exploration.”


BOWIE / Office Dog

Dubbed the “Happiness Ambassador,” Bowie, a goldendoodle and licensed service dog, has many roles in our Denver office. He has been coming to work with his owner, Talia Rubin, since he was only a year old. Every day, Bowie braves the car ride (not his favorite), then “Scooby Doo runs” to the office door with excitement. His personal duties include joining meetings in the conference room, sleeping with a toy in his mouth, watching the kitchen microwave during lunch, and offering a game of fetch and tug-of-war with anyone willing. Talia says she has tried to teach him Revit, but he hasn’t quite mastered it yet…

Bowie wears a bow tie every day to the office. Talia, who was tired of buying all of the bow ties, started to make them herself and now sells them on When Bowie is not in the office, he enjoys being a therapy dog at Denver Health Medical Center.


ANDY LEWIS / Equipment Planner

In 2005, while Andy was in a user group meeting for an ambulatory surgery center, a medical equipment planner kept interrupting his design presentation, saying: “We can’t do that.” That guy drove Andy crazy, but spurred a desire to learn more about equipment planning to become a better healthcare architect. So he started to educate himself, and the rest is history.

Now, Andy leads a team of specialty medical equipment planners out of our Houston office. His day-to-day includes producing Revit models to ensure all MEP and utilities are in the most optimal place, living in a database called Attania that contains millions of items with pricing and cut sheets, and conducting user group sessions to guide clients toward better solutions. Fairly new to the firm (via our merger with FKP), Andy’s goal is to provide medical equipment services on every CannonDesign health and science project going forward.


STEVE COPENHAGEN / Laboratory Planner

With a degree in biological sciences, Steve began his career at his family’s programming and planning firm focused on technical science facilities in different environments including academic and healthcare. After 30 years at the firm, Steve was looking for the next challenge in his career and joined CannonDesign in 2005. This career change gave him the opportunity to work on larger and more complex projects across the globe. Currently, Steve acts as a subject matter expert for technical lab design and is typically the guy to step up and say “yes” when someone asks, “Has anyone ever done this?” on a project.

“I’m inspired every day by the researchers who are at the forefront of science. I get to design cutting-edge facilities to help them discover the next breakthrough,” said Steve.


Michael Shirley and Steve Kopp: Improving Pediatric Cancer Care Through Design

  • July 20, 2018
  • Author: CannonDesign

When Michael Shirley and Steve Kopp, designers in our Houston office, were approached by Texas Children’s Hospital to help improve cancer care for children in sub-Saharan Africa, they didn’t have to mull it over.

Global HOPE (Hematology-Oncology Pediatric Excellence), they learned, is an initiative between three institutions – Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers; Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital (BIPAI); and Bristol-Meyers Squibb Foundation – focused on building long-term care facilities. They also educate healthcare staff to improve the odds of thousands of children with cancer, 90 percent of whom currently die from the disease each year. The ask? To design care centers that are economical to build, self-sufficient to operate and maintain, and flexible enough to address the difficult site conditions and contexts of the region.

It’s a special cause, that’s for sure,” said Michael. “When they asked for help, we got really excited about it.

Prognoses are so poor in Africa because cancer isn’t typically diagnosed until it’s too late and treatment is difficult to access. Families sometimes have to travel for weeks to get to the closest cancer care center.

“Steve and I took a two-week trip to Africa to meet with health officials in three countries,” said Michael. “It was an eye-opener. We saw families camped out on a floor of a ward where there were only eight beds, open windows and stifling tropical air. You have to ask yourself: How do these folks ever get healed?”

After realizing the limitations on the ground – unreliable electricity, lengthy and unpredictable construction timelines, limited access to materials, poor city infrastructure, Michael and Steve got to work. “We had to get creative,” said Steve. “Finding the right mix between something they can maintain and something that will meet expectations was a challenge.”

Based on past Texas Children’s projects in Africa, hospital administrators knew it was hard to manage the quality of construction. “We knew upfront that offsite prefab construction was the way to go. That, and speed, were our guiding principles,” said Michael. “What we came up with is rather complicated and insular – a large building made out of shipping containers with cooling capabilities and lots of sunlight and fresh air.”

Exterior design concept

Robust generators, window cooling units, rainwater harvest and stormwater control were all integral to the success of the design, but high importance was also placed on cultural preferences. “We discovered that people in Africa want to be outside,” says Michael. “They live outdoors and want connection with nature and daylight, so we made sure that there are operable windows and the ability to open the building up to prevailing winds. This really helps formulate a sense of place.”

