Over a Decade of Ideation and Implementation

Innovation begins with a single question. From this starting point, we can stoke curiosity, ignite passion, build our collective knowledge, and even improve our design outcomes.

Anyone at our firm can apply for a grant during one of two annual calls for entries. Proposals are shared internally during an open comment period, and everyone at the firm gets to review and comment on the proposals. This encourages supportive discourse and community-building. Then, our Committee―Leigh Christy, Daniel Creekmore, John Haymaker, Tyrone Marshall, Jon Penndorf, Adriana Portela, Kimberly Seigel, and Mark Walsh―makes the final selections.


After a round of completed projects, the Committee makes a concerted effort to meaningfully connect Incubator grantees with practices, studios, and project teams that might benefit from the research.

Innovation is essential to our industry—and it’s the underpinning of our firm’s culture.

While it has always been part of our DNA, the last 11 years have given rise to dedicated Research Labs and initiatives that have exponentially advanced our practice.


In 2010, we launched Innovation Incubator, a program that supports design-focused research by providing micro-grants of money and time. Open to everyone at the firm, the program provides grant recipients 40 hours of company time, to be spent over six months, and $1,000 toward expenses (or 80 hours and $2,000 for teams).

To date, we’ve funded 289 grants—the result of 750 applications from 23 studios over 22 grant cycles.

The program has taken us on explorations in design at every level.

We’ve journeyed from the hospital bed, to the sports arena of the future, to the hyperreal spaces on the horizon—even to outer space. We’ve seen Innovation Incubator participants pursue patents, influence real-life projects, spark new professional connections, and even inspire the launch of two Research Labs. Still others are what the committee dubs “just plain interesting.”

Merriam-Webster defines it as “1: a new idea, method, or device and 2: the introduction of something new.” Or as Mark Walsh, one of Innovation Incubator’s founders puts it, “I know it when I see it.” We asked several innovators to define it in their own words.

We’re proud to celebrate 11 years of Innovation Incubator, and invite you to learn more about its evolution and stories.