Founders and Partners, Clay Aurell and Josh Blumer, deliver on design that reflect the client, context, and essence of each project. In 2005, what began as a conversation between two architects about making a difference in the world through architecture organically evolved into a lasting partnership. Instantly finding inspiration through collaboration enabled founders Clay Aurell and Josh Blumer to rise above any challenge with each other’s unwavering support. Together, Clay and Josh bring more than 20 years of passion, experience, and creativity to explorative designs that reflect client, context, and history.
Today, their collaborative partnership drives AB design studio forward. By placing value on powerful listening and trust, Clay and Josh champion one another to push the boundaries of what is possible for future generations. This participatory model invites the project team—including clients, stakeholders, and staff—to join in dialogue, allowing all of them to dream bigger, perform better, and dare greater. When collaborating with the studio, clients gain direct access to the partners’ invaluable expertise and creative insight, along with an extended network of local agencies, decision makers, consultants, and builders to explore a project’s full potential.
Beyond the practice, Clay and Josh strive to make a global impact as advocates for bettering the communities around them and their projects. From designing surf resorts in Costa Rica to master plans in Michigan, they take care in working with local councils, organizations, and leaders to create ecosystems that benefit the environment.
Clay Aurell is the “ultimate strategist,” a placemaker who combines the skills of an architect, developer, planning consultant, real estate professional, and politician to formulate the creative vision for AB design studio’s projects. Through his leadership and forward-thinking design, he has expanded the scope of possibilities in Santa Barbara and beyond.
Regarded as a thought leader within the design community, Clay’s early architectural influence was shaped by visits to construction sites with his father, when he was inspired as a teen to make an impact on the world through design. He brings his most assiduous architectural insights to even the simplest of design challenges, and considers architecture, interior design, and planning as inseparable extensions of himself.
Clay is a client advocate who understands the needs of a developer or homeowner through a participatory process by actively integrating their ideas, protecting their assets, and ultimately, exceeding their expectations. From boutique hotels and wineries to LEED-certified museums and mixed-use developments, each of Clay’s structures are inspired by a distinct contextual awareness that supports community with the future in mind.
Josh Blumer is a problem solver, mentor, and architect who has been a catalyst and creative force for a transformative, inspirational design process at AB design studio. Inspired by early undergraduate experiences shaped by meaningful architectural dialogue, Josh cites the opportunity and ability to conceptualize societally effective ideas as a motive to pursue his craft.
As a thought-provoking design leader, Josh champions an open, collaborative studio that sparks spirited debate and critique among a team of architects, designers, and key stakeholders at all stages. With a strong graphic background and deep investment into digital design and technology, Josh’s landmark projects pursue interdependence by striking a balance between the natural environment and the built world.
By maintaining a provocative approach to thoughtful design, Josh brings valuable experience and guidance in project management and construction to a range of high-end residences, early-childhood development centers, and commercial tenant improvements.
Founding Partners, Josh Blumer and Clay Aurell are the founders and Source of AB design studio’s Collaborative, Creative and Accountable design, and project delivery process. Along with the other Principals in the Studio, Clay Aurell, and Josh Blumer lead the Design and Project Delivery Process. To find the power of an organization you need to go to the source. Clay, Josh, and the other Principles source each other, our clients, consultants, vendors, and studio staff by Collaborating, Creating, and holding a high degree of Accountability in the space of our work and services. Clay and Josh along with the other Principals and Leaders of our organization, including our clients, source each member of the studio for their individual and collective Ethos, Curiosity and Drive. AB design studio is staffed and supported by exceptionally passionate creative professionals who have a track record for producing inspired and extraordinary results - at AB design studio we work as a TEAM.
A Principal Lead Process for Design needs Soucerful Leadership. AB design studio is governed by a principle-led, collaborative design process based on two proven core principles we call “Sourcing the Source” and “the AB Way” - to generate team consensus and design direction. At AB design studio, there is no Design Director position. Instead, we have a process for creating design direction: an iterative cycle we call the AB way. The AB Way process has a clearly defined series of cyclical steps: workshopping, meeting, debating, forming consensus, aligning, and action.
The AB Way process has a clearly defined series of cyclical steps: workshopping, meeting, debating, forming consensus, aligning, and action.
“We discuss and debate each potential design to determine a consensus. Then we align behind it and execute it. If we've solved the problem and closed the loop, we're ready to move forward. The process allows for the project to figure itself out, which can work with or without Clay and I being present. In fact, it’s a stronger solution when it’s generated by multiple voices. You must give and take, with compromise and accommodation, and then act as a unit going forward. That's what Clay and I have developed with each other, and that's how our design meetings look. That same method extends to not only our staff but project-team members. Contractors and subcontractors realize they're working with somebody responsive and collaborative.” Josh Blumer
Each person on the project team has an opportunity to get involved in all stages of the process from concept to construction. Inside the studio, you’ll find us gathered together around meeting tables and over workstations busily sketching design ideas and building 3D models. For us, the collaborative studio work environment is a central and critical aspect of our work. Collaboration produces valuable productivity, inspiring design, and authentic architecture.
Now let’s talk about what we call Sourcing and our principal-led design process. Founding partners Josh Blumer and Clay Aurell are the “Source” of AB design studio. We use the same word in an active way, so to source the power of this organization, you source the Source. Yet the reverse is also true: Clay, Josh and other principals source each other, our clients, our consultants and vendors, as well our team members for design ideas by collaborating, creating and holding each other accountable. In other words, at AB design studio we always work as a team. Success at our firm comes from continually participating in this process: of Sourcing each other and using the AB Way to determine a design direction together.
“It's a two-way exchange; employees are sourcing Clay and I for accountability, creativity and collaboration. We're sourcing them for creativity and drive. A lot of architecture firms have their staff working in silos. They end up organizing the company around that, which can be very successful. It’s just not how we wanted to do it. When we collaborate with staff, it’s an extension of the relationship that Clay and I created.” Josh Blumer
Every firm says it listens to clients. At AB design, it’s our culture and continual refrain, "Listen - Strategize - Create - Deliver." But we’re talking about a deeper, more intentional, and multifaceted kind of listing that’s fundamental to AB design studio design process — a special awareness - a special kind of listening.
"We don't just say to clients, ‘Please tell me what you want, and I'll go try to figure it out.’ We listen intently. It's not the normal listening that people think of. It's a very active listening. When I'm talking to potential clients, I'm asking myself, ‘What are they concerned about? What are they saying and what are they not saying?’ What are they not telling me that’s lurking in the background? It feels almost like a Jedi mind trick. After I’ve listened to them, first I recreate what they're saying, and then I identify the concern that they weren't completely vocalizing. It blows their minds.” Clay Aurell