At Johnson Fain, design is considered a unique outgrowth of culture.  Responding to a sense of current critical issues, design looks outwardly to place, program, inhabitants’ needs and technology for the cues from which compelling form is created.  As a result, a priori design formulations are eschewed.  We believe that design work, much like fine arts, must be grounded in the realities of its own time and stretch to anticipate the future.  As the firm frequently designs urban projects of scale, we believe that these projects, whether publicly or privately sponsored, must acknowledge their de facto public status and serve the long-term needs of an ever-evolving and increasingly connected population.  Thus, issues of sustainability, accessibility and social equity are central to our efforts.

Design in all disciplines tends toward form.  The creation of an architectural icon or a memorable place is both a condensation of ideas as well as an expanding framework for the participation of present and future stakeholders.  The principal dialectic of our time then, and the problem of the operation of design, is to recognize legitimate forces acting upon a condition, mapping them with precision and inclusivity, and then to direct patterns of physical intervention toward the becoming of designed form.  Umberto Eco has metaphorically described such architecture, referring to “the open work” as “those creations that allow completion by the viewer, those that elicit multiple interpretations along coherent but unchartered lines.”  We believe that design considered in this way can describe a vision of place, community and the future.


The office maintains a flexible project oriented management structure which can respond to individual projects of any size and complexity.  The office has a successful history of working with both large and modest scale corporate, public, private and institutional clients.  In each case the client is given the highest degree of attention and design service.  Experienced staff, innovative design and advanced CADD technology enables the firm to respond to concurrent projects with proficiency.


Johnson Fain is committed to designing all projects to exceed expected sustainability levels.  We have extensive experience in designing LEED projects that have received ratings from Certified to Platinum.  Our portfolio includes over five million square feet of sustainable LEED eligible projects.   We designed the five building, 1.5 million square foot Capitol Area East End Complex for the State of California to a level 50% higher than the then-applicable Title 24 Energy Standards—the largest green building project to date in California.  The project is LEED Platinum certified.  The Johnson Fain “Green Team” advises on every project.  The team is led by Principal, Abhijeet Mankar, AIA, LEED AP  and includes numerous Johnson Fain staff.

Information Technology

Johnson Fain is a leader in using computer technology, incorporating the latest available software, hardware and workflows throughout its design process. The firm has been using computer technology in all phases of its work flow since 1984, with the belief that the people on project teams, designers and architects, have a “hands-on” knowledge of the software.  Senior Design Architects and Design Principals are intensely involved with pushing the technology and developing new techniques of design investigation and methods of visualization. This helps to ensure innovation, creativity, and efficiency throughout the project duration.

Our three disciplines, Architecture, Urban Design+Planning and Interiors, use Microsoft Office, Project, Outlook, and other supportive software to communicate with our clients.  We use sophisticated software (Newforma) for the transfer and tracking of files and the exchange of information throughout the life of the project. Video conferencing is accomplished by using GoToMeeting and WebEx.  Adobe Design Suite is used extensively for our raster and vector graphics using Photoshop, InDesign, Acrobat, and Illustrator.  Our Urban Design + Planning studio also uses the Adobe Suite to create maps and diagrams. Project research for all disciplines utilizes the Web and a digital image library that can be accessed through the office’s intranet system.

Utilizing AutoDesk software from the inception of computer technology in the design studio, AutoCad and Revit provide the main software tools to design and document all projects in the office. From very early Conceptual studies to Construction Administration, computer technology has supplied our clients with many innovative design schemes, accurate documentation, and an expedited schedule. Rhino, SketchUp, Lumion, Enscape and 3D Studio Max support the Autodesk software, with detailed 3 dimensional computer modeling. Parametric modeling, software (Grasshopper and Dynamo) that uses analytical formulas to develop building form and design alternatives, is being used extensively in the design studio and is an exciting new direction of study.

Johnson Fain also utilizes 3D printing in its modelshop so that complex 3D computer models can be constructed into physical form. Building models are built in Revit and Rhino software and converted to a stereo lithographic format (STL) and plotted on a 3D printer.  Depending on the complexity and size of the building model, the printing time can take hours to days to complete. With this new technology, the architectural team is able to produce very complex geometry that could not be built by traditional model building techniques in the past, offering the client a better representation of the design solution.

Building information modeling (BIM) is incorporated in all new architectural projects.  The firm has used Revit since 2005, offering our clients the ability to have a detailed 3D model that is fully coordinated with all consultants.

A Revit model is a single database file represented in the various ways which are useful for design work. Such representations can be plans, sections, elevations, legends, and schedules. Because changes to each representation of the database model are made to one central model, changes made in one representation of the model (for example a plan) are propagated to other representations of the model (for example elevations). Thus, Revit drawings and schedules are always fully coordinated in terms of the building objects shown in drawings.

Our Revit documentation is based on the AIA E202 Building Information Modeling Protocol Exhibit. The level of completeness is measured according to a rating system (Level of Detail – LOD) ranging from Conceptual, which is 100, to Record Model, which is 500.