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Designing Data for Designers

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Architects and engineers are certainly no strangers to conveying complex ideas with drawings. But the art form has come a long way since Vitruvian Man and Corbusier’s Modulor. Data visualization can communicate abstract concepts with depth and clarity. To keep your infographics from becoming infauxgraphics, here are some tips on using them effectively in presentations and proposals.

1. Remember Who You Are

It’s easy to get carried away with the design of infographics, but don’t forget they are part of your communications strategy. Keep colors and type fonts consistent with those used in your corporate identity program.

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2. Simple is Good

If the visuals are too complicated or esoteric, they’ll overwhelm—instead of enlighten—your audience. Focusing on a finite set of data to illustrate will allow people to absorb your content accurately and without distraction.

3. Use Sparingly

Despite the maxim about pictures and 1,000 words, even the best infographic is no substitute for a well-written paragraph or concise bulletted list.

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4. Amaze

Given the mind-stretching technological capabilities of data visualization tools, the occasional graphic indulgence can make a presentation memorable. Case in point: Frank Jacobus’ depiction of architects’ most favored materials, excerpted from his book Archi-Graphic.

Interested in learning more about the art and science of infographics? Here are a couple sources:

Visual Explanations (front cover) - Edward R. Tufte

Called the “Leonardo da Vinci of Data” by The New York Times, Edward Tufte is a statistician, artist, and Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Yale. His now-classic books on data visualization are both beautiful and fascinating.

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Tableau offers a straightforward yet powerful tool for translating data into smart and aesthetic visuals. Incorporating an interactive dashboard, applying data filters, on-screen comparisons and trend analysis are just some of the functions that can animate your images.

Every Picture Tells a Story—Make Sure It's the Right One

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Architecture can be experienced through prose and poetry, but the fullest expression of the art—short of first-hand experience—is image-based. While designers may be in full command of the visual message in their portfolios, when photographs and videos are deployed for marketing and promotional purposes, there are some basic guidelines that help you stay focused on the goal: to enhance your business.

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1. Beware the Mixed Message

Does this photo of Singapore’s Lake of Dreams look dreamy? No. It’s more of a nightmare, with blurry people wandering aimlessly about the plaza. Keep images consistent with the impact you want to achieve; visuals should underscore, not undermine, their subject.

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2. Imitation is Not Flattering

If you’re just starting your practice and don’t have a lot of built work to feature on your website, it can be tempting to populate it with stock photography to bolster your image. Resist the impulse! These cliché snapshots can do more harm than good, leaving potential clients with the impression that you specialize in generic glass boxes. Uploading some of your more compelling sketches and drawings will give people a better impression of your real talents.

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3. Small Details Make Big Impressions

To show off a project to its fullest advantage, choose a mix of overall shots and close-up images to tell the story. Not only will this demonstrate your skill at detailing, the different scale of the photos will better engage viewers—your potential clients!

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4. Be Artistic—But Be Careful

Sure, you can take a gallery-worthy abstract shot that reveals the soul of a structure. But does it say more about photographer-you than it does architect-you? Show the story you want people to remember. In the above photo, we learn precious little about the building.

A final caveat: In the age of Instagram and social media, think twice before you post a picture that might not depict your work (or you!) at its best.

Fun Haus - Haunted Haus Tour

We’ve reached the end of October and it’s time again for costume parties, scary movies, and, our favorite, haunted “Haus”-es! We’ve scanned the globe to locate the coolest and creepiest abodes. As a primer for this post, read this excellent New York Times article on the subject by Patricia Leigh Brown published back in 1987.

It’s no trick, we’re treating you to a ghoulish gallery of quirky, spooky, and funky paranormal pads and macabre mansions.  Enjoy!

The 1924 Ennis House, designed by Frank Lloyd Write, is shown in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, Friday, June 19, 2009. The badly damaged house that offers breathtaking views of the Hollywood Hills and has appeared in several movies is being sold for $15 million. (AP Photo/Philip Scott Andrews)

The 1924 Ennis House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is shown in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, Friday, June 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Philip Scott Andrews)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House has been a popular film set for various movies from the 1959 House on Haunted Hill starring Vincent Price to the sci-fi classic Blade Runner.

Winchester House

The Winchester Mystery House is one our favorites due to its multiple doors and stairs that go nowhere, windows overlooking other rooms, and stairs with odd-sized risers.  Apparently the house’s “designers” were out of this world!  Allegedly, Sarah Winchester held nightly séances to ask the spirit world to help her design a house that would protect her from “bad” spirits.

