Design on the Haus
It’s October once again; when bumps in the night and creepy creatures can rattle even the bravest folks. But the scariest thing that can happen to you this season is when you realize you’ve let your professional profile slip into the darkness! Here are a few tips to help you change from an industry ghost into a highly visible professional and raise your profile from the dead.
Jump-start your presence on social media. We know that social media can be a scary prospect for those of you who have yet to become actively engaged in using it to promote your business. In fact, in our next post, we’ll lay out a detailed plan for how you can conquer your social media fears and get with the rest of the cyber-verse. But for those of you already on social media – and who may have let their activity fall into oblivion – a focused approach is the best way to get back into the land of the living.
If you haven’t already, you can create a blog that’s connected to your website. Write about topics that demonstrate your expertise, current projects, or design trends. Try to post to your blog at least three times per month.
Next, use Twitter and LinkedIn – probably the two most important social media tools you can use to raise your profile – to further augment your exposure to current and past clients, potential clients, and the media as well as to other architects, engineers, and designers. Use Twitter to lead audiences to your website, blog, and vice versa. A LinkedIn profile will help you maximize your professional connections. Additionally, A/E/C industry networks like Architizer, Honest Buildings, Houzz, Porch, and others are excellent ways to network with other industry professionals, build relationships, and get more work. Set a goal to post at least three times per week.
Get involved with professional organizations. Participation in key professional organizations can help you build and maintain valuable relationships, be more accessible to potential clients, and get in front of the right types of clients. For example, if you want to reach developers and other real estate industry leaders to get more commercial work, then participating in pro organizations where they are involved is an effective way to reach these decision makers. For greatest impact, you need to attend events on a regular basis, and participate in committees or join boards, in order to gain access to the most valuable networking opportunities.
Share your expertise and thought leadership at conferences. Another thing you can do to pull your low profile out of zombie land is to begin participating in panels and speaking opportunities. These can be excellent ways to share your experience, expertise and personality with your target audiences. If public speaking scares you to death, start off small and practice with colleagues in your firm. For your presentations, focus on topics that demonstrate your expertise in particular building typologies or industry sectors such as healthcare. Once you get more comfortable speaking, participate in a panel discussion at your local AIA chapter. If you find you’re good at it and you enjoy it, you can start submitting yourself to speak at bigger meetings and conferences for greater exposure.
Just because the daily grind has caused you to let your exposure slip into an early grave, doesn’t mean it’s dead. All it takes is a strategic, steady approach to social media, networking, and speaking opportunities to revive yourself and get the professional exposure you deserve. Your audiences will be screaming “it’s alive!”
This month we’ve heard from guest bloggers Brad Feinknopf on investing in good photography and Jessica Wyman on tips for designing an effective website. Now that you’ve got a great website with gorgeous photography, how do you actually get visitors? The answer is SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) improves a website’s visibility in online search results in order to increase the number of visitors to that website. Search engines like Google match users with the businesses and services they are looking for. In order to do this, they employ “crawlers,” special algorithms that read through the Internet, index each website, and rank it for different search terms. These search terms are known as key words (a single word, like “architecture,”) and key phrases (a group of keywords, like “architecture design firm”).
The goal of your SEO plan should be to make your expertise more evident to Google and other search engines, in order to increase its exposure and number of visitors. Once you place focused keywords strategically within the website’s text, the website’s ranking in search results will improve. The higher the website’s ranking, the more visitors will find it. In fact, a 2013 study found that 83.6% of searchers visit one of the top seven Google results in a given search.
In order to achieve this goal, you will want to select keywords that closely align with your firm’s signature services. Then, integrate these focused keywords throughout the text of your website in order to maximize your SEO. An effective SEO strategy encompasses several steps:
First, identify the terms that best represent your firm’s identity and services. Identify three or four key words and phrases that concisely convey your firm’s identity and services. These should be general search terms that someone might use to search for you such as “landscape architect” or “interior designer” or “project management.” It may seem like you’re stating the obvious, but for search purposes that’s exactly what you want to do. Once the user visits your website, you can demonstrate how you are different from all of the other landscape architects, interior designers, or project managers out there.
Next, research your chosen key words and phrases. Using a suite of SEO tools like Google Analytics, explore how often your chosen keys words and phrases are searched for. You should also determine if other, similar terms are more popular search terms – such as “corporate interior designer” or “workplace interior designer”. Further, you need to find out the level of competition for your chosen terms, i.e. how often a phrase appears on other websites. Google Analytics can help you find all of this data.
