Collaboration In Action: Q & A with DBI’s Anne Regan and Jill Albers

The objective for every DBI project is to exceed our clients’ expectations because, above all, we value strong and enduring relationships. It is this philosophy that also drives our firm’s culture: that through collaboration, we develop an appreciation of every team member’s strengths—and establish the time-tested relationships that form lasting bonds among our designers. DBI Insight sat down with two veteran team members, Senior Project Manager Anne Regan and Project Manager Jill Albers, to discuss their DBI experience, their design processes, and, ultimately, their friendship.

How long have you been with DBI?

Jill: I’ve been with DBI since 2005, so almost eight years. I came on as an intern when Anne had already been here as an intern for two years.
Anne: Jill and I shared a desk at our Tysons studio for a year. [DBI’s Tysons Corner studio relocated to Reston in 2006.]

Jill: Probably more like a year and a half.
Anne: So we became real friendly.
Jill: We both became full-time in July 2005.

What is your role at DBI?

Jill: I am a Project Manager, which means that I help run projects. I help manage the team that is doing production, coordinating palettes, and putting the construction documents together. Often, I am the point-of-contact for clients and consultants. I help run all phases of production from programming through construction administration.
Anne: Jill and I function the same way. We have the same tasks. We get to do the same things—just on different projects. I, as a Senior Manager, help manage the staff in the office and divvy up the teams on a project-by-project basis.

What are two of your latest projects?

Anne: I just finished GetWellNetwork. This is our project that received an IIDA award a few weeks ago. I also finished, just last week, the National Endowment for the Arts/National Endowment for the Humanities space, a government project that we did at Constitution Center downtown.
Jill: I’m just wrapping up a project in DC for the Certified Financial Planning Board. That space came out great. We are currently in construction on Cosmetic Surgery Associates, which is a small surgery office in Bethesda.

Walk us through your design process. How do you begin, and move through, a project?

Jill: Well, it can vary from project to project and client to client, but we usually like to start with programming. So, we sit down with clients, get to know them, and interview them.
Anne: We interview their marketing team, have a conversation with the staff as to what they think the space should look like. That starts design development.
Jill: We often tour their existing facilities to find out what they like and to try to get a feel for them. That rolls into the design development, as Anne was saying, and from there we get to have fun and play around and be creative. Once we have a design or a concept that the client likes, then we take that into our construction documents. We “disappear” from the client for a little while and go into our studio to produce all of our wonderful drawings. We reemerge at the end with a nice, beautiful set of drawings to hand over to a general contractor. We go into pricing and construction from there.
Anne: Then, during construction, we get to build all of the things we just took all of that time to draw, and make sure it comes out right to get a final product that the client actually enjoys…that meets all of their needs that we tried to figure out in the beginning through the programming and design phase.

Describe some of the signature elements that you bring, or that DBI brings, to a project.

Anne: I think the beauty of DBI is that we don’t have a signature, that every project actually speaks to that specific client. It speaks to their brand, their culture, and all the work that we’ve done previously in all of our programming and cultural understanding of how they work. I think that it is really inherent to DBI that we don’t do every space the same, so that you know it’s a “DBI space.” It’s not supposed to be our project; it’s supposed to be their project, and we’re just facilitating their company.
Jill: I agree with that. As design professionals, we definitely try to tell our clients what we think is functional for an office. One thing I always encourage clients to check out, and I know Anne feels the same way, is community spaces, which are a huge part of the cultural side of a company. At DBI, we use our breakroom. Our breakroom is our community area. That’s where we like to hang out and get together as a group, whether for lunch or informal meetings. Like Anne said, we don’t have a DBI stamp that we put on a project; each one is very different. But those are elements that we like to encourage our clients to adopt when we can.

Why hire DBI?

Anne: Because we are superfun.
Jill: We are superfun. Well, like Anne said earlier, we don’t have a signature look. We really want our space to reflect our client; and we want their brand to be what is shining through. A lot of times, clients have good, strong brands but just don’t know how to reflect it in their space. And that’s what we want to do. We want to find a fun element, or “wow” factor, or something that really speaks to the company. I think that we are very good at that. [Pauses.] And the fact that we are fun. Anne and I have been working together for eight-plus years; we not only work together well but we have fun together. We enjoy each other’s company. It’s like that with so many people in this office; the long-term relationships and employees go such a long way when you are working day-in and day-out with someone on a project.

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