Taylor Design

Taylor Design is a strategy-based design firm with practices in Architectural Design, Interior Design and Design Strategy; with offices in northern and southern California.


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Gary Davidson Celebrates 30 Years with Taylor Design

Celebrating 30 Years with Gary Davidson

An interview with Gary Davidson, Principal | Chief Financial Officer

How did you first become involved with Taylor Design?

In my previous life I was building boats, working in a boat shop underneath Linda Taylor’s husband Dave’s sail making loft. In those days, Dave and I talked regularly and he knew I was looking for a change. I had a degree in marketing but wasn’t really using it in the business world. At Dave’s suggestion, I reached out to Linda and we sat down for an interview. We hit it off and she offered me a job doing CAD – something I knew nothing about, but since I was always very interested in architecture and design, it was an attractive offer. Besides, how hard could it be? Even Mike Brady could do it! I soon learned otherwise.

Linda’s philosophy, which I firmly believe is still the firm’s philosophy today, was to hire good people first, then give them the autonomy, mentoring and training to follow a path they’re passionate about. When people succeed, the firm succeeds. I’m very thankful to be a beneficiary of that philosophy!

Why did you choose to stay at Taylor Design?

I suppose another angle on that question is “why are you still here?” And the answer to that is simple – Taylor Design has always been a fun and rewarding place to spend my workdays. Every day brings new challenges and my professional growth has been supported tremendously over the years. I’ve never stopped learning. The people I work with are all passionate about the effect their creativity has on the world. I’ve always worked hard to help the firm succeed and been treated fairly. And it’s been a joy to grow with the firm over the last thirty years.

Looking back, what changes have you seen in the field over the years?

Funny question because I came to the firm at the birth of CAD and we thought we were pretty darn advanced. We “operated” AutoCAD on ridiculously expensive Sun Sparc stations running UNIX, using digitizers instead of mice. Staff shared 386 PC workstations and phones. We plotted on a huge electrostatic plotter. We relied on smelly blueprinting and paper was everywhere. Color printing was available but exorbitantly expensive. Our original fax machine cost like $2,800 but boy was it a game-changer. E-mail was non-existent, computer networks were just becoming the norm, and the World Wide Web was still a crazy idea in Al Gore’s head.

Obviously, things are a bit different today, but I’d say the biggest difference I see is the intense speed at which we’re required to deliver our work. That, and the expectation that we’ve addressed every single nuance and complexity of the products, costs, codes and regulations that surround our work – simply because there’s no excuse not to know that stuff. The information is readily available. The internet has changed everything, arguably in every field. I’m constantly humbled by the levels of expertise that reside in our firm today.

What inspires you in the work you do?

Although I studied marketing, it’s juggling all the different components of a business – people, finance, marketing, technology, product, strategy, etc. – to a successful result that really excites me. Over the years I’ve found opportunities to touch all aspects of the business and I’ve been granted the freedom to make a difference. My overarching focus is to see happy people deliver empowering solutions, growing professionally and building their family’s wealth as a result of their passionate efforts.

And anyone who knows me knows that continuous improvement is in my blood. I can’t sit still. If you’re not constantly improving your world – your designs, processes, people and opportunities – then you’re regressing. Others will quickly pass you by. Collaborating and adapting to improve our collective game gets me out of bed every day.

What has been your greatest accomplishment during your 30 years here?

Other than landing a really great job with a really great company thirty years ago, my proudest achievements have all been a result of working with teams of dedicated people to craft and deliver big solutions. The leadership teams I’ve worked with over the years have been outstanding. The design, project delivery and admin teams, amazing.

On the project side, certainly being a part of delivering the Hoag Women’s Pavilion – a landmark in my community – stands out. As the IT leader for a number of years, it was huge transitioning the firm to Windows 95 (yes, 95!) and bringing Windows networking and e-mail to Taylor Design. Office relocations, new offices and the successful acquisition of the San Francisco office are also top contenders. All were really great team efforts.

But perhaps the most notable accomplishment for me is the legacy that the 2016 leadership team will leave the future of the firm – 100% ESOP ownership. This challenging transition took place over a number of years and will continue to benefit the firm for years to come. Not only in terms of financial stability, but also in reinforcing a commitment to broad-based employee ownership and taking advantage of all the cultural positives that come from that. The power of owning a piece of the company you work for cannot be overstated.

Name one word that describes what Taylor Design means to you.

When I was interviewed for our 40th anniversary video, I came up with the word “human” and I’ll stick with that. The firm is living, breathing, growing. It makes mistakes, and it has its share of ups and downs. But like most good humans, it’s constantly striving to make itself better, to treat people fairly with integrity, to live long and prosper (credit to Spock there), and to leave a strong legacy behind for the next generation. I hope humble confidence and entrepreneurial spirit are always core values at Taylor Design because these basic human traits have been at the root of our success since 1979.

Any final thoughts?

I’m so incredibly thankful to Linda for the opportunity to be part of the firm’s life over the last thirty years. That said, I’m not retiring yet! Now is a fantastic time to be at Taylor Design and our future looks very bright. I’m so impressed with the current leadership, its unity, direction and aspirations, and the strength of our talented staff. I can’t wait to see how the firm leverages its potential over the years ahead.