Then, evaluate your research and develop a plan. Once you’ve done your research using Google Analytics, take a look at the resulting data for each word and phrase you’ve chosen and prioritize a targeted number of final SEO keywords or phrases. Determining the most effective SEO keywords and phrases is a qualitative, not a quantitative process. In evaluating each key word and key phrase, you should take into account the following:
- Value to your firm: All of the keywords and phrases you choose should reflect your firm’s principal services
- Search volume: A higher number of monthly searches for a term brings more exposure to your website
- Specificity: Being specific when choosing key phrases ensures that visitors who discover your site through a search will find what they are looking for
- Competition: The fewer competitors there are for a key phrase, the higher your website will rank
Finally, optimize your website. Place your SEO keywords and phrases frequently and prominently within your website’s text. The “crawler” algorithms that Google uses to scan websites during searches take not only the keywords into account, but how often the keywords appear and even their proximity to one another. Be sure to work these keywords into your text as much as possible without overdoing it or ruining the overall narrative.
A top priority for every business is to direct the right kind of traffic to its website. A well-defined, effective SEO strategy will augment your online presence and ensure that more potential clients find your firm online.
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.
This month, we’re giving AEC industry professionals tips on the best ways to improve their websites. In our first installment, nationally recognized architectural photographer Brad Feinknopf offers insight on investing in good photography. The Columbus-based photographer has been shooting architecture and commercial related images for over 25 years. His images have been published worldwide and over his career has done a wide variety of work for many of the world’s well-known architects and designers. Brad was recently selected by ArchDaily as one of the Top 13 Architectural Photographers in the World to Follow.
By Brad Feinknopf
We live in a visual society. People gravitate to the image. In Eric Bricker’s 2008 documentary film, Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman, narrator Dustin Hoffman quotes the renowned architectural photographer saying,
“Architects live and die by the images taken of their work; as these images alone are what people see. For every one person who visits a private house, there may be ten thousand who only view it as a photo.”
This quote – which I’ve proudly attached to my e-mail signature – was made before the advent of the Internet and those “ten thousand” people to which Shulman refers could now easily number in the hundreds of thousands or even millions when one considers the multitude of Design and Architectural blogs that publish imagery.
Digital newsletters and alerts from top architectural blogs like ArchDaily or Architizer show up in your inbox, largely as a series of images, and only when you click on them do you get the words. Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, Stumbledupon and other image-driven social media platforms are growing exponentially. Even Twitter, which is a text-based platform, has become a popular vehicle for disseminating links to videos and images.
Would you maintain a subscription to Architect, Architectural Record, Interior Design or Contract if there were no photography? How many periodicals do you read that contain mere pontifications on design and present no images? Obviously, imagery is important and it’s not just important, it’s paramount.
I am an architectural photographer and I should know. When someone visits my website, I have one chance to grab their attention. I have tirelessly gone through my galleries to make certain that each one shows depth. I constantly update my online portfolios so they maintain their freshness, and I try to make sure my descriptions are strong, cohesive and grammatically correct. But in the end, it is the first handful of images – and these images alone – that will either compel the viewer to delve deeper into my website or move on.
As you market your projects, your challenge is exactly the same as mine. When a visitor lands on your website, you need the right photography to draw the viewer in or they will click away to someone else’s homepage.
The same is true for competitions and the press. I’ve spoken about the importance of imagery to numerous editors for prominent architecture and design publications, as well as jurors for AIA and other major competitions at every level. They all say the same thing: “The first cut is made entirely based upon photography. If the photography isn’t good, we move on. If the photography is good and the project looks interesting, we look deeper.”
Regardless, whether the material is your website, an awards submittal or a package for a print or online publication, it is the photography you are using that will ultimately move you beyond the first pass.
In light of this, try viewing photography not as an expense but as an investment. Like any investment, good photography should provide a return: it should garner you new work, help you win awards, and, hopefully, even get your firm and your projects published.
The way I see it, if my clients get new commissions, win awards, or get published, I have, in some small capacity, helped them to succeed through my photography. I’m not so arrogant as to believe that their success is solely due to my work and my images, but I will say that a good project with great photography will often go much farther than a great project with poor photography. Likewise, if you have a great project with equally great photography, the possibilities may be endless.
So, when you’re looking at your website and thinking, “How can we do things better? How can we win that next commission, or that next award? How can we get ourselves published?” You will almost always find the answer by looking to your imagery. Is it up to snuff? Could it be better? Investing in the right photography could very likely be one of the most critical factors in determining the level of success your firm may enjoy in the years ahead.
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!
Brien McDaniel is the Director of Communications and Senior Associate of FXFOWLE Architects, a firm committed to innovative design inspired by urbanism, technology and sustainable strategies. He has over 20 years of communications, media relations, and special event management experience for higher education and cultural institutions, and architectural practices
by Brien McDaniel
Now that you’ve planned wisely and pinpointed your targets, you need to create a perfect pitch to engage your clients and audiences. Each new building, project win or milestone, and design award your firm receives can be a significant opportunity to increase your visibility and advance your brand – if you have the right story to tell.
Here are a few tips that can help you create a successful pitch:
Set-up the Pitch / Position the Story: Before you pick up the phone, send an email or draft a newsletter, you need ask some basic questions: “Is it newsworthy?”, “Does it have value and advance my brand?”, “What do I want to accomplish?” and “What about it will be of interest outside my firm, especially editors?” In order to create a more compelling and relevant story to pitch to the press, research your project to gather background information and material, develop a topical news angle and a few key messages, and then secure an expert spokesperson.
