Architecture's reliance on digital tools is rapidly advancing. Building Information Modeling (BIM) and augmented and virtual reality are quickly becoming the industry standard, along with more and more design businesses putting more effort and money into creating a stronger online presence. Because of this recent shift in focus, many firms have also begun experimenting with digital marketing strategies.
Content creation is at the heart of any successful online business, so what does that look like in the field of architecture? These 4 examples of content could help you begin to monetize your designs and/or practice online. By no means are these 4 examples the only means to grow a design business, but all 4 take advantage of the present trajectory of architectural practice, leveraging the possibilities of an increasingly digital world.
1. Plan Sets
This tactic is perhaps the most popular, particularly in the residential market. Buying a set of construction-ready plans online is not a new idea, but there has long been a stigma associated with this type of practice. The wide assortment of cookie-cutter spec houses that dominate suburban areas may be efficient when it comes to building, but as far as design is concerned, the majority lack the attention to detail associated with custom residential architecture. Enter the architect.
If you’re a residential architect, odds are you have one (or a few) projects that have drawn some community recognition. You might have even had a prospective client contact you referencing that project, saying, “I want that!” Well, what if you had a place to direct them to give them exactly “that”?
Eric Reinholdt of 30X40 Design Workshop began doing this based on the demand for the design for his own house, and he has since turned his studio into a thriving online business and residential practice. Reinholdt also includes variations of the design on his site, as well as the opportunity to purchase a basic set of plans in conjunction with a consultation to discuss further design elements and additional services.
This type of business model does not have to stop at houses. While a smaller-sized project is more feasible in a production sense, stretching this philosophy into workspace and office design could be beneficial for those firms specializing in that market as well. There may presently be untapped potential with respect to plan sets.
2. Create a Digital Product (Ebook, Design Guide, Revit Templates, etc.)
The ease of long-form content creation has increased exponentially in the recent years. You no longer have to create hard-copy manuscripts to please potential publishers in order to publish your own design manifesto.
Do you or your firm have a unique way of designing? Create a compelling design guide that potential clients or followers can use to learn how to create their own professional-quality products.
Maybe your practice has developed the most efficient Revit template for a specific project type. Loaded with pre-built families, details and wall types, your template could help a firm transitioning into the BIM universe, or maybe even a young architecture student experimenting with the software preparing for future employment.
There are a variety of options for digital products, but creating and offering something that is intuitive, appealing and scalable is a great way to leverage online media to grow any size firm.
3. Online Courses
While they are inherently a bit more labor-intensive to create and manage, online courses are a great way to generate online revenue. For architecture, types of courses could include Revit or other BIM software (perhaps designed to integrate with your own template), rendering or visualization tutorials, or even video production or photography, just to name a few.
Masterclass is a good example of a collection of unique skills and practices taught by some of the best in their respective fields. Create your own collection of how-tos.
Charles and Ray Eames are perhaps the most prominent example of product design in the world of architecture. Their firm worked on a variety of projects, including designs for furniture, exhibitions, homes, and even toys. Since the Eames during the dawn of modernism, even world-renowned architects like Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster and Bjarke Ingels have tried their hand in product design.
Industrial design and architecture share a symbiotic relationship. The furniture of an interior has the potential to enhance the design aesthetic. The same goes for accessories. With the ease of eCommerce integration into websites today, whether it’s one piece of incredibly functional furniture or an elegant earrings-necklace ensemble, product design is another avenue to explore when thinking about utilizing the internet to your advantage.