Written by Daniel Woodroffe
2,555 days ago my career took a remarkable turn. As I write this, I can’t help but reflect and be in awe of how this experience continues to be liberating, eye opening, educating, and most important — incredibly fun and transformative, as we stomp out our agenda of Landscape Urbanism.
This goes out to every single one of you that has helped make dwg. what we are today. I am in awe of the trust, support, love and friendships you have shared with us. Thank you. Seriously.
While starting my own firm was always an aspirational career goal, making that leap of faith was an emotional decision — particularly when leaving a firm that, for the better part of my professional career, had been a place of great experiences and mentorships. However, 2010 was, without doubt, the right time. With the 2008 stock market crash in full effect, it became increasingly clear to me that in the resulting, “down, but not out” economy, our clients, and (to a larger extent) the market were demanding a new approach to the design profession. “Big ship” firms proved increasingly challenged to react quickly, while the market constantly screamed for rapid innovation and small tactical moves that exemplified creativity on a shoestring budget. Truth is, we were all in the same boat – Clients and Designers alike — having little or no money to spend, but doing everything possible to keep the doors open and remain relevant in an ever increasingly competitive market. It was apparent that, with the right pitch and approach to nimble and scrappy work, this small and impactful (but steady) stream of “support-each-other” work could be a powerful springboard moment for a new firm.
So, I seized the opportunity to open a design studio that challenged the role of urban ecological systems, urbanism and social change. Thankfully, Texas’ economy did not stall completely and the market here kept limping along. This proved to be my now-or-never moment. Armed with a direct and straightforward business plan, a micro-studio space in my east-side loft, and a trusted freelancer (Happy birthday Owen!), I signed the paperwork and launched dwg.
Then something wonderful happened — even before I had time to call my clients and friends, the word/whispers/gossip spread virally and the phone calls started flooding in. I remember very clearly one of the first conversations — “It’s about bloody time, Daniel! Now, you are either crazy, or a genius, launching at this time…but let’s figure out how can we help each other.” And the rest, they say, is history. Everything is subject to change!
The dwg. circle of friends and trusted clients solidified overnight. Seven years on, we have been so, so blessed to have seen amazing growth, shared great successes and celebrated some truly game-changing opportunities. We have tended our Austin “backyard” and have also been taken far and wide. As a firm of twenty [bona-fide badasses], we are proud to be a leader of the new Landscape Renaissance where urban planning, sociology, design and innovation are creating increasingly more responsive, dynamic and resilient urban environments. We are planning eco-lodges in Pennsylvania, sustainable developments in the deserts of the middle east, implementing state-of-the-art campuses for Fortune 500 technology giants and building green roofs downtown. Later this year, we are proudly cutting the ribbon the first new urban plaza/park on Congress Avenue since the city of Austin was founded in 1839!
I regularly look back to that first week, month, year and remember how liberated (and terrified) I was every day. Honestly, I would not change a thing. I am so fortunate to work with a team of wickedly smart and talented individuals that are changing the world!
So, where does dwg. go from here?
We are going to have more fun, cause more trouble and further step up and change the world with innovation, design excellence and leadership. We will continue to leverage our collective talent and skills to provide unique solutions and specialization that promotes our expertise in our community and in the design industry at large. Onwards and upwards…
Everything IS subject to change.