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We love The Dragspelhuset Accordion House from Sweden. It reminds us of a goblin’s cottage and is called the accordion house because it has an expandable room that can extend out over the adjacent pond.
The_Overlook_HotelWho can forget these famous haunted houses from the movies? We’ll concede that in the context of the story, the Overlook Hotel from The Shining counts as a single family residence…

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This abandoned house in Wales, UK, known as the “Cloud House” by locals.  Its inhabitants disappeared without a trace and left all of their belongings behind…

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And if you’re in the market for a Devilish dwelling check out these real-life haunted residences up for sale…We’ll take John Lennon’s old apartment in the Dakota Building here in Manhattan!  Wait.  That’s not the Rosemary’s Baby apartment is it?

If you’re wondering how to design a frightfully delightful haunted house experience, check out this article on FastCoDesign.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Celebrating Architecture and Design Around the Globe

Sylphe, Chaumont garden festival

With the advent of Archtober here in New York, we thought we’d share how the rest of the world celebrates architecture.  Pack your bags, pull out your passports, and get ready for an international design tour-de-force!

From our cousins across the pond comes UK: LOVE ARCHITECTURE. The festival is national, taking in this year’s Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) award-winning buildings, as well grand old piles in the country, which become accessible during the National Trust for the Heritage’s Open Days (September). Oh, and clog-dancing, without which no festival would be complete.

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Friends House, London. Architect: John
McAslan and Partners. Winner: RIBA London Award 2015. Photo: Hufton and Crow

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18th-century engraving of the 12th century Amberley Castle by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck

The French Mediterranean towns of Montpellier and La Grande Motte host the Festival des Architectures Vives, or Lively Architecture Festival (September). Site-specific installations by young architects and designers are on view in streets and courtyards, some of which are only accessible during the festival, in the historic city centers. The call for 2016 entries is open.

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Montepellier: ”Médusa” by Alban Guého

France also hosts the Journées du Patrimoine (September) a wildly popular event that’s loosely equivalent to Open House New York (Oct. 17-18, 2015) but with much older buildings. The doors of such exclusive sites as the Palais de l’Elysée (the President’s residence) are open to the public. Visitors to the International Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire (April to November), which has been drawing crowds of art and garden lovers for 23 years, can also take in the somewhat older (ca. 1000) Château de Chaumont.

Above: Chaumont sur Loire: “Sylphe” – Festival International des Jardins, © E. Sander

chaumont gnomes

Chaumont sur Loire: “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” – Festival International des Jardins, 2012 – © E. Sander

In Africa, Johannesburg’s AZA Future City (September) is a festival of talks, events, and tours that celebrates creativity and demonstrates the social and economic value of design (not to mention soccer!).

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Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa – Architect: Populous, Boogertman Urban Edge & Partners; Photographer: Chris Gascoigne

Down under, the Adelaide Festival of Architecture and Design is currently in full swing (October 8-13). Attractions include a rooftop tour, open studios, and – we’re saving the best for last — a boutique bar crawl.

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This model by Woods Bagot is among those displayed at Space Land, an architectural model exhibition on show during the Adelaide Festival of Architecture and Design

Architecture & Design Film Festival – Kyle Bergman Q+A

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Here in New York City, it’s Architecture and Design Month “Archtober” (ärk’tōbər)! It’s the fifth annual month-long festival of architecture activities, programs and exhibitions taking place during the month of October.  Around the globe, there are a bounty of cultural festivals that also celebrate excellent architecture and great design and, this month, we’re highlighting some of the world’s best. Let’s start here at home in NYC with the Architecture & Design Film Festival… 

 

Now, in its seventh year, the Architecture & Design Film Festival returns to New York, October 13 -18, with an invigorating selection of feature-length, short, and documentary films. Expect to be engaged and entertained by lively discussions with architects, designers, filmmakers and industry leaders. We caught up with Kyle Bergman, the founder and director of the Architecture & Design Film Festival.

 

Q: How did the festival get started?

A: I’m an architect by profession and I’ve always thought about the great connection between architecture and film. To me, they’re two sides of the same coin — architecture and film are ways for us to tell stories. They share similar characteristics, for one, they are both public acts. Both art forms consider light, scale, proportion, and it’s really a balance between art and science. Merging architecture and film was something that came natural to me. I really wanted to develop a film festival that engaged the general public as well as the design community.

 

Q: What is the film selection process?

