Australian design practice i2C has centred its reputation around the values of integrity, expertise and innovation for the better part of 21 years.

Despite being around for over two decades, i2C made a revolutionary change 11 years ago that completely altered the practice’s business model. The secret? It’s recruitment process.

Pushing the boundaries of what’s considered ‘normal’, i2C bases its recruitment model on the potential of future team members, rather than what’s on paper, for each of its four Australian offices.

Initially playing in the retail space with its first clients including Woolworths and Coles, the firm cemented itself in the design industry early on. Now seen as leaders in the retail space, being the chosen design firm for Harris Farm and Tesla, i2C has been able to focus its efforts towards company culture.

“Eleven years ago, we stopped taking resumes and started hiring for culture rather than credentials,” says i2C Managing Director and co-founder, Anthony Merlin.

“Instead, we ask applicants to call a number and leave responses to a series of questions, and then we invite them along to a group interview to meet the rest of our team. These group interviews are usually held on a weekday afternoon over a relaxed drink and nibbles, which provides us with the opportunity to see who will be the right fit for our team. From there, we look into credentials as a secondary focus once we know what they can bring to the team.”

This model is now a key component of i2C’s cultural and business DNA, with three team members celebrating their 20 year anniversary with the business this year, and team retention rates are at an all time high.

i2C also participates in the Great Places to Work Awards Program, and has done so for the past 10 years, underlining its commitment to office culture. The only design firm in Australia to enter and ranking in the top 20 for the last five out of six years, i2C uses the program as a way to receive honest and anonymous feedback from staff to ensure it continues to create a positive work environment.

The practice has expanded its horizons and is now a heavyweight in the Build to Rent space, regenerative housing and industrial design. The range of i2C clients has expanded as a result, to include a range of clients on both sides of the Tasman, working with developers such as Frasers, Vicinity & Kiwi Property.

i2C Associate and Regenerative Design Lead Claire Bowles says the Build to Rent model lends itself nicely to the sustainability practices i2C aligns to.

“Build to Rent developers have a responsibility to their investors to meet their ESG targets, with some investors now putting sustainability credentials front and centre of investment decisions. This is great for us and gives us a common language around carbon emissions reduction, life cycle assessment and future proofing. Finally we are able to get sustainability on the agenda – upfront and centre,” she says.

Beyond client work, i2C is on its way to becoming a Certified Carbon Neutral business and has its sights set on attaining B Corp Certification later this year, alongside the commencement on its Reconciliation Action Plan. With exciting regenerative and social housing projects on the horizon, i2C looks forward to cementing itself as the go-to design firm when it comes to helping clients reach their sustainability goals.