With construction of the prototypes, Texas Children’s will be able to send additional physicians to the region to educate in-country doctors and nurses.

“The first step is to build these temporary facilities and the long-term goal is to build inpatient pediatric cancer hospitals,” said Steve. “Texas Children’s has been sending one physician over at a time, but the goal now is to be able to send rotations through these countries to train even more professionals.”

Interior design concept

Michael and Steve hope to continue working with the team at Texas Children’s to also design the permanent care facilities. “I think it’s incredible that we’re able to offer the children in this country medical care,” said Michael. “The effect that this will have is critical. It feels like we are doing something that will really make a difference.”

“This is a great opportunity to provide care in that setting,” said Steve. “This is going to change the state of care in Africa and have a huge trickle-down effect to other areas of care beyond cancer. We’re honored to play a role.”

Peter McCarthy: Building on the Foundations of Food

  • July 20, 2018
  • Author: CannonDesign

Architect Peter McCarthy knew where he was headed from an early age. With a mother insistent about her dreams for her son and a hands-on father always tinkering away in his wood shop, it was clear design was in Peter’s future.

“My mother started telling me that she thought I was going be an architect somewhere around the age of eight. Things grew very quickly from there, in terms of being construction-minded, very hands-on,” says Peter. “When I was a kid, my tree fort in the backyard was published in the local newspaper. The history of architecture goes way back for me.”

In addition to designing buildings, Peter also builds with food, as an amateur chef. While abroad in Japan, a visit to the famed Tsukiji Market inspired him to consider the intersection of the culinary and construction worlds.

“To experience the market in action, you have to stay up all night, since it opens at around 2 a.m. After riding my bike halfway across the city, and killing time to stay awake, I spent the early morning hours witnessing one of the most amazing events on earth,” says Peter. “You’d see tanks of sea life that you would swear are from another planet, and in the next breath, watch whole tuna the size of refrigerators sliding across the floor between sellers and buyers in the auction. As a spectator, you are a part of the action, trying not to get run over by the miniature pickup-truck-sized vehicles zooming around the complex.”

Enjoying these new sights and smells, Peter settled in for the ultimate sensory experience: taste.

“The action slows down around the time the sun rises. I found a small four-seat shop at the edge of the market. The owner buys his stock for the day right there at the market and he prepares whatever makes sense,” Peter recalled. “He spoke just enough English that I could order, but not enough that we could converse. So I sat there exhausted, but energized, and ate a modest bowl of rice, seaweed, and raw tuna in relative silence.”

Peter’s visit was a turning point – not just for his culinary taste, but in his professional work.

The six months I spent in Japan were where I really started to connect food and design in more literal ways.

His exploration of food began, like most people, at home, and flourished abroad.

“It started as a family thing, but really amplified from traveling. The more I was exposed to different international cultural approaches, the more it grew,” says Peter.

“I don’t have a signature dish per se, but I have somewhat of a process for building a dinner for friends and family. On the practical side, I first take the time to understand diet preferences and restrictions. After that I try to design around the seasons and what’s best that I have access to. I have relationships with a few local farms around here and people always like hearing about an ingredient’s origin and freshness. Then I see what it evolves into on the plate. This narrative is very similar to the architectural design process and how the designer is the link between countless building materials and systems and a final project that is customized for a client’s needs.”

Peter can chart his growth in the kitchen with his growth as a designer, pointing at a few specific instances where he had the chance to expand his studies.

“It grew opportunistically. I didn’t know that my interest in cooking, ingredient sourcing, our relationship to food, and design would really come together until I was exposed to a culinary school design project. Once I was really involved in that project, I was able to see all the levels that culinary education builds on. It was really the perfect mix of my personal and professional interests,” he says. Sometimes the two disciplines converge in a perfect marriage.

“I’m currently working on a project with the University of Buffalo that’s aimed at evolving the traditional dining hall model to meet student demand in a way that makes it more invigorating. Student dining centers today are starting to be modeled after places like the Chelsea Market in New York — spaces that are demand-driven and have a lot of hype around it. They have the flexibility to meet ever-changing consumer demand, both in terms of the offerings but also in the healthfulness of what’s being served.”