A: We accept submissions year-round. We preview around 250 films and try to stick to a schedule of 25-30 films. However, this year we ended up with a selection of 33 films, which speaks volumes about the high caliber of submissions we received. Our selection process is “organic”, and we don’t adhere to criteria; we care more about how the films capture the creative design process.

 

Q: Were there themes that came together in making selections for this year’s programs?

A: No, we don’t start with themes, it generally evolves. But a Nordic theme became apparent when we were finalizing our program schedule. For instance, we’re showing Jytte Rex’s acclaimed portrait of the late Henning Larsen, and The Infinite Happiness, which features the giant 8 House designed by Bjarke Ingels. Festivalgoers may even detect mini-Irish and family themes.

 

Q: Can you describe the physical and emotional duress of putting on a festival like this?

A: I may disappoint you with my answer… I’m a firm believer that if you like what you do, you don’t even think about it.

 

Q: Tell us the best and worst part of your job.

A: The festival is something that I started, so I’m proud of that. But I would say the best part of my job is having the opportunity to increase architecture and design dialogue, and make it more appealing to a wider audience, not just for design professionals. Then, there are the filmmakers…I feel that the festival puts a spotlight on these talented filmmakers and showcases their passion and dedication to their craft.

 

Don’t miss out on the nation’s largest film festival celebrating architecture and design. Tickets and the program schedule are available here.

Be the Leader of the Pack

 

1136926Three ways to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry

You’ve made it to part three of our September Strategies series. We’ve given you insight into creating a brand identity that matches your business goals and advice on how to create a communications plan that will achieve those goals. In this blog post, we are going to help you strengthen your reputation and credibility, increase your reach to potential clients, and be recognized as an expert in your industry.

Write, write, and write some more

You and your staff possess significant knowledge that will interest a variety of publications. One way to establish yourself as an expert in your industry is by writing bylined articles. As discussed in our previous blog post, bylined articles are a way for you to provide useful advice and valuable content geared toward potential clients.

There are other ways that you can showcase your knowledge. Writing a blog post is a great way to build awareness about your company, projects, and staff. More importantly, blogging on a consistent basis gives you a platform to express your ideas, solutions, and positions on trending topics.

Last but not least, consider writing an e-book or a white paper containing valuable content to increase your reach to potential clients. Not only that, you can gather valuable contact information from prospects when they download your e-book or white paper.

Speak with the press

Brush up on your interview skills. Interviews with editors and writers are a great way for you to showcase your firm and your portfolio, in addition to increasing your credibility. Wondering how to get in touch with the editor of your favorite magazine? Public relations firms foster relationships with the press and they are able to provide introductions with key editors and writers at top-tier publications. These desk-side meetings will allow you to talk about your experience and expertise. In addition, it will also strengthen your relationship with writers and editors who will be more inclined to go to you in the future for quotes or source new article topics.

Desk-side meetings are not the only way to get interviews. Social media platforms create dialogue that can help you get your thoughts and opinions “heard”. Participate in Q&A forums, like those hosted by LinkedIn or Twitter. You will reach an expanded audience and engage with other professionals in these digital forums.

Seek out speaking engagements

It is valuable for you to seek out speaking engagements at local and national venues. Every time you put yourself in the role of presenter or panel speaker, you are building your authority on best practices, new methods or technologies. By participating in conferences, you will open the doors to other outreach opportunities.

Positioning yourself as a thought leader will not happen overnight. It takes time, effort, and consistency to establish and grow your reputation. Every written piece, interview, or speaking engagement strengthens your authority. So the time to start is now!

September success strategies

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Four steps for creating a powerful communications plan

If you read our previous blog post regarding re-calibrating your brand, you’ve taken the first step towards long-term success.

Ok, so you’ve gone through the mini-branding evaluation. You’ve identified the specific types of clients you want, clarified your direct and indirect competitors, defined your differentiators, aligned your business goals with the marketplace, and evaluated your visual identity. Ready for the next steps?

Here at Design of the Haus, we’re taking it further and we’re going to give you an exclusive look at the components of a good communications plan, a document that helps our clients target their messaging, find opportunities to raise their companies’ profiles, promote projects and their firms, and create a calendar of immediate action steps.

Step One: Target your messages

Create your firms’ key messages by answering these sample questions. What differentiators set your firm apart from your competitors? What types of work do you do or aspire to do? Does your firm have a rich history or milestone that you would like to highlight? What special value do you bring to your clients? To create consistent and impactful messaging, create statements that address the questions above and use them for all of your firms’ marketing and outreach material.

