Why do you do what you do?
As an architect, you are designing the environment in which your clients live, work or have fun. You create spaces where people make memories, fulfill their dreams and achieve their goals. Just as each client is different, each architect is unique, and no two design projects are the same.
With so many architects in the world, how do you stand out? What’s your architectural brand?
Branding is more than just a logo. It’s about understanding who you are and what your firm is about – it’s the way you communicate with your clients. You want to identify your voice and why you are different from all the other architects. Building a brand is a journey, but since you are a brave architect, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the process. And you’ll be up for the challenge of filling in any gaps along the way.
Here are the five steps you need to create your awesome architectural brand:
1. Clearly tell your story
Remember the reasons why you are designing and put them into words. Do you want to design homes so that the elderly can gracefully age in place? Or do you prefer to create designs that are so environmentally green that they use zero net energy? Maybe you want to build office spaces for high-tech companies to encourage maximum creative energy and collaboration.
Also, think about the kind of person that you are. What would you like others to say about you – that you are kind, humane, and empathetic? Is there a specific feeling that you want your clients to have? Perhaps you want your clients to feel well cared for and nurtured. Calming imagery, words and a soothing tone will help convey this kind of message – perfect for designing senior care housing.
Maybe you are passionate about adventure. If you tell your story boldly and full of excitement, high-tech companies can definitely relate. They can understand your style and flair, associating it with their latest and greatest features and products.
Tell your story to align with who you are and what makes you and your firm special.
2. Define your design philosophy
Once you know why you are doing what you are doing, consider your design philosophy. These are the principles that show your values and what your architectural brand will give to your clients. Your brand is your promise. Will you deliver a design that is innovative and aesthetically pleasing? Do your designs guarantee to be long-lasting and environmentally friendly?
Whether your design philosophy is like Louis Sullivan with “Form follows function” or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with “Less is more,” this governs the type of building your clients can expect from you. Knowing your firm’s design philosophy will make it easier for your ideal clients to gravitate toward you.
3. Identify your design approach
The design approach is the process that you use. What are the unique steps you take as an architect to go from concept to construction documents? Who will be using the building that you design? Is it a family home, a multifamily apartment complex, a commercial space or a community center?
You will want to have a standard design approach, even if each type of structure is different. How will the ideas evolve from the first schematic until you produce plans, sections and elevations? By identifying your firm’s approach to design and establishing processes, you’ll prevent yourself from having to build the wheel again and again.
4. Clarify your message
Now that you know why you are doing the architecture you are doing, you have defined your design philosophy and identified your design approach, it’s time to clarify your message. Is your current communication supporting your brand? With a Brand Audit, you could discover gaps in your messaging and make it clearer.
Think of the ideal clients that your brand wants to serve – the high-tech company or the green environmentalist. What one of voice will they want to hear, soft and soothing or bold and adventurous? Are there specific images that will attract them? There’s a definite difference between the visuals of green trees for a nature lover and sharp, geometric shapes for high-tech.
Depending on the client you want to reach, there is different imagery you’ll select, text to write, and things you’ll say. Your images and words should match the person who is seeing, reading, or hearing them. Your brand message should resonate with the types of clients you want to attract.
Make sure that the message is clear as well as consistent no matter what the communication method.
5. Develop the branding materials
The last step in the process is to develop the branding materials. This includes any kind of visual communication as well as written and verbal media. When you and anyone in your firm verbally communicate with clients and prospects, the voice should be consistent. You will want the message on your website and any sales material to support the presentations that you deliver. Your logo and tagline are the foundations of your brand and should capture the essence of you and your company’s promise to your clients. You will want all your communications to align to strengthen your message.
You don’t have to redo everything at once, but you want to be sure that you have a strategy for what to do and when. Think of it as if you had your kitchen redone, but the family room is still the same. There’s inconsistency in the spaces, and they don’t relate to each other anymore. Before you begin making changes randomly here and there, create a plan so that the home will speak the same language.
With a strategy and plan in place, you can take action to create your architectural brand so that it’s easy to clearly explain what you do and why you do it.
Designing your architectural brand
Stand out from all the other architects with a brand that is unique to you and your firm. Know the story about why you are designing and the passion that you bring to your projects. Define your design philosophy and approach, so it’s clear to your clients. Let the messages that you communicate reinforce who you are, so your clients can identify with you. Lastly, put that plan into action and create materials that support your brand.