Learn More About Peter’s Thoughts on Culinary Design >


Leticia Canon: Rising to the Challenge

  • July 20, 2018
  • Author: CannonDesign

If you give Leticia Canon a challenge, you can be sure she’s going to take you up on it. Whether it’s building a racecar from the ground up or running a half-marathon, Leticia, an architect and project manager in our Dallas office, feels most alive when she’s on the proving ground.

“I love a challenge,” says Leticia. “That’s why I’ve chosen architecture and healthcare as my passion and career. Being challenged on a daily basis is something that I absolutely need in my life.”

Take, for example, when a guy friend suggested that she build a racecar instead of buying one like she’d planned. At first, it seemed like a ridiculous ask – she’s a self-proclaimed girlie-girl whose eyes would glaze over at the mere mention of auto mechanics. But less than a month later, Leticia decided that she would, in fact, build her own car – just to see if she could. Not to mention the fact that she likes to do things that no one expects of her.

“When I was 15 and learning to drive, I would fail the part of the practice test that involved knowing where the parts of the car were every time,” she says. “When I called my dad to tell him I wanted to build a racecar, he said, ‘Leticia, you don’t know anything about cars.’”

But not knowing anything about cars didn’t stop her – she learned all she needed to know over the next nine months while outfitting her 2004 Mazda RX-8 with a LS1 5.7L V-8 Corvette engine.

“I had grease under my nails and nasty hands,” she says. “I dumped a lot of time and money into it, and it was frustrating at times, but I remember the day that we turned the car on for the first time. It was the most amazing feeling to hear that engine start.”

Growing up, Leticia had always been tough. “I drove a farm truck out on gravel roads when I worked in the cotton fields,” she says.

When you grow up in Texas, you learn the meaning of manual labor.

Now in her mid-30s, she’s still looking for her next challenge.

“A co-worker once said to me that I couldn’t be considered a runner until I ran three half-marathons in one year,” she says. “I told her that I would do that, and more. So I ran four half-marathons. And then I decided to renovate my house. I did 90 percent of the work myself, with the help of family.”

Her love of a challenge extends to her work at CannonDesign. With an MBA and a Master’s degree in architecture, Leticia started with FKP Architects as an intern and worked her way up to project manager. “Managing projects and meeting the expectations of challenging clients is a strength of mine because I set such high expectations for myself,” she says. “I’m also really passionate about mentoring other people. I’d like training and mentoring to be my legacy.”

As much fun as she has reaching goals, Leticia also hopes that it makes her a great team player.

“I want to get down in the dirt and dig in with everybody else,” she says. “I see myself as the orchestra leader. I need to be able to play all of the parts so that I understand how they work together. I want to be the maestro who plays every instrument.”

Jenny Delgado: Reinforcing Inclusivity in the Built Environment

  • July 20, 2018
  • Author: CannonDesign

Growing up, Jenny Delgado spent a lot of time at her godmother’s house in Merida, on the Mexican Yucatán. Her godmother’s two brothers, both architecture students, inspired Jenny early on.

“The whole scene fascinated me – the drafting tables pushed together, the lamps, and the two of them working side-by-side. For some reason, that image imprinted on me and I just saw myself doing that,” says Jenny.

After working at a small boutique firm in Mexico for several years, Jenny moved to the U.S. and landed a job in our education practice in Los Angeles, a hub of international influences and one of the most diverse cities in the U.S. For Jenny, working with the city’s diverse clientele has shaped her design approach, which she roots in understanding, responsibility and empathy – hallmarks of inclusivity.

Inclusivity design is defined by OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre as “design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference. Inclusive design aims to remove the barriers that create undue effort and separation. It enables everyone to participate equally, confidently and independently in everyday activities.”

Jenny sees inclusivity as more than removing barriers. She sees it as opening doors.

“For me, the definition is the delivered act of welcoming diversity and creating an environment where all kinds of people can thrive and succeed. It’s not just accommodating for physical capabilities and gender constructs. Designing for inclusivity means that you’re designing spaces where people feel like they belong,” she says.

“While gender is an important factor, inclusive design also includes age, race, ability, and even considering different character traits,” she says. “Specifically in higher education – the age range we are designing for – it’s especially crucial to give young adults spaces where they feel like they belong. As designers, we need to think about providing choice in these settings, and designing different levels of quiet or privacy for different personalities. That’s what it means to design inclusively.”

She feels that a participatory approach is a key step in the inclusive design process.

