Why every designer needs to care about design integrity

Guest blog by Kenneth P. Baker IIDA, SBID, Assoc. AIA, Assoc. ASID, Assoc. RIBA – Gensler Co-Managing Principal, Southeast Region

The architecture and design industry is fueled by creative, imaginative and innovative people with a deep sense of passion for our work. We get emotionally attached to our projects, and take immense pride when that work is recognized by our clients and our peers in the industry. Gensler decided to become a board member of Be Original Americas because we believe that these elements of our industry’s culture need to be protected, and we need to ensure that every designer is practicing with the highest level of design integrity to ensure a prosperous future for everyone.

PNC Tower, Pittsburgh. Photo: Connie Zhou

Our firm has its own product design practice area, and since we’re putting the time, resources and energy into designing new and innovative products for our clients, we don’t want our products to be reproduced by other manufacturers looking to profit off our hard work. Because we are invested in protecting the power of our own brand, we only use products sourced from their original developer in our projects. We practice what we preach, and we’re trying to elevate the conversation in the industry so other firms can see the value in following suit.

We all love and are inspired by great design, and when we see a product that would be perfect for a client that simply won’t find the budget for it, the temptation to find a cheaper alternative can be overwhelming. The problem is, by failing to respect the work of our peers in the industry we are making it difficult for talented people to invest in the next round of design innovation. That’s not the kind of industry that we want to be, and it’s not the kind of professional that anyone ever aspires to be. So what’s the answer?

Original pieces in the Sidley Austin LLP offices. Photo: Michael Moran

We need to invest in our people, especially our young and up-and-coming design talent, and create an industry-wide education process to solve this problem. We need to commit to working with trusted manufacturers that respect the hard work of their competition. This doesn’t mean we need to exclude smaller manufacturers, it just means we have an obligation to educate ourselves about the companies we choose to work with.

As designers, we create the solutions that make a difference in people’s lives. Our work is about more than ourselves, and it’s one of the great virtues of our profession. If we are going to come together to design solutions to the big problems people are facing every day in their workplaces, their communities and even their daily lives we need to hold ourselves accountable for the conduct and reputation of our peers across the industry. I believe that we can do this, and we will, and that is one of the many reasons why I’m proud of Gensler’s decision to be a part of Be Original Americas.


Gensler is widely recognized as the world’s leading and largest collaborative architecture & design firm.

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