Facts and figures first. Don Brinkmann, vice president and design director at Gensler and Associates Architects in New York, earned his B.A. in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1969. He went directly to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's San Francisco office, where he worked as a draftsman before graduation, and continued there as a full-time employee. In 1982, he followed then-SOM colleague Margo Grant (a 1987 Hall of Fame inductee) to Gensler. He completed more than four million square feet of major installations. A fractional sampling includes General Reinsurance Corp., Becton Dickinson, CenTrust Savings Bank, Capital Bank, Newsweek, Sherman & Stearling, Weyerhauser Technology Center (while at SOM) and other banks, law firms, corporate headquarters and showrooms, as well as projects abroad like Goldman Sachs International in London and the Team Disney Europe Building in Paris.
That leaves the question about his transition from architectural degree and site plans to preeminence in the realm of interior design. As Brinkmann told it, credit again went to Gensler v.p./managing principal Margo Grant who plucked him from his drawing board and put him to work on the Marine Midland Bank job in Buffalo. Thereafter he never looked back. Not only did he remain in the east, but also, without pause for introspective deliberation, he made the design of interiors his full-time career. He found it more interesting largely because he enjoyed the emphasis on details, and most of all because he liked involvement with clients. He thrived on the give-and take incurred in a design environment, and he appeared to relish ready acceptance of his own ideas as much as he did compromise. To start with preconceived ideas was alien to his nature; nor had he run into situations where he had to knuckle under so as to implement a scheme that went against his grain. His personal taste ran to "simple, good classic-contemporary." Much of this is reflected in his product design, both as custom work in client jobs and independently for Helikon and Stow & Davis.