Origin Design makes its move in Dubuque

Origin Design

CEO: Pat Ready

Address: 137 Main St., Suite 100; Dubuque, Iowa 52001.

Phone: 563-556-2464.

Services: Architectural, engineering, field services and land survey firm.

Origin Design has only been around in namesake for one year, but the engineering and architecture firm — previously known as IIW Associates — credits its relationships with current and former employees for the company’s four-decade staying power.

“A lot of businesses don’t make it past what I’ll call the first generation,” said CEO Pat Ready.

Dennis Waugh and Carl Schoenhard Jr. founded IIW Associates in February 1982. It started as a five-person firm focused on land survey and civil/structural engineering consulting.

Its services have since expanded, which Ready said makes today’s variation of the company a “full-service architecture and engineering firm.”

Providing a variety of services to clients across the public and private sectors – from commercial and energy projects to real-estate development and health care – has allowed Origin Design to stand “the test of time,” according to Ready.

Name change ‘became apparent’

Brenda Ritt, Origin Design’s director of marketing, said the rebranding process began about two years ago, though the goal was never to change the company name.

However, through work with an outside agency, she said it “became apparent” they might want to consider a shift as part of the rebrand.

Ready said IIW was “geographically related and limiting” – as it stood for Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin – and was constantly confused with IWI, another local business.

“IIW, it wasn’t something that a lot of people related to. What does it mean? Everybody had a different answer,” Ready said. “Some people said it meant what we did. Some people said it had a special meaning to them.”

However, the name change is not them “running away” from IIW or its history, according to Ready.

“It was a little bit of a risky move by us. We really started to rally around the Origin Design name,” he said. “Every project has an origin. Every career has an origin. It just started to really speak to us.”

Ritt said the company received a great response from public and clients.

“A lot of people didn’t know all of the services that we offered. They didn’t realize we offered architecture as well. Some thought of us as a land survey firm. (The rebrand) really opened up people’s eyes.”

Similarly, Ready said the change allowed other people to initiate the conversation about what services Origin Design offers.

Continued growth

During the course of four decades, the firm, according to Ready, has had a “slow, sustained growth.”

“When somebody applied to work here and had a skillset we didn’t have, we embraced it, and that really happened a lot through the 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s,” he said.

The growth also has been organic.

“(We’re) just being thankful that our former and current employees chose to come to work here and shaped us into the firm that we are today,” Ready said. “(We have) so many wonderful clients that use us on a repeat basis. We’re honored to be able to serve them and really just develop some incredibly deep relationships and friendships.”

Between the new branding and recently moving the corporate headquarters to downtown Dubuque, Ready said they want to put the firm in a position to be more involved in the community while attracting and retaining “the best and the brightest.”

“By doing that, we’ve eclipsed our goal of being the go-to firm in northeast Iowa,” Ready said.

The firm also has been 100 percent employee-owned since 2019, Ritt said.

Origin Design will begin a strategic plan process later in the year, focusing on where employee owners want to take the company, Ready said.

The firm has 74 employees, with three co-op/interns expected to start.

For more information, visit origindesign.com/.