Published on: December 21, 2016 by Rachelle Ageev
Each year end is a time to reflect on the blessings that we at GNU Group enjoy.
We take this time to pay it forward to our community by helping those in need. Each year we join with Brighter Beginnings to help make the holidays a little brighter. The GNU team purchases gifts for our adopted family of five, enjoy a present wrapping party in the office and deliver them in time for Christmas.
We also make sure we take time out to celebrate our own hard work with a celebration that brings our team and extended families together. Everyone at GNU wishes you and a very joyous holiday and a happy GNU year!
GNUs from ULI
Published on: November 17, 2016 by Rich Burns
The Urban Land Institute’s mission is “to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and creating sustaining thriving communities worldwide.”
As the preeminent organization dedicated to the real estate industry, ULI casts a very wide net. Virtually every land use type, critical movements and trending issues, best practices and innovative initiatives are all within ULI’s purview. The efficacy with which ULI fulfills this mission is always on display at the Annual Fall Meeting. Held this year in downtown Dallas, the meeting was testament to the depth and quality by which ULI delivers on its mandate.
The meeting is four days of educational programs, keynote addresses, mobile workshops, tours, social and networking events. Without question it is an opportunity to take the pulse of what’s really happening in the broad world of real estate. From casual interaction with the nearly 6000 attendees, coupled with in-depth presentations on economics one quickly gains insight to the state of the industry. By this year’s measure, the operative description is ‘cautiously optimistic’.
This year the meeting took on a different demeanor from past year. The 2015 meeting in San Francisco strongly focused on how changing demographics and disruptive technologies (think Uber, AirB&B, Amazon, Facebook) are altering the world of real estate and provoked serious consideration of how real estate will respond. This year was characterized by presentations on topics such as social movements, art installations, food production, healthy living and other ‘soft’ subjects. While filled with interesting lessons, last year imperative to action was missing.
This had a certain irony to it in as much as the meeting took place shortly before the election. It was almost as if the attendees had been issued a request not to talk about it. Only one session dared to bring up the subject in a clinical discussion of economic forecasts. Ken Rosen, from UC’s Fischer Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, explained that the candidates’ positions being so ‘diametrically opposed’, were worthy of discussion. He predicted that the push for infrastructure programs by both would be a huge positive for real estate. However, he cautioned that a new administration would take some time to ramp up, particularly given the lack of shovel ready projects. He worried about restrictive trade policies while explaining that immigration is responsible for 50% of the US population growth and changed policies could become a major deterrent for real estate. This same panel predicted interest rates might rise to 2.5% in the next 2-3 years and that the next recession is still a few years off.
ULI is a wealth of resources. Recapping the meeting just scratches the surface of the volume of available information. Linked below are a few of the important publications that can be found on the uli.org website and that should be required reading for real estate professionals.
Comprehensive predictions for the future are captured in ULI’s seminal publication, An annual survey of almost 2000 real estate professionals.
A three-year forecast (‘16’-18) for 27 economic and real estate indicators.
Report on the state of sustainability practices.
Introduction to an important new initiative on how to incorporate energy savings into tenant spaces in commercial buildings. This program was introduced at the meeting and promises to revolutionize the way tenant spaces are designed and built out.
Take a dip into our SPA™
Published on: October 19, 2016 by Rachelle Ageev
The Sign Profile Analysis™ (SPA™) parallels what the architectural community calls research or programming.
Our SPA™ is distinguished by the way it presents the findings. The evaluation and processing of the myriad of project details result in the SPA™ document. This document is comprised of the following components.
• Circulation Plans – depict paths of travel to all spaces in and around your project.
• Use Plans – identifies all major functions.
• Sign Location Analysis – shows locations of each sign type.
• Sign Hierarchy – identifies each sign type by a specific category:
• Branding features that communicate your organization’s identity
• Wayfinding signs orchestrate traffic from one destination to another
• Identification signs to help people understand the environment
• Regulatory signs to meet compliance requirements
• Sign Count / Preliminary Pricing – estimates for the cost to fabricate and install
The SPA™ delivers a comprehensive document, presentation of findings and recommendations for discussion that includes a complete sign count, pricing of design and fabrication options, budget ranges of high/low for each sign type, wayfinding strategy, research of sign codes based on project jurisdiction and finally, any electrical, lighting, and landscape information you need to know to prevent add services at a later date.
Like a house or a car, the cost depends on the details. When we’re done with the SPA™, you will have everything you need to make informed decisions about what things will cost and how to allocate your signage budgets.
For more information, watch our video on the SPA™!
GNU Place, GNU Face
Published on: September 13, 2016 by Rachelle Ageev
Will Ayers has joined the GNU Group to lead our expansion in Southern California. With the opening of a downtown Los Angeles office, we’re adding new dimensions to our over 40-year legacy of serving clients worldwide.
