Designing the Future Workplace for a Growing Professional Services Firm

How a collaborative design partnership evolved this national accounting, tax, consulting, and business advisory firm’s workplace experience.

A person walking in a building.
BDO USA professionals provide assurance, tax and advisory services for a diverse range of clients across the U.S. and in over 160 countries through its global organization. Since 2012, BDO and Gensler have collaborated to shape BDO’s workplace experience. BDO USA’s Corporate Planning Principal Cathy McNamara and Brand Strategy & Programs Leader Brooke Hipp sat down with Gensler Design Manager Craig O’Halloran and Brand Designer Carli Papp to discuss the evolution of BDO workplaces in the last five years.

What was the drive behind BDO’s workplace redesign?

Cathy McNamara: BDO’s core purpose is helping people thrive every day. With that in mind, we’re always evaluating our workplaces and how they function for our people. Over time, even before the pandemic, we’ve found that flexibility is key to the success of work environments. As a national firm, we want each space to feel uniquely BDO in a holistic way, while also reflecting the location. Every office has individual personalities and local touches while still being a part of something bigger.

How has the collaboration with Gensler brought forth new initiatives in recent BDO office designs?

Cathy McNamara: We knew we needed more than design elements, like wall colors and fabrics; we needed to embrace flexible workplaces that empower and emotionally connect to our teams.

Craig O’Halloran: While privacy in certain areas was obvious, one thing we heard from BDO professionals is that they wanted more collaboration spaces. We created technology-equipped project rooms to bring people together with purpose while building camaraderie in person. As our work with BDO has evolved, we have changed our space planning strategy to include as many of these spaces as possible.

BDO’s Oakbrook office celebrates nearby Chicago and the local community through branding while amplifying the building’s best features. Gensler and BDO worked together to create an amenity program with flexible spaces that support social interaction and camaraderie. (Photo: Gillian Fry)

How has BDO connected staff to its location and local community through artwork and community involvement?

Brooke Hipp: We frequently support local artists and arts organizations, integrating their work into our offices. By picking pieces from local talent, we don’t just make our offices look great — we also help build a vibrant community culture and contribute to the local economy. The artwork enriches the work environment for our employees, giving them daily inspiration and a stronger connection to their communities.

Craig O’Halloran: We’ve helped BDO tap into art to connect a physical, visual experience to their values and turn it into real impact.

Carli Papp: As one example, BDO New York employees directly contributed to the storytelling of a mural in their workplace through a series of sessions with apprentice artists. Not only did the participation enrich the experience and resulting artwork, but the process also added a one-of-a-kind element to the design of the New York office.

A person sitting at a table.
A few people sitting on a staircase.
BDO’s New York office evokes the essence of the city, referencing the arches of Grand Central Station and the geometry of the surrounding skyscrapers while angled brick gives a nod to the company's logo and visual identity. (Photos: Gillian Fry)

How was branding used strategically throughout this partnership?

Brooke Hipp: Our branding strategy integrates our core purpose and visual identity into the design elements of the offices, reinforcing BDO’s commitment to innovation, quality, and sustainability.

Carli Papp: BDO and Gensler got together in Chicago last year and went through a couple rounds of workshops where one of our biggest goals was unpacking “how do we make our space feel like BDO?” We collaborated with the BDO marketing team to not only understand visual representation and differentiation from their competitors, but also examined what stories and feelings we wanted to communicate.

In response to BDO New York’s deep floorplates, the design team created a placemaking strategy with clearly defined neighborhoods, resulting in intuitive wayfinding and new connections to the city's parks, innovations, and architecture. (Photos: Gillian Fry)

Can you describe how the BDO New York office is particularly successful within the urban tapestry of Manhattan?

Cathy McNamara: In New York, we had three different offices within a couple blocks of each other that weren’t really functioning as one office. We found a space in the iconic Metlife building adjacent to Grand Central Station that was a perfect fit for bringing everyone together under one roof, in a new, two-floor office space. We understand the importance of cross-collaboration between groups, and now all our team members can work alongside one another, building relationships and improving efficiency. Bringing all our people together with intention in one space is one aspect of enhancing our people-first culture.

How does BDO’s workplace strategy look to the future?

Craig O’Halloran: One of the biggest things I’ve noticed in the past few years through our work with BDO is that we’re not reacting, we are anticipating by creating spaces that can be flexible for staff but also create an emotional connection that will support the work of BDO now and in the future.

Cathy McNamara: We want our offices to be spaces that employees are so proud of that they want to show their friends and family, while still being a comfortable environment that encourages collaboration. We are truly invested in creating spaces that inspire creativity and productivity and help people thrive.

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Craig O’Halloran
Craig is a Design Manager at Gensler Chicago and the Professional Services practice area leader for the North Central Region. With a diverse background in workplace design, brand, and urban planning, Craig excels at managing complex projects with a proactive, positive approach. Contact him at .
Carli Papp
As a Design Director at Gensler Chicago, Carli specializes in crafting transformative workplaces for professional services, consumer goods, and healthcare projects. Her approach integrates storytelling with innovative design solutions to capture the spirit of the organization and nurture workplace culture. Contact her at .