Published October 20, 2015
Volume 23, Number 10

Gary Drew of Ware Malcomb Finds Success in Designing a

Career through Diversity

By Jay Hipps

Gary Drew, principal with award-winning, international design firm Ware Malcomb, has always been intrigued by diversity.

Gary DrewThe son of an architect, Drew was born in Illinois and grew up in San Diego before earning a BFA in interior design from California State University, Long Beach in 1978. “I have always had an interest in design and construction, which led me to interior design, primarily in the commercial architectural field,” he says. “Interior architecture and design involves the study of what affects space – lighting, furniture, finishes and creating interior spaces that pay respect to the exterior building architecture and environment. The diversity of projects and building types, and shaping environments for people to work in is very rewarding.”

Drew’s excitement for his profession grew in the early years of his career. “I worked for an architectural firm that designed hotels on an international level, including some of the best hotels in the world. That was very exciting and intriguing — it was fun to be a part of that!”

As much as Drew enjoyed hotels, he eventually worked for other architectural firms and construction companies, expanding his design expertise to include commercial office, retail, and medical facilities. While living in Newport Beach, Drew ran his own design firm for 10 years before being hired by Ware Malcomb in 1998. “When I was hired, I had the background and the understanding of construction on an architectural level and was hired to relocate to Northern California to grow the firm’s presence in this market. Since then, we’ve expanded to 17 offices – 3 in the Pacific Northwest including Pleasanton, San Francisco and Seattle — it’s been a very good run.”

It has been a good run for the company as a whole. Ware Malcomb was founded in 1972 and now has offices across North America including Toronto, Panama, and Mexico City, providing architecture, interior design, civil engineering, and branding services to corporate, commercial developer and public/institutional clients throughout the world. “We’ve completed a wide variety of projects across multiple sectors including large automated industrial e-commerce centers, retail chain stores and corporate interior office projects for Fortune 500 clients,” says Drew. In Hacienda, the company designed the Mercedes-Benz of Pleasanton dealership.

This diversity of projects has allowed Drew to both expand and hone his talent for design while simultaneously helping clients. “Many times when we are designing a company’s new corporate office, what we find is that the company that they once were is not the company that they are today,” he says. “Sometimes that’s because of mergers and acquisitions or new product lines or the market dictating a change in their business model. So as part of the design process we take a good look at them and figure out how best to tell their story. How do we convey their philosophy? Help attract new clients? Recruit and retain employees? How can we not just design a building but reinforce their business model?

One strategy is through rebranding the company. Ware Malcomb provides branding services, including strategy, graphic design and visual communications, to create meaningful experiences that connect people with a brand. “It’s really about understanding their brand and business model and becoming a partner in their success.”

This innovative approach results in a highly effective real estate project and is also a key factor to retaining clients. “That’s one way we establish the long term relationships with our clients — we’re very much involved in the success of the company, not just the space or building. We understand commercial real estate, including the costs and the pro forma. We’re here as a business partner, focused on helping our clients.”

Ware Malcomb’s holistic view of architectural design and client service has evolved over time but is now built into the firm’s DNA.

“We developed a unique visioning process to further understand our clients’ business model, company culture, strategic long-term goals, and so on,” Drew says. “Equipped with this information, we can figure out how to reinforce these themes in the design of their space, while incorporating priority goals such as LEED, WELL building, and alternative workplace strategies. There are a lot of very interesting moving parts in each project.”

Being responsible for the implementation of visioning goals and overseeing the process in which they are created is “very motivating,” Drew says. “It helps keep you sharp, knowing what’s going on in the logistics, retail and medical fields across the United States and abroad. We study and stay on top of design trends across multiple industries to design intelligent and effective buildings for regional and national clients.

With such a high pace and diverse career, Drew still manages to commit time to mentoring the next generation of architects, designers, and other specialists who will eventually supplant him at Ware Malcomb when he retires. “I really enjoy working with our people — we have a culture like no other that is always looking for and providing young professionals with opportunities for advancement. They, too, could be owners in the company, and so with that we treat people well,” he explains. “We’re always looking for our replacements, so to speak, and training and developing our up and coming leaders. It’s a constant evolution of finding good people and training them, and giving them opportunity for growth in their career. Out of that, I think you end up with a great company culture and a great place to work.”

Design, service, mentoring — Drew has blended these diverse aspects of his life into a successful career.


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