We welcome Will joins as a Principal and member of our Leadership Team. He brings to the firm an extraordinary pedigree in environmental branding and experiential design and we look forward to our new home in the iconic architectural landmark – the Fine Arts Building.
Growing Fast at 40+
Published on: November 3, 2015 by Rachelle Ageev
How can a firm that’s already been in business for over 40 years be one of the SF Business Times Bay Area’s 100 Fastest Growing Private Companies?
“Growth is an important measure of success,” explains GNU Group President/CEO Phil Murphy, “We’re constantly seeking ways to improve our performance and have implemented a number of programs and changes recently that are making a difference.” Our recent success can be directly attributed to our company culture.
While every company has a distinct culture, some are by default and some are by design. Ours is strategic and is the foundation of our practice. We call it GNU’s Explicit Culture™. It is based on 4 simple and straight-forward pillars.
1. Financial Transparency – As Phil explains, “Everyone is an owner but without the same degree of risk.” We share performance goals and results. In addition to making all information available, the firm is committed to sharing the success. Everyone knows what is expected of them and how their contributions will impact the firm’s success and how they will share in the rewards.
2. Prescribed Processes – Our success is predicated on creativity and efficiency. Our processes and training may be atypical of a creative firm but systems never inhibit creativity. Good management is fundamental to both our client’s and our own success.
3. Honest Communications – We promote candid and open discourse. It eliminates agendas that bubble below the surface in so many companies. Perhaps more than any other factor, honest communications has been the foundation of the firm’s culture.
4. Personal Responsibility – The expectations incumbent in the first 3 pillars mean that everyone is accountable. This requires doing what you say you will do, adhering to the processes, bringing a positive and energetic attitude to the office each day, respecting your peers and wanting to be a part of the company’s future.
Our team continues to grow and our leadership is constantly seeking opportunities for improvement. Our merger with Donnelly Design combined the talents of Tom Donnelly and Dickson Keyser to greatly enhance our design team’s capabilities. Our Director of Business Development, Martin Kindred, has brought us wonderful opportunities, clients and projects. Andrea Guzman, our Director of Project Management, leads an inspired group dedicated to delivering Pain Free project management for every assignment. Phil believes the recent addition of Sandi Najera as COO, who joins us from AECOM, is adding a new perspectives for our leadership team and business strategies while allowing him to focus on GNU’s future growth. Our entire team of 33 professionals come to work each day committed to our Explicit Culture™ and are laser focused on delighting our clients with the best possible service and solutions.
Published on: September 29, 2015 by Andrea Guzman
The recently opened Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto provides affordable care to the community’s lowest income patients. After 15 years of operating out of modular buildings, the move to a spacious, colorful, light filled two story facility is an important addition to quality healthcare for everyone.
The Center draws patients from an ethnically diverse audience that includes mostly non-English speakers. The wayfinding and signage program needed to make information comprehensible to all. To accommodate the area’s large Tongan Population, the GNU Group designed signage that includes translations in English, Spanish and Tongan. website directory The program is enhanced with Universal Wayfinding iconography based on Hablamos Juntos, a system of graphic symbols designed for health care facilities serving diverse public users, with special focus on those with low literacy and limited English proficiency.
Hablamos Juntos means “We speak together.” It is a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in an ongoing partnership with SEGD. “The combination of tri-lingual signage, the Hablamos Juntos icons, color coding and prominent placement of messages all contribute to spaces that are easy to navigate,” explains Andrea Guzman, GNUs Director of Project management.
Graphics and wayfinding were closely coordinated with Inde Architects and Creo Landscape Architects to assure that design expressions, color palettes, locations and placement were harmonious throughout the Center. GNU also designed the Center’s Donor Recognition program. The Center is made possible by multimillion-dollar donations from individuals and organizations. Prominently acknowledging them through naming rights and identification within the Center was key to the program.
“Our creative team was able to capture the spirit and vision for the Center through every aspect of the design. The signage and graphics set exactly the right tone and meets the unusually complex wayfinding needs of the Center.” Luisa Buada, Executive Director – Ravenswood
Keeping Austin Weird
Published on: June 23, 2015 by Dickson Keyser
Today’s corporations are intently focused on expressing their unique cultures through their overall branding programs, while allowing the distinction of their varied locations to shine. In opening their Austin, Texas facilities, Australian based Atlassian, wanted to meld their corporate culture with the distinct character that defines Austin. Diverse. Local. Weird.
Atlassian is an international company specializing in software to plan, collaborate, code, and service. Built for teams. GNU was invited to help capture the Austin dynamic in an environmental branding program that enhances their interior spaces.
GNU collaborated with the local project architects, Lauck Group. The GNU team immersed themselves in the City, engaged with the Atlassian stakeholders, collaborated with the architect and gained a special understanding of what makes Austin, Austin.
