Designer Randy Angell believes in the power of working together, a value he learned as a kid singing in choirs. Today, he applies the idea of synergistic creativity to his design practice, bringing a team together to create unique environments based on a collection of talents working as one.
By Randy Angell
Growing up I spent a lot of time singing in various choirs in church and at school. It was a set of experiences that developed my appreciation and understanding of the concept of collaboration.
We would spend hours upon hours honing our voices to sound as one. Collectively, one of our favorite vocal exercises began with everyone singing in unison, “Aaaaaaahhhhh…”. We would hold that note for what seemed like an eternity, unifying our voices. When you needed a breath, you did so quickly but timed so that those around you carry the note in your absence, and you in theirs.
The director would have us hold that single note, until we melded into a powerful singular voice, and then, section by section, the director would have us go up or down, in half-note intervals, while the other sections held steady on their note. A haunting melody was slowly formed, as the director would lead us through a journey from unison to harmony, and back again. That warm tone, a collaboration of voices, coming together as one, still plays in the back of my mind.
Today in my professional design world, working at the RAD Studio, we have what we refer to as our Dream Team Concept. Each of our most successful projects is a reflection of just how powerful that collaborative concept can be. The Dream Team may vary from project to project, but assembling the right team for each, unleashes a creative force that delivers greatness – and greatness is what we strive for and what our clients deserve.
I have been fortunate to have worked in this industry for 32 years. From the early years of my career, I was shown how powerful collaboration can be, especially working side by side with Tom Rozell, the founder of Pool Environments, in Plano, Texas. I was a wide-eyed, eager creative, working with a seasoned pool builder, who never sought to limit my creativity.
Tom often told me, “If you can figure out how to draw it, I will figure out how to build it!” And this was back in those old-timey days, before computer-aided design had entered the mainstream.
The design process with Tom was always a collaborative effort. He would meet with the clients, to interview them about the project.
He would then bring those notes, and a survey or yard measurements back to the office, where he would find me chained to my drafting table. On a very rare occasion, I might get one or two photographs of the yard – but again, this was in the age before digital photography, so it was rare. This meant Tom had to be my eyes and ears, he had to emote the energy and desires of the client, and he had to convey the opportunities and challenges of the site.
I would begin sketching, and throwing ideas at Tom. He would then work through the logistics with me, sometimes tempering my ideas with budget realities, every now and again having to temper my ideas with a little thing called gravity. (Side note – we mere humans do spend a lot of time trying to defy gravity, don’t we?). It was a collaborative effort that truly became the foundation of what has become a creative philosophy for me.
EGOS IN CHECK
Collaboration, though, can be a tricky thing. It requires humility, yet it also requires confidence. It requires openness, yet it also requires steadfastness. It requires belief – belief, not only in your own knowledge and creativity but that of the other members of the team. In a world of “looking out for number one”, collaboration is not always first nature –, especially in the creative fields.
Our Dream Team Concept has now expanded that collaborative philosophy to include as many as 10-12 team members, sometimes more on larger projects. We work both in unison and in harmony, to inspire one another, to elevate the process, and to deliver our client the absolute best project we can.
I may be the visionary on the project, or I may be playing a supporting role, but the vision is brought into focus through the tireless efforts of each member of the team. After all, a RAD design is nothing more than a pretty image, without the talent and knowledge of all those charged with bringing that design to life.
Speaking of those who bring the design to life – I firmly believe recognition is another key element of collaboration. When I talk about our work on social media, for example, I am always careful to try to include all those who have contributed to the success of a project. Some may look at that and assume it is nothing more than a strategy to increase followers and engagement, but there’s much more to it than that.
POWER OF GRATITUDE
True, it is a benefit in that regard, but more importantly, it is about recognition and gratitude. I am beyond grateful to each member of our Dream Team, and the role they have played in our success, and I want them to know that!
For the builder, who takes my design, and collaborates with us to refine it, value engineer it, and then spends months building it – Thank You! To the Landscape Architect, who spends hours at the nursery, seeking the specimen plants that add literal life to our designs – Thank You!
This gratitude extends all the way to the equipment manufacturers, constantly in pursuit of more efficient and reliable products, to tile and stone suppliers, always stretching the limits, always bringing new ideas and materials, to furniture and accessory partners, staying one step ahead of the typical.
The strength of each member of the team elevates the whole, to a level we could never attain on our own, and that deserves our appreciation.
Collaboration in its best form is an opera. Each of us has a unique voice. Alone, it may create a beautiful song; joined together in harmony, we can create a concerto that will inhabit the lives of our clients for years to come. Whether my role is that of composer, conductor, or vocalist, my soul wants nothing more than to give 100% to that role.
Randy Angell is founder and leader of Randy Angell Designs in Plano Tex. Although focused mainly on exterior design, Angell has extensive education and experience in residential architectural design and specializes in creating “a singular voice” within the scope of the project. He is a member of Tributary Revelation, Tributary Revelation is a network of innovative industry leaders including architects, designers, and contractors, collaborating to create the world’s premier landscapes, luxury pools, and outdoor living spaces.