It seems to be M&A week around here – with news of a third deal, this one involving design firms that do or want to do big digital creative. ESI Design, the NYC-based experience design studio has been acquired by NBBJ, a big global architecture and design firm.
If you are wondering why I am writing about design companies, you are likely not familiar with ESI, which has done some of the best, most visually interesting video wall and interactive jobs in office tower lobbies, public spaces and museums.
Says the PR:
The acquisition signals a not-so-distant future where the types of immersive and interactive experiences now expected in museums will be common in other buildings, from commercial high rises and offices to sports stadiums and hospitals.
The acquisition – which is the largest ever of its kind by an architecture firm – is a key milestone for the field where digital designers, media architect technologists, gaming engineers, and more will collaborate with architects from the very beginning of the design process, which will also provide clients with a more efficient, cost-effective, and streamlined design process.
Under the agreement, ESI Design becomes NBBJ’s 18th studio. As part of the acquisition, ESI founder Edwin Schlossberg (the ES in ESI) becomes a partner at NBBJ and will lead the ESI Design studio at NBBJ.
Named among the most innovative architecture firms in the world by Fast Company three times, NBBJ is one of the largest architecture and design firms in the world, with clients that include Amazon, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Massachusetts General Hospital, Microsoft, and the University of Oxford.
ESI Design most recently designed the immersive visitor experience at the new Statue of Liberty Museum. Other clients include Barclays, eBay, The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, PNC Bank, and Warner Media.
From tall buildings in the sky to the streets below, from high-tech to high-touch, NBBJ is joining forces with experience design studio @ESIDesign to transform buildings into immersive and interactive digital experiences that delight. Learn more here. https://t.co/rj0E9XGV4C pic.twitter.com/XHgbj6mvqi— NBBJ Design (@NBBJDesign) February 6, 2020
I have been saying and writing for a while now that big LED has matured to a point that it can be a realistic design consideration for architects and space designers who can choose active surfaces instead of static ones – like stone, metal and glass – that cannot be changed.
With LED, if the building owner or designer doesn’t like the look, a file can be changed and the look changes, too.
By joining forces, the PR also says, NBBJ and ESI Design’s multidisciplinary team will be able to integrate digital experiences early in the design process, providing clients with more impactful and streamlined services. Sweeping advancements in technology, from miniaturization to contemporary light projection technology, will make it possible for NBBJ and ESI Design to bring the type of immersive experiences that are increasingly desired as digital centerpieces in museums, stadiums, and transportation hubs to a wider range of industries, including healthcare, education, civic, commercial real estate, and science.
The two firms – which have previously collaborated on commercial real estate and corporate workplace projects in Boston and New York City – will now provide unified solutions as one of the largest and most robust experience design platforms in the country.
I don’t know NBBJ, but this seems smart, and perhaps enable the company to compete on digital-centric jobs with Gensler, which last year hired away ESI’s lead digital imagineer, Michael Schneider.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.