“It was important for Atlassian to display its Corporate Brand in our new Austin office while infusing the space with a unique local flair. The GNU Group worked seamlessly with our entire team to understand how graphics and signage could reinforce the Austin office’s character and culture. Their solutions are highly creative and work amazingly well in our interiors.” – Eric Nelson, Atlassian
A focal point of the program is an interactive company timeline. This kinetic wall includes rotating “pillars” that correspond to years, past and present, which not only depict Atlassian’s corporate history, but also provides glimpses into its future. When aligned, the pillars present a dramatic view of Austin’s skyline. Click here to see a video of the wall in action. As well as providing a dynamic backdrop, the timeline it is an important tool to introduce new employees to the company’s legacy.
Beyond the timeline, GNU also designed the facility’s signage program, from a large wooden logo that floats above one of the common areas, to servery graphics calling out “snacklassian” and “eatlassian”, to the room identification signs. Local firms including Building Image Group (BIG) fabricated and installed the program.
Conserving Water – One Sign at a Time
Published on: May 26, 2015 by Rich Burns
Through 40 years of practice in California we’ve seen our share of droughts. Governor Brown’s recent mandate for a 25% cut in water use makes the new entry to West Valley College in Saratoga not only a bold new image, but also an investment in environmental sustainability.
The team of TLCD Architecture, Quadriga Landscape Architects and GNU Group were intent on creating a powerful environmental brand for the college while replacing water hungry turf with a drought resistant landscape.
The 60 foot long main sign and the two electronic displays boldly express West Valley College’s brand and incorporate a fresh approach to the campus’ trademark oak leaf logo. The sculptural leaf elements float in front of sign surface adding sculptural form to the monuments. domain names . The signs are fabricated of self-healing, earth tone Cor-Ten steel and merge seamlessly with the drought tolerant landscaping and the storm water recharge basin at the base of the site.
The two electronic displays not only announce campus events, but are programmed with rotating inspirational messages such as – Grow, Collaborate, Success. Scott Ludwig, WVC Director of Communications and Technology, explains, “Students now walk up to me and spontaneously exclaim “Collaborate!”- taking their cues from the reader boards.”
Quadriga aided the school in creating an “Oak Nursery” that surrounds the new entry signs. These newly planted trees will be used to replace the many Oaks surrounding the campus that are reaching the end of their life cycle. Along with the nursery, two historic Palm trees were relocated to the area. The Palms were originally planted near the farmhouse that once stood where the campus is today.
“The multiple challenges of transforming this important space, including sensitivity and commitment to the environmental concerns, made working with this team and the college an especially rewarding experience,” explains Dickson Keyser, GNU’s Director of Design. “The new entry is an important affirmation of how design can solve a number of problems.”
“The campus and nearby community has taken notice of the change and is appreciative of the dynamism of the statement. Over time, as they discover the other elements, it will become an even richer experience” -Alan Butler, TLCD
California’s drought is serious. Click here for water conservation tips.
GNU’s Sign Profile Analysis™
Published on: April 9, 2015 by Phil Murphy
The Sign Profile Analysis™ is the first step in a comprehensive process that we call the Sign System Navigator™. It defines all of the requirements for creating a complete signage program, including how to incorporate branding, the wayfinding strategy, the project needs, sign hierarchy, messages, locations, quantities and much more. The following are among the many issues that are resolved during the SPA™.
FUNCTION: How signs provide direction, information, and identification to make environments easy to navigate.
What’s the wayfinding strategy?
How many message types?
How many signs?
Where do they go?
AESTHETICS: How signs contribute to the visual of the environment with appropriate forms, materials, and graphics.
What are the architectural, interior, landscape and other environmental features that should influence design?
COMPLIANCE: How the design solution assures that facilities meet all code and ordinance requirements.
What are the codes and ordinances that need to be met?
Who are the jurisdictions and agencies that need to pass judgment?
OPERATIONS: How the system will accommodate the costs, life cycle, maintenance, and other considerations.
Who will install?
Who will maintain?
How often do things change?
How long do they need to last?
Can they be ‘green’?
Can they be changed in house?
What’s the reorder process?
IMAGE/BRANDING/MARKETING: How signs support the client’s brand and visual identity.
How will you present your brand?
How will the signs contribute to marketing?
As we work through theses issues for you, we establish budget estimates, and we identify a high & low price for what each sign type might cost. Add them up and you are in a position to know exactly where you want to go to add value to your property and maximize your users/ customer experience.
We take this approach because, like a house or a car, the cost depends on the details. When we’re done with SPA™ our client’s have everything they need to know to make informed decisions about allocating budgets and how to deal with pre-construction issues in order to avoid costly change orders.
Our next step is to design to the criteria established in the SPA™. We can guarantee that the cost of the signs will meet the budget. How do we do that? Well, we’ve been at this for 40 years, we know what things costs. We have great fabrication partners that we turn to when we need additional confirmation of prices and you’ve given us the direction we need to be strategic in our creativity.
And the insight to produce a targeted, creative and highly functional solution and the result is signage that precisely meets your needs. dom information