“It allows the community to voice their needs and concerns, and as designers, we need to listen to and translate those concerns into the built environment. Starting with our charrettes and community meetings, if we truly listen and incorporate those voices, the building will reflect inclusivity.”

When asked if an inclusive approach has ever presented project challenges, Jenny talks about a recent pursuit where the campus director of wellness was trying to address the concept of gender neutrality in recreation.

“Here in California, we have a law that you must provide toilet facilities that don’t say either ‘women’ or ‘men’ – they are gender-neutral. However, when you’re talking about a locker room or an athletic setting, it’s more challenging to make it equal or gender-neutral because there are always safety concerns.”

“There have been hate crimes against people who are transgender, so these locker room spaces need to be located in safe place. Yet, it gets even more challenging when you think that the solution is not necessarily locating these spaces away from others as a way to provide privacy and safety. The solution comes from pushing the idea that gender-neutral restrooms and locker rooms are the expectation in these spaces, and not just a compliance or accommodation issue. By incorporating that mindset thoughtfully into our designs, that’s how we can promote inclusivity.”

Jenny admits the process isn’t always easy.

Sometimes when the design process is painful and stressful, you tend to forget about the impact your design will eventually have on people.

On how equity and inclusivity fits into our firm’s vision, Jenny agrees that CannonDesign is already working with a diverse client base with diverse end-users in mind. However, she emphasizes that there are opportunities to continue educating ourselves and our clients.

“Where we can improve is understanding that diversity and inclusion are two different things. Simply put, diversity is a representation of many different types of people – gender, race, religion. Diversity focuses on the differences that we have and the mix of all of us,” Jenny explains. “Inclusion is the delivered act of welcoming diversity, and creating the environment where we can all succeed.”

Amir Rezaei-Bazkiaei: Advocating for Smart Design

  • July 20, 2018
  • Author: CannonDesign

A self-described “intrapraneur” and “data geek,” Amir Rezaei-Bazkiaei finds joy in problem-solving and pushing for change inside an organization. With a Ph.D. in environmental engineering and renewable energy, Amir’s passion is using computational design methods to influence the design of net-zero and positive-energy buildings. As CannonDesign’s high-performance building analyst, he raises the performance bar daily by advocating for better energy efficiency, output and utilization through analysis.

“Globally, 40 to 60 percent of all energy consumption is via buildings. They are the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. If we could change that, it would make a big difference,” Amir says. “If it was up to me, I’d mandate all new buildings be designed net-zero.”

Though he doesn’t have that kind of power (yet), Amir is committed to doing what he can to ensure CannonDesign commits to building net-zero and positive-energy buildings when possible.

“There’s a shift in the way that designers are working,” he says. “We want to know how our buildings are going to perform once built. It’s about designing buildings that will be energy efficient – maybe even net-zero – while also being comfortable to live in. This is a priority for the company and it’s great for our clients.”

Born and raised in Iran, Amir immigrated to the U.S. eight years ago, something he credits with shaping him into a natural problem-solver.

I have a different lens because of past experiences. I’ve lived without enough money and within an education system that was lacking, so when there is a challenge or problem I instantly think of different ways to attack it because I’ve had to be resourceful.

Amir’s work as an analyst provides him with constant challenges.

“In real estate, they say it’s all about location, location, location,” he says. “In high-performance building, it’s all about analysis. You need to analyze where you are, what the climate is, how much temperatures fluctuate, how much sunlight you get or don’t get. And then it’s about integration and working with the architecture and engineering departments to incorporate energy models and concepts into the design.”

Once strategies and systems have been decided upon, the other half of the work begins, thinking about what happens when people actually occupy the building.

“There’s always the question of whether or not people will use the building as you had expected and accounted for,” he says. “You can assume the lights are out at night, but if that’s not the case then you’ve got some reconfiguring to do. It’s an ongoing process.”

When he’s not at work, Amir enjoys being with his two young daughters and influencing them to think about design in their daily lives.

“I want to teach them to believe in data and to be curious about how they can make a better living environment for themselves,” he says. And though he misses family (and the food!) in Iran, Amir has found a new home for himself and his family in Buffalo.

“Being an immigrant can sometimes affect the way people treat you in the work environment,” he says.

“When I met the CannonDesign team, I could tell that they valued me for the expertise that I brought to the table and that it didn’t matter where I came from. It’s been a true blessing to be in an environment that fosters diversity.”