Step Two: Raise your company’s profile

To increase your firm’s visibility in the media and get in front of prospective clients, your firm should get involved in professional networks.

  • Research and join relevant professional organizations that can help your firm build valuable relationships. Involvement in these types of organizations is an effective way to reach decision makers, gain networking and introduction opportunities, and open new avenues for different types of potential work.
  • Seek speaking opportunities at professional events and conferences. This will further establish your firm as experts in a specific industry or market.
  • Submit for awards, because winning awards is an excellent way for your firm to get press and impress clients and potential clients. Awards also give your firm credibility and further enhance its reputation that may lead to interviews, speaking engagements, and invitations to panel discussions.

Step Three: Promote your projects and people

It is critical to maintain visibility in your industries and markets. Consistent outreach in a variety of media outlets will keep the company mainstream and “buzzworthy”. Review your recent projects and come up with story or trend ideas to pitch to editors. For example, say your firm is designing the first passive house in Florida. Capitalize on the trend of how passive house technology is crossing over from Europe and becoming mainstream in the US. So you could pitch a story about fitting passive house design into any American landscape, from the hot climates of Florida to the icy winters of Michigan (where its already been applied).

You can also keep your company in the news by having a member of your leadership team write a by-lined article for a professional trades publication, for example, describing your firm’s innovative approach to combining modern technology and traditional materials.

Step Four: Initiate an immediate actions calendar

Plan for the next four to six months and end 2015 strong. First, figure out your immediate, mid-and long-term activities. Include pitch ideas, potential editor meetings, competition deadlines, social media implementation dates, etc. While creating a calendar is the last step of this communications plan, this is not a static document. You will need to review and update it on a consistent basis. In fact, this plan should serve as a starting point for an in-depth communications program for the end of 2015 and well into 2016.

Fall in love (again) with your brand

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Do you feel the cool breeze signaling the beginning of autumn? Don’t let your business hibernate until the new year. Take control of the remaining months and end the year with a bang! Our three-part September blog series will help you give your business a mini-brand makeover, create an end-of-the year communications plan, and showcase your expertise to lead your industry.

3 steps to re-calibrate your identity

We are bombarded by information all the time – it’s just the world we live in. And we all know how hard it is to focus with so much going on at once. So it’s more important than ever for companies to stand out from their competition. Yes, we mean you.

But how do you do this? You need to create a brand that is identifiable, relatable, and – above all — memorable.

We all hear about branding, but few know what it actually means. It’s not really as complicated as it seems. Simply put, a brand is how your clients perceive your services or company. It encompasses everything from your visual identity to your messaging. Above all, it needs to be consistent. And to be effective, you want to engage clients with your branding and establish strong, lasting relationships.

 

Speak your clients’ language

Number one, you need to be strategic. You won’t get every client out there – and you may not want to. Your branding needs to appeal to the specific types of clients you want. From the outset, you’ll need to know about your clients, their values, and their goals. This knowledge is a critical foundation for your company’s brand messaging. Without it, you’ll spend a lot of valuable time and money on a scattershot approach. Focus your efforts on the type of clients you currently have and clients that you aspire to have.

 

Stand out from the pack

Second, you don’t want to match your competitors – you want to outshine them. All of them. Your direct competitors serve similar clients and offer similar services. Your indirect competitors may operate in the same markets but offer different products and services.

Above all, your brand needs to be authentic and reflect your company’s unique qualities and competitive edge. You want to highlight your distinctive attributes and identify ways that your firm stands out. For example, you may have a proprietary design process, an innovative construction method, or an unmatched technology. If no one can claim these same approaches, make these differentiators work for you.

 

Get in alignment

Once you understand how you measure up to the competition, make sure that your brand identity aligns with your business goals and your marketplace. This is brand positioning. You want to make sure that your brand speaks to your targeted audiences and gets you noticed. It must represent what your company does and where you want to go.

 

If you brand it, they will come

Once you understand your position in the marketplace, start to create a consistent visual identity that has a unique logo, fonts, color palette, etc. Make sure that your identity reflects your firm and appeals to your audiences. For example, you may want to use bold, bright colors to attract a younger demographic. Your audiences may be local or they may be national. You may want to be more serious or inject a bit of humor. Remember that your brand needs to encompass everything from the services you offer to the benefits you bring to your clients, your personality, and your values, vision, and mission. The same brand needs to be carried throughout your website, collateral material, social media platforms, etc.

Once you have done this exercise, be sure to engage your staff in becoming brand ambassadors for your firm. Then go forth and conquer!

