Archive for: Design
I just started working at an architecture firm, after spending many years in the financial industry. It’s been an exciting career change. As part of my business development activities, I have been attending rehearsals with the partners and project teams as they prepare for interviews. Since I’m a newbie to this industry, I’m struck by the way the architects talk about their work and how they describe it to clients. Most of the time, I have no idea what they’re saying, and I’m concerned that our clients don’t either. Maybe this is the way that architects sell their work, but it seems that there must be a way to communicate that resonates better with potential clients. Any ideas?
Lost in Translation
Dear Lost in Translation,
Well, I certainly relate to your frustration! Don’t worry, the Doctor assures you that what is lost can certainly be found. And it’s not just design professionals who have a hard time communicating their expertise. Believe me, when our IT guy tries to explain what’s wrong with my computer, I think we are talking a different language – and that’s because we actually ARE. I am just glad that he is fluent in Macs, because certainly I am not.
Okay, so back to you, Lost. You are not lost, by the way, you’re on the right track. It’s critical for you, your principals, or indeed anyone in your firm to clearly describe what you do for your clients, how you do it, and why you’re the best at it. Design language isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, your experts will do themselves a disservice if they can’t speak in a way that clearly explains their vision and value to their clients. So what can you do about it? Keep these things in mind.
- First, know your strengths! Call it an elevator pitch or whatever you want. You need to know why you’re the team that the client needs to hire and how your design will make your clients’ businesses soar. You need to be able to articulate your value proposition in a snap. Show how you have done this for other clients in the past. This is why your partners became architects in the first place, so show your expertise to your best advantage.
- Keep it simple! Look, you’re architects, and you’re all about design. That’s a great thing. But you shouldn’t have to bring a translator to a client meeting. It is your goal – and it’s also a great opportunity – to educate your clients and bring them on board. They need you, but they may not understand your industry. They may be anxious about the look of the building – not to mention the process, fees, and schedule. You can navigate them through uncharted territory. Describe the experience that they will have in your new building, not just the architectural details. Talk about your working process. Focus on how you will help them achieve their goals. These are all keys to a winning communications strategy.
- Speak your client’s language! Make sure, above all, that you do your homework and know what’s important to a client. A meeting or interview should not be a monologue; it’s a conversation. For example, do they want to be sustainable? Have big private offices or collaborative workspaces? Look traditional or hip? Find out their priorities and internalize them. They will use the building every day – you won’t – so demonstrate that you have listened to them and can deliver what they need.
Recently, our partners told me that they want to refresh our brand. We’re a 53-year-old architecture firm. I’ve heard a lot about branding, but I’m not sure what that means. Do we have to design a new logo, create a new website, change our name? It sounds like a lot of work, and I don’t even know where to start. Please help!
Need Some Brand-Aid
Well, look Brand-Aid, it’s the holidays, so you have a little time to relax and think about your big moves for 2015. The Doctor is not such a Scrooge that she doesn’t think that you need a few days off to recharge, just like your smartphone.
But! It will be a new year very soon, and that’s the perfect time to refresh your brand. Ok, so let’s get down to some specifics, because different people define branding in different ways. For example, some consider your logo and graphics to be your brand – the things that we simply used to call your “corporate identity.” And that’s part of it. We’ve all seen outdated logos and graphics, and it’s not a pretty sight. Think about it: you wouldn’t wear a Santa suit on July 4th, so you don’t want to start 2015 with a logo that’s stuck in the 1980s! But there’s more to branding than just your visual identity.
Here at Hausman, we define “brand” as the core values that distinguish your firm. Let’s be clear about this: you’re a professional services firm, not Heinz ketchup! So while you want to promise and deliver great architecture, it’s not just the quality of your product (i.e. buildings) that help you build your brand, it’s also the quality of your services and the level of knowledge that you bring to clients. You need to know what your clients want and need, and then figure out a good way to give them what you want. Hotels here are a good analogy – are you the kind of firm that provides room service and has a spa, or do you have a breakfast buffet and Internet service? Your firm has to figure out what it wants to be. After that, you need to reinforce that brand in every way possible. This includes your “look” or corporate identity (including your website), how you describe yourself, and any proactive communications, such as articles and press releases.
