Do I look like a people person?


Richard Avery

I’m a designer, educator, and architect, and I’ve been doing these things for a long time.

I’m currently Design Director at Zimmerman Weintraub Associates (ZWA), in Chicago, IL. I’m lead design architect for custom projects and lead technical architect for retail clients such as Starbucks, Equinox Fitness Clubs, and Dior. I’m part of senior leadership and involved in establishing firm strategic and creative direction, business development, client relationship management, team leadership and mentoring, and employee recruitment.

Prior to ZWA, I was a sole practitioner for 12 years. Overlapping with that time, I taught undergraduate and graduate students as an adjunct instructor at Harrington College of Design.

But this is all resumé stuff (which you can find here, btw). If you are visiting this site what you want is the rest of the story, the stuff that is hard to turn into bullet points.

The Rest of the Story:

Architecture and design gets me closer to people. That’s what makes it fulfilling. I’ve been around the block a few times and been involved in more projects than I can remember. What we do is hard and easy to screw up. The risk and reward are often out of whack, but what brings them into balance for me is that everyday I get to connect with people through the act of doing the work and helping create things that are meaningful to them.

I’ve learned some things on those trips around the block: it’s better to figure out the questions before you go looking for answers; knowing what should happen is important, but understanding what will happen is critical; if someone doesn’t understand what you are saying, it’s your problem to solve not theirs; it’s better to mentor people than just manage them; and a big part of my job is to help the people I work with, whether they be clients or coworkers, be better at what they do.

Below are links to a selection of projects that I’ve had a hand in leading over my career. Their stories can be told a number of ways, but those stories all begin and end with relationships. Whether it was using a building failure to make life better for the residents of Plaza Taino, helping create restaurant brands that connect with patrons, or designing a proposal to convey information to its audience in a compelling way, people are at the center.

But don’t take just my word for it:

“Richard has been a joy to work with. His sense of urgency is a breath of fresh air in this world of procrastination and excuses. However, his real value comes in his ability to sense what I’m envisioning and make it happen. A couple times now he sent me a first draft with no direction from me and then I told him what I was thinking and the next draft was better than I could have imagined and right in line with my vision.”
Justin Obreicht, repeat restaurant and development client


“What makes you a good teacher is that you not only tell us what to do and how to do it, but why it is important and why we should care.”
Adam Ford, graduate student.


“A heartfelt thanks for everything you have done for us. Your continued hard work, creativity, and dedication to our team is sincerely appreciated.”
Graham Elliot, repeat restaurant client


“Richard went from sitting on the other side of the table and providing us a service, to sitting on our side, collaborating with us on our business.”
Derek Gaspar, repeat restaurant client

“There’s a phrase Richard uses to describe the process of uncovering that one thing that makes a design come to life and dictates all subsequent decisions. He calls it “finding your True North.” Toward that end, Richard asks hard questions — questions that drill down to the core of your design concept, helping to clear away the clutter and bring your intent into focus.“
Matt Rose, graduate thesis student


“There literally are not enough words to express my appreciation. So thank you for being a BAD*SS and helping me to try to be one as well. So many thanks.”
Maura Lynch, graduate thesis student


“Richard Avery was a pleasure to work with on our Plaza Taino project. He was always reliable, available, easy going and passionate about the project. When faced with time constraints, pressure, and changes when things didn’t go as planned, as they often do, he always came back optimistic, responding very quickly with great new solutions that worked. I would gladly work with Richard on any future projects again.”
Nora Alonso, Project Manager, Tropic Construction