Stuck in the city this summer? 'Escape' with your Netflix queue

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Welcome to our inaugural Summer Haus edition! We are still weeks away from the final days of summer, so let’s lather on the sunscreen, take a sip of our cold brew, and delve into Hausman’s very first summer guide.

Dreaming of taking a vacation to the south of France and reliving the Bohemian 1900s surrounded by Belle Époque architecture, or maybe spending the day exploring both the inside and outside of Frank Gehry’s designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. While the Parisians close shop for all of August, most of us do not have the luxury of taking such a leisurely holiday. But don’t fret, let me introduce the ‘staycation.’ You don’t have to deal with long car rides, traumatic airports, tight airplanes, and lost luggage. You can ‘escape’ to exotic locations, travel through time, and explore astounding architecture without leaving the comfort of your couch (or bed). Here’s a short movie guide that will transport you to a different world.

Art Nouveau

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Midnight in Paris (2011) featuring Art Nouveau, “new art” of the beginning of the 20th century

Art Deco 

Metropolis - art deco

Metropolis (1927) influenced by New York City’s 1920’s Art Deco

Ghostbuster - Art Deco (Shandor Building)

Ghostbusters (1984) at 55 Central Park West, New York

Eclectic

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Blade Runner (1982) features the Bradbury building inspired by a 1880’s sci-fi novel, featuring a Victorian inspired five story atrium with intricate iron details, including Mexican tiles and Italian marble. The Bradbury is also featured in Double Indemnity, 500 Days of Summer, and The Artist

Modernism

Ben Rose House

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) features a Modern residential designed by A. James Speyer, who studied under Mies can der Rohe

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Mon Oncle’s (1958) Villa Arpel

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Gattaca (1997) Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Civic Center

Prairie School

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North by Northwest (1959) could not afford Frank Lloyd Wright’s fees, so here’s a little Hollywood trivia, this prairie-style house is actually just a movie set

Let us know of any other movies that you thought should have made it on the list. Leave a comment below!

Maximize Your Growth Potential: Put Your Best Relationships Forward

Slide1Summer is in full swing, but it’s not too late to start developing a solid business strategy for the Fall, so we’ll round out our snapshot of “A Three-Phase Program to Fast-Track Your Design Business for Profit.” Dr. Tami Hausman participated in the panel at the 2015 AIA National Convention in May, along with Lisa Henry, CEO of Greenway Group, and Steve Whitehorn, managing principal of Whitehorn Financial Group.

In this installment, Steve stresses the importance of strong relationships to build a successful practice.

Get into The “Relationship” Business

The financial success of any firm is built upon its personal relationships. However, many firms often fail to realize this basic truth. Firms spend an overwhelming proportion of their marketing budgets on the pursuit of new clients, rather than nurturing existing connections. This approach is outmoded and counterproductive, as projects from repeat clients constitute the majority of many firms’ businesses.

According to Donna Fenn, contributing writer for Inc. Magazine, acquiring new clients can be costly, while existing relationships are more reliable and profitable. In fact, repeat clients spend close to 70% more than new ones. By investing in its existing clients, firms earn trust and fortify alliances. For example, if an architect needs to renegotiate a fee during the design process, a long- term contact is more likely to give approval than a first-time client.

Trust, confidence and chemistry 

Good relationships are about three things: trust, confidence, and chemistry.  Firms benefit greatly from nurturing their best connections and letting go of those that aren’t working. If the chemistry isn’t there, then let it go.  Parting ways with a big project client may seem counterintuitive. However, difficult clients waste resources and diminish profits.

If you’re still not convinced, think of it this way: The Economist’s “80/20 Rule” demonstrates that 80% of any businesses’ profits are generated by 20% of its customers. By keeping strong client relationships and discarding unprofitable alliances, firms free up time and energy to devote to their top 20% clients, resulting in greater financial stability overall.

Good relationships equal profitability

Architects can’t afford to spend time on projects that aren’t working, especially as they’re subject to unique pressures that often result in diminished budgets and strained cash flow. By recognizing that client relationships directly influence profitability and paying close attention to their best assets, firms can move forward with stability and confidence.

 

Steve Whitehorn is the author of the upcoming book, Ensuring Your Firm’s Legacy, and Managing Principal of Whitehorn Financial Group, Inc. The firm is the creator of The A/E Empowerment Program®, a three-step process that helps firms create a more significant legacy and empowers them to achieve greater impact on their projects, relationships, and communities.

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