It’s critical to have unified messages about your firm when you talk about how your design process operates and how you pitch the firm to targeted client groups. Just as you are all using the same logo and the same font, make sure you are all making the same promise to clients – and meeting that promise. Most important, branding is about building a strong, solid reputation, and there’s no better selling point than that.
Photographed by Sabrina Ahern
Jessica Wyman is principal and creative director of Wyman Projects, a graphic design and web development consultancy based in New York City. As a graphic designer with a degree in architecture, she has ten years of experience collaborating with architects, interior designers, engineers, and A/E/C consultants, to create meaningful print and web experiences that communicate professionalism and integrity. Jessica is currently art director for Oculus, AIA New York’s quarterly publication; and she regularly presents at the Chapter’s annual Fellows Workshop for FAIA candidates.
By Jessica Wyman, Wyman Projects
Have you ever visited a website where the copyright or blog posts date back to 2006? I have, and it saddens me to think that those companies spent a small fortune designing a website that quickly became stale and forgotten.
Thankfully, website development has come a long way since then. With out-of-the-box Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress and Drupal, building dynamic online experiences that are easy-to-use and easy-to-manage is within every design professional’s budget.
Still, building an effective website that will showcase your portfolio, communicate your expertise and get you new projects requires a thoughtful, strategic approach. Before you begin designing your new site, here are some things to think about:
Design Smart. One of the first things you should determine before designing your new website is its purpose. Who are you trying to reach with this new site? Potential clients? The media? Fans? All of the above? For most AEC professionals, a website is a tool to communicate your expertise and to convince prospective clients to take action and connect with you.
While your new site should reflect your firm’s personality and culture, its format, content, and design will need to appeal to prospective users. Unfortunately, design professionals often make the mistake of designing a site that they like rather than designing one that will be effective in reaching their target audiences.
So how do you do this? Understanding your company’s mission – and which clients you want to serve – is key to pinpointing the needs and habits of your target audiences.
Will your visitors be using a computer or mobile device to view the site? Is there anything you can learn from your current website’s analytics, such as pages with the highest bounce rate? What information does your target audience need most and how will you shape the user’s journey to satisfy those needs?
Think Big. Gone are the days of table-based layouts and small browser sizes, which resulted in small-scale images on the user’s screen. You are a design professional with beautiful project photography; so don’t be afraid to go full bleed. Consider using a full browser slideshow on your home page or project pages to make an impact and to define a mood.
Less is More. The impulse to feature or list every single project on your website is a mistake many design professionals make. A website should have enough curated content to communicate expertise and personality, while leaving the visitor curious enough to contact your firm for more information.
Cross-Pollinate. Create relationships between content and pages on the website to engage visitors. Curiosity keeps users clicking and strategies such as suggesting links to “Related Content” or crosslinking press items or bios will retain visitors and improve site analytics.
Don’t hide your contact information. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how many company websites hide contact information under submenus. Include a phone number and email address on the home page; and consider designing a special splash page with contact information and a map for mobile visitors.
Launch Strategy. Once you’ve designed and launched your website successfully…now what? Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Create a content strategy that includes a schedule for updating your new website with new projects, news items, blog posts, and links to your social media platforms.
Clients and prospective employees want to work with design professionals who are active and innovative thought leaders; providing these visitors with fresh content monthly, if not weekly, is key to engaging, and ultimately working with, your ideal clients.
In this month’s series of posts, we’re exploring the effectiveness of materials outside of photography. We’ll give you tips on how to increase your outreach using materials from different mediums ranging from visual to printed. Take a look in the following post to see how investing the time to write a book can improve your integrated communications program and help you to build influence.
By Dr. Tami Hausman
So you’re an architect, and you design buildings, but you want to…write a book? Well, you’re in good company. Throughout history, architects have a rich tradition of writing and publishing. Think of The Ten Books of Architecture by Vitruvius or The Four Books of Architecture by Andrea Palladio. In more recent times, some of the busiest architects have been the most prolific – such as Le Corbusier or even Rem Koolhaas.
Writing a book is, admittedly, a big undertaking. In a world of texts and tweets, it can seem a bit anachronistic (you might be asking: does anyone actually buy books anymore, much less read them?). Well, they do, and the time that you put into writing a book can be well worth the payoff.
Books make a great part of your integrated communications program and help you to build influence by establishing your firm’s position in the marketplace. They can also increase your brand awareness, be a strong sales and marketing tool that generates new prospects, and set you apart from your competition – through your design, ideas, approach, people, etc.