The Pitch: Now that you are ready to pitch, you should decide which publications and outlets to contact. Don’t forget to research what type of stories the publication publishes and the editor/reporter covers. One of the best ways to do this is through social media. Create a personal account on Twitter and follow all of the publications you want to pitch, and don’t forget to follow editors and reporters. It will give you a good idea of the types of news and stories they pursue and publish. When you are ready to pitch, keep these suggestions in mind:
- Email your pitch, follow-up with a phone call or another email a few days later.
- While on the phone with the editor or reporter, be sure to resend your pitch – don’t make him/her search for the email you previously sent.
- Pitch the story, not the project (or your firm).
- Keep your pitch brief and focused; pitch only one idea or news angle.
- Once the article is published, don’t forget to say “thank you.”
Build Influence / Increase Visibility: Although the A/C/E industry is moving away from traditional press relations, there are many options for communicating your news and content across multiple platforms. From 140 characters, a 1,000-word press release, an e-newsletter, a personalized e-mail pitch, or self-publishing, you can use a variety of strategic approaches to effectively build your influence and increase your visibility across all media outlets.
Lessons Learned: Each publicist has his/her own approach, and there are no set rules or guidelines. But I keep the following in mind for each story, event, initiative and project milestone I pitch. I hope it just might help you pitch perfectly, too.
- Think 360° – Each project has multiple angles, don’t settle on just one.
- Do your homework – Read A/C/E publications; ask your clients what they read; follow your favorite editors and reporters on social media.
- Do most of the work for the editor/reporter. Be organized. Be available. Be thorough.
- Expand your communications team to include subconsultants, client PR consultants and, in some cases, the client. This will (1) strengthen your message (2) provide consistency in messages and images (3) broaden your reach (4) and add depth to your story.
- Let go of the control (i.e. social media). Once you put it “out there,” it’s “out there.”
- It takes a long time for things to happen quickly; opportunities don’t end when the milestone is over.
At long last, spring has arrived, with plenty of bright sunshine and colorful flowers. Now is the time to kick your professional social life into gear. Awaken from your winter slumber and join your industry peers for networking events to build your business while having fun. It’s the season to make new relationships and rekindle old ones!
In our upcoming posts this month, we’ll give you tips for networking at events and for planning your own. But first, to get you started on the right foot, here are the top five professional events catering to the A/E/C industry in New York this spring.
1. Van Alen Institute: The Imprint of the City (May 9 at 7:30PM)
ISSUE Project Room (22 Boerum Place, Brooklyn, NY)
To launch Van Alen Institute’s Spring 2014 Events, the Institute and ISSUE Project Room present a fast-paced medley of music, poetry, personal reflections, conversations, and performances by designers, artists, musicians, writers, social scientists, and others exploring the meaning of well-being, and the effects of the city on our minds and bodies.
2. DoCoMoMo New York – TriState: A Modern Affair (May 13 at 6PM)
Alvar Aalto Rooms at the Edgar J. Kauffman Conference Center (809 United Nations Plaza)
Join DoCoMoMo New York/Tri-State for A Modern Affair in celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the Edgar J. Kauffman Conference Center, designed by renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.
3. On MAKINGOODESIGN: Good-Maker Party (May 15 at 5:30PM)
New York Design Center (200 Lexington Ave)
The first annual MAKINGOODESIGN: Good-Maker Party is co-hosted by Design With Benefits, desigNYC, AIANY ENYA, and Keilhauer at the New York Design Center. Come meet and learn about Good-Maker Thumbs-Up honorees, an innovative group of organizations using design to create change in New York City, and enjoy delicious cocktails, beer, and nibbles.
4. Designer City: How Innovative Solutions Transform Urban Life (May 16 at 7PM)
Museum of Arts and Design (2 Columbus Circle)
This panel discussion explores how the design industry has improved life for New Yorkers as well as people around the world. Moderated by The New York Times Home section Deputy Editor Julie Lasky, the panel will feature David Burney, associate professor of Architecture, Pratt Institute, and former commissioner of New York City’s Department of Design and Construction; Christine Gaspar, executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy; Jason Schupbach, director of design, the National Endowment for the Arts; and Wendy E. Brawer, founder and director, the Green Map System.
This panel is part of NYC x Design, New York’s official city-wide celebration of design. Take a look at their website for a complete list of events taking place from May 9 to 20, 2014.
5. Van Alen Institute Spring Party (May 21, 2014 at 8PM)
The High Line Hotel (180 Tenth Avenue)
The Van Alen Institute concludes its 2014 event season with a Spring Party in celebration of its 120-year legacy and the years to come. Enjoy festive cocktails, light food, and great music by White Prism and Maria Chavez.
Posted by Beth Connolly