David Ashton is the founder of Ashton Design, a Baltimore-based multidisciplinary design consultancy he now runs with co-creative directors Jenny Hoffman and Alexey Ikonomou. Industries the firm services range from architecture and interiors to retail and entertainment spaces. Clients have included the Baltimore Orioles, Dodger Stadium, the Maryland Institute College of Art, Harley Davidson, and the Maryland Zoo.
Q: How would you describe the studio’s overarching design philosophy?
DAVID ASHTON: Design is, as you know, everywhere. It influences so many things. It influences your emotions, your visuals, the way you feel—and on and on. And if it is done right you don’t even know it.
Q: How did you get started?
DAVID: In the mid-80s I was asked by one of our most important publications, Communication Arts Magazine, to judge their annual design show. At that time I was a partner in a company by the name of Ashton–Worthington. We were the first firm in Baltimore to be written up in this magazine as an article, and that was a huge, huge feather in our cap. So, I flew out to Palo Alto and met some unbelievable other designers, nationally-known fellows and ladies. While I was out there, I realized that Ashton-Worthington—how do I put this?—was not cutting edge anymore. It had gotten comfortable. So when I got back to Baltimore after being out in California, I walked into Fred Worthington’s office and sat down. I said, “Fred, I think I would like to resign.” He looked up and said, “Thank God. I wish I would have done that first.”
I figured, OK, this must have been something we both needed. It had been 17 or 18 years since we started, and we had become a big name in town as far as aesthetics were concerned. We had done a lot of really cutting edge work.
Anyhow, that’s how we got started: Ashton Design came out of Ashton–Worthington. I started with one person—myself—and no clients, and [laughs] a lot of enthusiasm. It felt all of a sudden, even though it was my company, very free. Some of the work really started being more and more inventive and more beautiful, and before I knew it we were up to 10 people. As with any company that grows that quickly, I was personally unaware of some of the things that were happening that weren’t good for the company. But we fixed all that, straightened it all out. We have probably one of the most compatible little businesses that you can imagine. It has been an amazing group pulling together to make this work and these two [Jenny and Alexey] have a tremendous amount of responsibility to that.
Q: Alexey and Jenny, where do your visions fit in? What inspires you to do the work you do?
ALEXEY IKONOMOU: We are continuing with what David started and how it has been developing for the past 30 years. We think about things from a large perspective, and we do what’s right for every project we do—not just do it because they ask us to do it or because we like doing it. We want to do it because it is right for the company and the client.
JENNY HOFFMAN: We have such a great group of people right now. Everyone is part of such a small company that we all have to enjoy being there. We spend more time with each other than our own families so we really, really keep each other going and push each other.
Q: What’s changed in 30 years?
DAVID: It is so exciting to be able to to see how much we’ve progressed and continue to produce outstanding work today. I mean, a year and a half ago was a lot, but between the start and now to see that we have produced some of the most beautiful work I have seen in 30 years… Not to say that we have not done beautiful work all along, but this is just perfect.