We at Hausman LLC are big advocates for the printed page. We also believe that – for greatest effect – you must be strategic. So, before you get started, here are some of the things that you’ll want to have in place:
Your reason for writing the book. A book is a big investment in time, money and resources. So you need to be clear about why you’re doing it: do you want to celebrate a milestone, such as an anniversary, highlight an area of specialty, or talk about a proprietary approach or process? These are all good reasons, but you need to pick one, and then stick to that decision.
Your topic and format. Many books by or about architects are monographs. Monographs are extremely useful, as they can put you on the proverbial map. They are good ways to demonstrate that you have a strong portfolio of work, or that you have been in business for a specific length of time. But consider this: you also write a book about a particular project type in which you excel; one standalone, great project; or even an industry trend. You’ll also want to think about the size of the book and its format.
Your timeframe. Books can take a long time to write, design, edit, print and publish. So be sure that you plan ahead. Even if you assign one person to the project, you will invariably need a good, concentrated team of people to get the job done. You’ll also need to factor in a lot of principals’ time. Before you start, make sure you clear the decks.
Your authors. A book can be written by one person or many people. You may already have some content on hand but, in most cases, you’ll need to generate a lot of new text. Someone will have to fill in the gaps. You can enlist a team of people on your staff, write it yourself, or hire a ghostwriter.
Visual material, including – but not limited to – photography. Whatever kind of book you write, you’ll need visual material. It is best to have this on hand before you start. So, if you need to dig through your archives and scan old images, then don’t delay. If you need to create new presentation materials or new renderings, get them started before you set the wheels in motion. You don’t want the images to hold up production.
Your publisher. There are a number of different publishers from which you can choose. Some of the most common include: Images Publishing Group, Oro Editions, Princeton Architectural Press, The Monacelli Press, and Wiley. They all have different fee structures and conditions, so take the time and do your research to find which one is the best fit.
Last month’s theme explored the importance of incorporating a broad range of strategic tools to communicate about your firm. Another effective approach to promoting your projects is to use drawings, renderings, diagrams, and other visual representations.
You probably have lots of drawings, elevations, site plans, and diagrams you’ve created for projects to show to clients during the design process. These materials can also be effective tools to use when promoting your projects.
Photographs are essential tools for promoting projects, but sometimes they don’t completely capture a project’s design. To communicate a building’s function or to magnify the less obvious design features of a project, try using drawings and diagrams.
Cross-sections. A drawing that shows a cross section of your project is an effective way to show detail. Showing a cutaway view of the interior helps magnify specific design elements that might otherwise be hard to express with photography or in a press release. For example, if a journalist wants to describe the challenges of a staircase reconfiguration, a cross-section drawing can help illustrate the stair’s design.
Diagrams. Using an architectural diagram is beneficial for illustrating how your design works. If you pair a diagram to a description in a press release that uses more technical language, the language can become more digestible for a journalist. Visual clarification of the more complicated features of a project helps the press better follow along with what design challenges took place, and in turn convey the subtle aspects of your project more accurately. Just remember to keep your diagrams simple and easy to follow.
Renderings. As you know, renderings give a clearer picture of what your building will eventually look like and illustrate the complexities of your design. Use renderings as supplementary press materials to actively engage the media about your project even while your project is still under construction.
Site plans. As you are aware, sharing a bird’s-eye view of a building with the press can offer a glimpse into your design process by providing a more comprehensive view of a project. In contrast, a photograph captures only a specific part, so it is helpful to include a clear site plan that provides an additional perspective. Enhancing a site plan with colors to differentiate areas can help a journalist more easily understand a building’s layout and design.
Keep in mind that while drawings tend to sometimes be overshadowed by the conventional appeal of photography, they also serve as highly effective communications tools for your projects. Drawings are essential for your design process, but they are equally important to share with the press to highlight your project’s exceptional design features!
As we mentioned in our first blog post this month, Writing Around the World, a global marketplace is the norm in 2014. If you are about to journey around the world to win your next project, then be certain to board your flight completely prepared. Do your homework before you leave town, and your journey will be smoother and more successful.
Familiarize yourself with your destination, and your potential client. You’ve likely researched the company, their needs, and what they’re looking for in a design firm. But you should also consider the cultural context of the firm. Learn about the iconic and recent architecture at your destination, and do your best to avoid making any culturally insensitive comments. You never know how you might unintentionally damage a business relationship with an off-handed comment.
