A master at creating enlivening and future-minded spaces for cutting-edge corporations and private clients, David Galullo, design principal and CEO at Rapt Studio, AIA IIDA, has a world-class knack for finding the soul inside a project. Working between offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Galullo and the Rapt team manage a diverse client roster which has included North Face, Adobe, Naked Juice, Cartoon Network, Jansport, Jamba Juice, Campari America, Disney Music, and many more. Here, Galullo discusses early inspiration, philanthropic endeavors, and his intention to be a one-stop brand shop.
Docservis: What were some of the earliest instances when you found yourself engaged by good design?
David Galullo: I was just one of those kids constantly sketching and doodling… Always. My dad was a builder, and I was raised in a family engaged in a constant discussion about the built environment. There was also always a renovation project going on. Don’t remember a time when I wasn’t immersed in the thought of what surroundings mean to me… That was bred into me, and I think I have a “builderly” sense to me. I appreciate the interaction between the designers and craftsmen, and it has shaped how I work.
ID: How did you come to cultivate such a knack for interpreting a brand and expressing it in an environment?
DG: We have a wide range of client types—from financial service firms to apparel to gaming companies. We’ve done a lot of different kind of things, and our philosophy is “bring something new to your industry.” We like to keep that constant conversation open to what’s the best solution to our clients’ challenges.
We first started working with VF Outdoor twelve years ago—they oversee brands like Northface, Jansport, Reef, 7 for all Mankind… We work for them all over the country. Our interaction with that client has taught us a lot about “brand,” how it translates into the culture of modernization. For me, it’s about a deeper, richer and meaningful expression. We started taking that to many of our clients. We’ve immersed ourselves in the conversation about brand and how it is expressed in the workplace.
ID: What’s your vision for continuing this conversation about brand and environment?
DG: About a year ago, we brought in an art director to take things to the next level, offering web and interactive design. We’re trying to become a one-stop shop for everything “brand.” Our clients hire lots of different consultants to satisfy their brand expression… They’re hungry for an integration, which is often not there.
ID: What are some of the most exciting projects on your plate at Rapt these days?
DG: We’re currently working on the campus for Adobe outside of Salt Lake City… It’s a 280,000 square-foot space that will house close to 3,300 employees. They’re due to move in, in November. We brought in an artist who works solely with Sharpies… Since most of the artists across the globe use Adobe projects, we wanted to incorporate the spirit of the brand through art yet not simply by hanging Adobe brand art.
We’ve also been working on the offices for TMZ, which has been cool… That’s a Warner Bros entity, and they have been a good client of ours. For that we’ve been collaborating with a set designer, which has been really interesting. And actually, VF Outdoor just moved into their new campus in Alameda.
ID: How are they liking their new home?
DG: They love the new campus. It consists of four buildings with a fitness center and a full-service café, with produce grown in an on-site organic garden. It’s really spectacular. It’s on track to be a LEED Platinum project.
ID: Your offices are here in California… What do you enjoy most about the west coast design aesthetic?
DG: I’ve been on the west coast for twenty years… It’s what I live and breathe. We are a little spoiled, given our placement in between LA and San Francisco, which puts us at the center of the innovative thinking. San Francisco is the hub of tech and gaming development and LA is the whole entertainment and tech sphere. Therefore we have a much more open client base, who are willing to let us try things. That’s what their whole gestalt is built upon
ID: Are there any widely accepted rules that you love to dispense with?
DG: I don’t think there’s any one rule that we consistently like to set aside… We like to come to the table without any preconceived notion. If a client arrives with one, we show them options of other ways to think about something. Typically we like to show a client what they think a solution is, and then other options.
ID: What are the initial planning stages like?
DG: Before we talk about architecture, we ask, “What are you trying to do and say? What are your challenges?” Far too often, architects try to solve problems they have yet to define. It’s all about honest conversations. Many clients come to us and have heard that something we’ve done has worked, and we try to take away all the “buzzwords” of what someone thinks.
ID: You and your firm are very involved in a number of causes. What are some of those nearest to your heart?
DG: Personally, I did the AIDS/LifeCycle bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles for thirteen years, and raised upwards of $150,000 for the cause. It’s one incredible week when everyone is kind to each other and serves as a great equalizer. I did it initially as a physical challenge, then wanted to start think about something broader and meaningful than myself. I learned a lot about the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, finding I wanted to do more. I went on to serve on the board of the organization for five years. The company had a team to the AIDS Walk for the foundation, and personally that’s been my charge.
Also, I moved my parents to California about three years ago, as my father's health was failing. One of the things I’m focusing on now is putting some energy into the discussion of elder care in America. It’s really, really awful. Unless you have money it’s very difficult to get the care you need. We need to open up the national conversation.
Meanwhile, as a firm we really believe in giving back, and have a scholarship program for high school students in LA and San Francisco, who want to pursue their design education.
ID: What are some of spaces or locales that have always visually inspired you, and continue to stand out for you today?
DG: I was raised in New Jersey, in between Philly and New York, and when I was young it was all about going in either direction. I was very intrigued by the messiness of the big city, as well as the order of the suburbs where I lived. When I was fifteen I went to Europe… landed in Rome, spent time in Madrid. Since then, I’ve been intrigued by this idea that there are these incredible differences between places—specifically around the built environment. I couldn’t get enough of the differences, and wanted to go out and travel and see as much as I could see.
I get to New York for work about six to eight times a year, and I always love it. At the same time I am always anxious to leave New York and get some space. Right now I spend a lot of my weekends in Sonoma, CA, which has this idyllic, small-town feel. Since I grew up in a small town, I actually feel most at home. I love having it all available to me.