Mike Tunkey: Designing a Better Buffalo

  • July 20, 2018
  • Author: CannonDesign

After being burdened for decades by post-industrial blight and economic decline, Buffalo, N.Y. is shedding its downtrodden image. Thanks to a community dedicated to restoring the Queen City to its former glory, good design and collaboration are putting Buffalo back on the map with fresh takes on historic buildings, a renewed interest in downtown, and a thriving entrepreneurial and culinary scene.

Our own Mike Tunkey, Principal at CannonDesign, was born and raised in Buffalo but, like many of his peers, left after graduation. After heading up our Shanghai office for eight years, Mike returned to his hometown with an eye on designing a better Buffalo for all.

Few American cities can rival Buffalo’s outstanding design. The Queen City’s historical architecture has always set it apart and, now restoration, of these impressive buildings is fueling its renaissance.

“Buffalo has a legacy of architecture,” says Mike. “At one point, all of the world’s greatest architects were building in Buffalo, including H.H. Richardson and Frank Lloyd Wright.”

The most prominent example of this is the Richardson Olmsted Campus, designed in 1872 by H.H. Richardson and Frederik Law Olmsted as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. The towering, Romanesque building was recently transformed into Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center. “As a kid, that building seemed really spooky and domineering and now it’s been reimagined as this super cool boutique hotel,” says Mike.

With most of the city’s historic buildings now housing hip new restaurants and small businesses, the community has important decisions to make.

“Generally, there’s a feeling that we have now reached a tipping point,” says Mike. “People are interested in the city again, younger people are staying here or returning, and we’ve had tremendous interest and success in preservation and adaptive reuse. Now it’s time to consider what’s next.”

Working with the Buffalo Futures Forum, Mike aims to answer that question by asking it of others.

“The general consensus is that we should focus on public spaces more, increase public transportation, improve city schools, add more parks and play spaces, and increase access to the waterfront,” he says. “There’s a lot of focus on keeping downtown attractive and livable, not just for new city residents but for the people who’ve been living here a long time. We have work to do in Buffalo around equity.”

The issue of equity is at the forefront of Mike’s work as Principal on CannonDesign’s contemporary 201 Ellicott project. “I try to look past the building and also think about urban opportunities,” he says. “This project is in a traditionally African-American community that was cut off from the rest of the city by poor infrastructure choices. It’s also one of the city’s biggest food deserts so we’ve been working with partners to bring food options, a park, and welcoming public art to the facade of the site. We want this building to provide amenities to the greater community while engaging and connecting us all.”

“Engaging and connecting” seems to sum up the work that Mike is doing in Buffalo, both at CannonDesign and beyond. He serves on four boards and participates in several other organizations and committees, all with the main goal of making his hometown a better place to live.

“Buffalo is a small, approachable city,” he says. “I’ve been able to engage here in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to in New York or Shanghai. The opportunities may be more limited in terms of how many buildings go up, but for me, it’s a little more real and palpable because it’s personal — this city is home.”

A day in the life of CannonDesign Environmental Graphics

  • January 2, 2018
  • Author: CannonDesign

Lindi BieryLindi Biery, an environmental graphic designer based in our Boston Office, tells us what sparked her interest in the A/E industry and why she is passionate about environmental graphics.

Tell us about your transition from a graphic design student to becoming an environmental graphics designer in the A/E industry.

The beginning of my transition from graphic design student to environmental graphic designer happened during my junior year at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art). My best friend and I decided to sign up for a lesser known elective class that looked interesting to us: Environmental Graphics. At the time, I had been somewhat struggling trying to figure out what “kind” of graphic designer I wanted to be. There were many classes focusing on web/app design, UX design, and motion graphics but none of these really felt really fulfilling to me — even though I was a T.A. for one of them! My dad owns his own construction company, and growing up he and my mom designed and built most of the houses we lived in. That’s probably why I’ve always been keenly aware of and have a great appreciation for the ways which spaces and environments impact us.

The Environmental Graphics course seemed like the perfect way to marry my interest of 2D design and appreciation for 3D spaces. I ended up being so interested that I ended up auditing the class – on top of a full course load and internship because I couldn’t get enough! After I graduated, I joined the Environmental Graphic Design group here at CannonDesign, and I hit the ground running. While my classic Graphic Design training was immensely useful, I had a lot to learn in regards to making my 2D designs into 3D signs and exhibits. Over the past five years my technical understanding and execution has grown exponentially and I now have the ability to make (almost) all of the designs I dream up into a physical reality.

