On the chance that you’ve been asleep for the last 10 years, more and more architects are turning to social media and platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to demonstrate their design skills and leverage that exposure into business development opportunities. Clearly, some people are more successful than others and not surprisingly, I have some opinions on that that would probably rub anyone who holds themselves out as an expert the wrong way. I’m not sure where Life of an Architect falls in that list but this site is more of a communication platform to educate people on what it means to be – and work with – an architect and has not traditionally been used for business development.
In terms of my stated goal, I am doing far better than I ever could imagine as there are no architectural websites like this one. As a platform of business development, this site has experienced success, almost in spite of itself, since getting work was not something that I expected this site to do. I have thought about the sort of information that I have shared on this site for years and at times I have gone out of my way to avoid discussing particular topics (kind of like the one I am bringing up today) as well as using this platform as my own online portfolio for the purposes of business development. I frequently think that this has been a mistake on my part, the passive manner in which I treat this website in my effort to bring new work into the office. As a result, I am going to experiment a bit with some of the content I am going to start sharing to hopefully bridge my original goal of education, along with the sharing of process and practice information, with my charge of bringing work into the office. I haven’t decided exactly how I want this to manifest itself but let’s hope that it’ll at least be interesting.
Let’s start with progress updates and renderings since I think this is the easiest area that can be addressed to achieve both.
This is one of the projects that we are currently working on in the residential studio – one that we are affectionately calling the “Hill Häus” … although I am already regretting the umlaut over the “a”. This project is in the northern portion of San Antonio, located in Bexar County (pronounced “Bear”) and is Texas Hill Country adjacent where there is a heavy Germanic history of settlement … that and our site is quite “hilly”.
Historically, I do not show many finished photos on this site, relegating that responsibility to the main company website. Instead, I have chosen to focus on process, drawings, design intent, etc. One thing that I didn’t really have the option to show were design process renderings … mostly because the firms where I worked didn’t have that capability at the time. Being able to include these design renderings into our architectural storytelling will open up access to projects much sooner in the creative process.
The intent of these renderings is really two-fold:
- Effective design communication with the client – the value of which seems pretty self-evident, but being able to show the intended design direction to people who might not be skilled in the practice of 3-dimensional visualization allows the design process to move forward effectively.
- Design communication and promotion with the general public – our ability to engage with potential clients while demonstrating not only our product, but our process, should be a central consideration to any business development plan.
Now that we have the ability to produce these sorts of images, why wouldn’t we be creating these images by the hundreds and sharing them constantly from the beginning? The most direct reason is that they take a lot of time to prepare, and unless you are using these images for multiple objectives, few residential architectural firms would have the cost factored/built into their fee structure to allocate the resources to produce them.
For example – the image directly above is from SketchUp, a readily available and intuitive software that many architectural firms use. It is fairly inexpensive software and its ease of use allows firms to go through a myriad of design exercises without having to specifically allocate ponderous resources in terms of fee and time to create the framework that can be used to communicate the proposed designs to the clients. However, to get it the model ready for the rendering you saw above, we have to go in and develop the model extensively and put in all the entourage your see. Things like:
- place settings on the table
- lighting and light fixtures
are just a few of the additional steps that are required, and that is just for interior renderings. This process frequently takes longer than actually designing the space!
When I had a roundtable conversation with the people who work with me in the residential studio, I explained to them that I wanted to start making these renderings in an effort to expand our reach beyond communicating to the client but to help promote the work we are doing as a team to the public at large. These are the sort of images that will allow us to tell better stories about our process and the development of our residential projects to people other than clients and yet, the client ultimately wins because they get the benefit of this improved visual communication.
There is one thing that has been on my mind since I decided to allocate the resources to generate these sorts of images … that the clients might get bogged down with the entourage selections we have made at a time when those items aren’t really selected. Take the image above … the owners might hate the piece of art that we put on the wall, or they might think the chair in the corner is too low from the floor and would be unpleasant to get in and out of. None of these things have anything to do with the fact that we want a piece of art on the wall, or a chair in the corner and at this stage, the specific items we have selected are not finalized (not to mention that we might not have anything to do with how the art OR furniture is even selected).
Business Development and Social Media
The purpose of these images to someone like me – and therefore all architects who practice residential architecture – is the creation of a narrative that allows us to unfold a project over time and bring people along for the story. I will be able to share these process images onto the various media platforms that I control rather than simply wait until the end. This means that process images are about to start showing up on my Instagram feed in addition to design and detail sketches. I will also confess that there are several other architecture firms that have done a really good job and demonstrating their work to the public – and architects like me – through their social media feeds, and hopefully, I can successfully emulate their lead.
Cheers – and here’s to the experiment,
To keep up with how this project progresses along, you can find all the posts here, stored under Hill Häus. I would also like to acknowledge the team currently working on this project in our office – Miranda Anhalt and Luis Spinola.