If you’re making a presentation to stakeholders, make sure they speak and understand English. If not, arrange for a translator. Choose someone local to you, and rehearse your presentation together. That way, you’ll get your rhythm and flow down to a science before you leave home, and you’ll feel confident about your presentation.
Take into account the differences in business etiquette that you’ll encounter in another country. For example, businessmen in Japan bow in greeting, rather than shake hands, while in China, it’s considered customary to drink heavily when bargaining over a deal. If you can, speak with an expat from your destination county, and ask them for some guidance. If that’s not an option, then scour the Internet for information — you’ll find it.
Keep in mind, though, that just because you’ve done your research, it doesn’t make you an expert on your destination. Let John F. Kennedy’s famous foible “Ich bin ein Berliner,” serve as a warning to you. Unless you’re a native or fluent speaker, address your potential clients in English; most likely, they are fluent speakers.
With new technology, architects and design professionals have gained access to new, global frontiers. Implement these strategies to put your best foot forward and position your firm to win new, international clients.
Posted by Beth Connolly
The wait is over. Here are the answers to our #globalarchitecture pop quiz!
- This is the Oscar Niemayer Museum in Curitiba, Brazil. Designed by the renowned Brazilian architect in 2002, it was named in his honor — he completed the project at age 95. It is commonly known as “the Eye” and its shape is inspired by the Araucaria Tree, an indigenous species.
- The “Mushroom House,” a private residence in Perinton, New York, was designed to resemble the patterned flowers of the Queen Anne’s Lace plant. Architect Earl Young designed the 4,100-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath home in the early 1970s.
- Titled “Building with Verandas,” this 250-unit apartment complex and children’s day care center in Vienna, Austria was designed by Rüdiger Lainer + Partner. It features private outdoor space for each apartment, a roof-top sauna, and inverted loggias.
- The distinctive traditional homes of Puglia, Italy, or trulli, are dry stone dwellings with conical limestone-tiled roofs, which flourished in the 19th century. The trulli of Alberobello, Puglia have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The 28-bedroom Palais Bulles (or “bubble house”) was designed by architect architect Antti Lovag. It’s located ten kilometers outside of Cannes, France, and is owned by designed Pierre Cardin, who frequently hosts large events.
How did you do?
In 2014, the world is expanding and shrinking at the same time. With new technologies, doing business with someone on a different continent is not so different from doing business with your next-door neighbor. As the market for your work grows larger, our instantaneous ability to connect with others around the globe brings home the old song “It’s a small world, after all.”
More now than ever before, a global marketplace for architecture has become the norm. When you’re communicating about your work in 2014, don’t think national — think international!
That’s why this month, we’re using the hashtag #globalarchitecture to share some of our favorite international projects, trends, and publications on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Here on Design on the Haus, we’ll be surveying our top picks for international publications, helping you brush up on your international architecture trivia, and offering strategies for communicating across cultures.
Here’s a short list of the best international design publications:
Based in the UK, E-Architect includes recent news and a directory of prominent buildings, architect profiles, and products.
Recent article we loved: House of Music Opening Aalborg (Denmark)
ArchDaily bills itself as “the world’s most visited architecture website.” The site has English, Spanish, and Portuguese channels, featuring over 60 new projects from five continents published each day.
Recent article we loved: Where Do You Work? The Offices of ArchDaily Readers
This online architecture magazine features news and projects from around the world. Its news editors curate articles from international sources, helping its visitors discover far-reaching global trends.
Recent article we loved: Chinese Villages Given Urban Look Through Design
Published in the UK, Monocle is at the forefront of design and international affairs, covering everything from architecture to urban planning to travel to fashion to interiors. Its tastemaking editorial perspective highlights the issues high-level designers care about.
Recent article we loved: Towering Above It — Bogota
Created and published by Kristen Richards, the Editor-in-Chief of Oculus, AIA New York’s quarterly journal, this website and e-newsletter includes both original content and the top architecture and design news from around the world. It also features Nuts + Bolts, a series that offers practical solutions for A/E/C businesses.
Recent article we loved: Drawing an Elegant Conclusion: Menil Drawing Institute by Johnston Marklee
Posted by Beth Connolly