What’s something that most people don’t know about what environmental graphic design encompasses?

I think the wide breadth of project types and expertise typically surprises most people about environmental graphics. When someone asks me what I do, my typical elevator speech lists environmental graphic design as signage and wayfinding systems, graphic programs, exhibit design and spatial branding. Within each of those buckets, there is a lot of variety and nuance and detail depending on project type, scale, and scope. However, the overarching theme is the visual communication of a message – or the brand or even the story – within an environment.

One thing that I think people misunderstand is that signage is just “code required signage” and is therefore an afterthought or boring. In reality, a ton of thoughtful planning goes into figuring out how to circulate and navigate people throughout a space. While signs are certainly functional, they have the potential to be really beautiful and sculptural pieces of art as well.

How did you get your start at CannonDesign?

During the spring semester of my senior year of college, I was contacted by a recruiter from CannonDesign. The head of the Graphic Design Department at MICA referred me to the recruiter, knowing of my growing excitement for environmental graphics. Shortly after, I had my first conversation with Chris Hayes, the leader of our Environmental Graphics Group and a fellow MICA alum — and I was instantly sold on the group’s design philosophy and portfolio. Determined to be a part of CannonDesign’s EGD team, I continued demonstrate my enthusiasm for the position by persistently reaching out over the following months. My persistence paid off! I joined the EGD group in June following my graduation that spring and haven’t looked back since.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

I always joke that my favorite part of my job is that I’m never bored! This might seem like a flippant answer, but in actuality, it’s the sincere truth. For me, every day is a new adventure in terms of what kind of work I will be tackling. The variety of our projects – scales and scopes of all sizes, the range of project types, and the diversity of our clients – presents me with new opportunities and new challenges to meet every day. For example, one day I will be tackling a wayfinding system for a large hospital, striving to develop a system which makes the user’s experience as stress-free as possible; and the next day, I’ll be designing an experiential graphics program for a University Rec Center which communicates the vision of the student body. Most days, you’ll find me doing a little of both!

There is one constant in all this variety though, and that’s the fulfilment I get from knowing that if I’ve done my job well, in some way big or small, I will have positively impacted someone’s experience – and hopefully their day.

Design Recognition in 2017

  • December 18, 2017
  • Author: CannonDesign

This is the season when we take a gratifying moment to pause and reflect on the incredible amount of design recognition our firm, our people and our work garnered over the last year. From being named one of the 10 most innovative architecture firms in the world by Fast Company to winning more than a dozen AIA awards from chapters around the country, our work is making a significant impact on the future of the built environment through design excellence…and we couldn’t be more proud.

In 2017, our teams took home 74 design awards for design excellence and innovation. To see the full list of awards, download this infographic.

Download our design recognition infographic >


2017 Year in Review

  • December 18, 2017
  • Author: CannonDesign

As designers, we are incredibly fortunate to do what we love every day — to help organizations around the world leverage design to grow their missions, help their people, enrich their communities and so much more. As we look toward our future in 2018, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on this past year and share some of our proudest accomplishments.

Fast Company names CannonDesign one of the 10 most innovative architecture firms in the world

It’s been about 11 months since Fast Company made this big announcement, and we haven’t stopped smiling since. The magazine recognized our firm for our ability to implement impactful innovation for more than 100 years. Also during 2017, Fast Company recognized our design of Cook County’s Bond Court as one of 12 “World Changing Ideas,” gave two of our projects kudos in the annual Innovation by Design Awards, and wrote numerous stories about our projects and people, including this story about how design can support social justice. All to say, innovation was alive and thriving this year at CannonDesign.

FKP and Bennett Wagner Grody Architects join CannonDesign

It’s always exciting welcoming new firms to the family, and we were thrilled to welcome FKP and Bennett Wagner Grody Architects this year. FKP, with offices in Dallas, Houston and Columbus, brings unrivaled expertise in pediatric healthcare, as well as thought leadership in science and education. Bennett Wagner Grody Architects, with an office in Denver, brings nearly 30 years’ experience practicing architecture in Colorado, and is one of the most respected PK-12 and higher education design firms in the region. Together, these two firms brought nearly 130 extremely talented new employees to CannonDesign.

The Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) — the largest healthcare construction project in North America — opens its doors

Talk about a labor of love. For nine years, nearly 200 CannonDesign employees spread across 15 offices contributed their talents to bringing this 3 million SF super hospital in Montreal to life. And in October, patients moved into phase 1 of the development, which includes a 772-bed hospital and an expansive ambulatory care tower. There are so many features that make the CHUM unique — from its urban location to its integration of public art, its preservation of historical architectural artifacts and its sheer size. Without a doubt, there is nothing like it anywhere in the world, and we are beyond honored to have played a part in its creation.

CannonDesign projects recognized with 74 awards for design excellence and innovation

2017 was an outstanding year for design recognition — perhaps one of our best yet — as evidenced by the 74 awards we received for design excellence. Although we don’t measure the success of our work purely on design awards, it’s always wonderful receiving third party recognition from organizations and jurors we respect and admire. Of the awards won, 16 were from the American Institute of Architects (the professional organization for architects). View an infographic of all of our 2017 awards here.

Apple CEO Tim Cook calls Waukee Innovation and Learning Center, “A model for the country”

As part of his visit to Waukee, Iowa, to announce plans for a new data center, Tim Cook swung by the recently opened Waukee Innovation & Learning Center — a project we designed in collaboration with INVISION. The building, which houses Waukee’s Aspiring Professional Experience (APEX) program, is designed to spur intense collaboration between students, educators and business partners with the goal of giving high schoolers the skills they need to become highly skilled innovators and leaders. Speaking with a local news station, Cook added, “We need this kind of opportunity for every kid in America.”

Facility Optimization Solutions (FOS) team hits a huge milestone: more than 225 million SF of space assessed!

We launched our FOS service three years ago to help clients facilitate strategic decision making, secure funds for capital investment and extend the life of assets through data-driven recommendations. One of FOS’ key services is facility assessments, and in the last three years, they’ve assessed more than 225 million square feet of space. And best yet, they’ve achieved a 100% client satisfaction rating along the way.

The University of Utah’s Lassonde Studios wraps up its first year, and the results are incredible

When the University of Utah announced plans for Lassonde Studios, it wanted to create a place where students could “dream big and change the world.” And now halfway through its second year, this first-of-a-kind building is doing exactly that. Home to the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, a nationally ranked hub for student entrepreneurship and innovation, the building merges more than 400 student residences with an innovation center — making innovation and entrepreneurship a 24/7 endeavor. With its first full year complete in spring 2017, Lassonde Studios helped launch 328 student-led startup teams (more than 3X the number launched in 2016), and was recognized by the New York Times, Business Insider, Fast Company and SXSW.

Events everywhere

One of the best ways to engage with clients and our peers is to share our expertise at national, industry and local events. In addition to having employees speak at more than 50 events this year, we broke new ground as we took the stage at leading innovation conferences, including SXSWedu, Fast Company Innovation Festival, Chicago Ideas Week, Chicago Tech Week, Indy Day of Innovation, BD+C’s Accelerate Live!, U.S. News & World Report’s Healthcare of Tomorrow and the World Design Summit. We also hosted a Metropolis Think Tank focused on designing for socioeconomic progress, and launched the Buffalo Urban Futures Forum to facilitate conversations and ideas focused on the future of Buffalo.

CannonDesign employees support hurricane relief efforts

Although many great things happened in 2017, hurricane season brought wide-spread devastation to cities across the coast. To help support relief efforts, our employees came together and donated $8,488 to disaster relief organizations. To increase the impact of those contributions, CannonDesign matched the amount — taking the total donated to $17,000. Although there is still much to be done before all impacted areas fully recover, we’re extremely proud of our employees’ generosity and kindness in the midst of this difficult period.

A banner year for media coverage

Our projects, ideas and people were fortunate to be covered by hundreds of media outlets this year. Here’s a few of our favorites: Architectural Digest called the University of Utah’s Lassonde Studios one of the  9 best new university buildings in the world, Contract published the University of San Diego Health’s Jacobs Medical Center; Healthcare Design featured CHUM on its cover; Interior Design magazine named Mark Hirons its “Workplace Designer of the Year”; Metropolis featured CannonDesign extensively in an article about community colleges; Fast Company featured our redesign of the Cook County Bond Court; and CNN profile two of our healthcare projects. For more media coverage, check out the insights page of our website.

2017 will definitely go down in the books as one of our favorite years yet. And while this year in review gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on all we’ve accomplished, we’ve already got our sights set on the future. Here’s looking at you 2018!