Architect's Guide to Effective Branding: 7 Steps for Architecture Firms to Follow

Branding for architects isn’t just about having a beautifully designed logo. In fact, when it comes to promoting your architecture firm, a distinctive brand is fundamental to communicating what makes your firm unique and different.

In our experience at Archmark branding and rebranding architecture firms, construction companies, and home service providers over the past ten years, we have developed a strategic process that makes branding easier than expected and reveals surprising results. In this article, we share the same steps we take with our clients so you apply them to your own branding efforts.

1. Identify Your Goals

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Successful branding for architecture firms starts with clear goals. A simple way to decide on your branding goals is to identify where you are now and where you plan to be in one year, three years, and five years.

Whether you are growing your own firm or have a position with an established firm, start by getting clear on what type of projects you want to add to your portfolio. What skills and expertise do you want to develop? What do you want to be known for? If you're an owner or managing principal at an architecture firm, you want to identify goals and understand what success looks like for your firm. Is your goal to become a large firm or do you want to carve out a niche as a boutique firm? Do you want more local projects or do you want to focus on a specific type of project but expand to work in various locations?

It is important to have a clear picture of your financial goals. This insight will help you calculate the value and number of new clients you need to attract, and the staffing you need to handle new projects and maintain profitability. 

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Courtesy of Archmark

2. Know Your Audience

Vital to a successful architecture branding strategy is understanding who is — and who isn’t — your ideal target audience. Think about it, a commercial architecture firm needs to attract a different client persona than a residential architecture firm. It's not enough to just hope the right client stumbles upon your services. In fact, hope is not a marketing strategy. To find your clients, you need to get out there and get in front of the best audience based on the expertise, experience, and services you offer.

Narrowing in on your target audience is equally important when you're trying to grow and expand your brand. You need to be as specific as possible in order to identify who your brand needs to connect with.

Start by answering these questions:

  • Who is your ideal client?
  • Where are they?
  • What do they do?
  • What problem do you solve for them?
  • What information do they want?
  • Where do they get information?
  • What social media do they use?
  • How do they make decisions?

3. Construct Your Brand & Your Brand Story

Once you know your goals and your audience, you're ready to create a brand that you can market. A brand is more than a logo! Ideally, you want to create brand clients will fall for at first sight. A brand that gives them a sense of what it’s like to work with you and what your organization values.  

Make it clear what type of projects your firm handles. It should be obvious from the moment potential clients view your page what type of architecture is your specialty. Do you specialize in commercial or residential architecture? Do you design a specific type of commercial building — medical, education, corporate HQ, retail, worship, warehouse, etc.? Or do you focus your expertise on a specific style of residential architecture — modern or traditional, tiny homes or estates, renovation, restoration? You get the idea: Be clear about what you do and the difference you offer.

What matters to you? Why do you do what you do and what makes you love certain projects? When you can create a brand story and messages that express your vision and what you value, you'll find it easy to reflect that in everything you do, including your marketing and client communications. Your brand story plays a major role in attracting your best possible clients.

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Courtesy of Archmark

4. Design Your Brand’s Visual Identity

The next step is to work on creating your brand’s visual identity. While it may start with a logo and color palette, your visual identity extends to your website, portfolio, business cards, signage, presentations, pitches — anything that represents your architecture firm. Your logo should also reflect professionalism and be easy to remember. Consider your logo as the face of your business. It is worth investing in a professionally-designed, unique logo. When you value your firm’s future enough to invest in it, people notice the difference. It’s tempting to dive into the alphabet soup of architecture firm logos. What would happen if you looked beyond the monogram logos and tried something different?

Ensure your portfolio is created with high-quality photography. Establish a look and feel to your portfolio images that not only reflects your brand but makes it easier for you to brief photographers so you get consistently good project images. For all the investment and value of a high-end commercial and residential space, it's shocking to see how many architects and builders are willing to cut corners and skimp on photography. Nothing can diminish the impact and perceived value as much as a poor-quality photo with bad composition, inadequate lighting, etc.

Quality visuals reflect the value you place on your own business and make it more desirable for clients to want to invest in your services.

Your website may be the first encounter a prospect has with your architecture firm. You'll want to make sure your brand is well-represented by your website, and that the site provides an accurate — and appealing — first impression of your firm.

Six essentials of any good website:

  1. Be easy to navigate, not overwhelming or confusing.
  2. Clearly state what you do and why it's important to them.
  3. Have an obvious, quick way to contact you.
  4. Be professionally designed, built to look good, and function properly on all devices (mobile responsive design).
  5. Feature relevant, timely, and keyword-rich content.
  6. Include up-to-date security settings.

5. Consistency is Key to Successful Branding

With all the effort you're putting into creating your architecture firm’s brand, consistency will help you get the greatest long-term impact and value from your brand. Brand guidelines will help you keep up with a clear branding style. In fact, sticking to your brand guidelines will help differentiate you from others, whether you’re a solo architect or run a large firm.

Along with those brand guidelines, have a process in place to make sure your portfolio and website are kept up-to-date and in line with your brand. If there are changes happening in your firm, make sure they are reflected on your website, resume, or business cards. When you give branding the same attention to detail that you give your project design and management work, your clients — and prospective clients — will see and value that professionalism.

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Courtesy of Archmark

6. Be Social

These days, branding for architects often extends to a strong social media presence. This is due in part to people searching for ideas on the internet when they have a project in mind. Look back to step 2 - Know your Audience and think about where they are likely to hang out on social media. Residential architects may have a few more social media options than commercial architects, but in either case, there’s likely to be a social platform that can help you build brand awareness with your key prospects. 

Is your audience using Pinterest, Instagram, or Houzz, to find and organize ideas? Are they likely to follow you on Facebook or connect with you on LinkedIn? Architecture firms can build a brand—and raise awareness with key prospects and clients—by properly managing a dynamic social media presence.

7. Create Brand Ambassadors

Now that you’ve got a brand story and a visual identity, you want people to know and trust your firm. One of the best ways to do this is to make it easy for clients to rave about your work. As you deliver on your promise, don't be afraid to ask for feedback and reviews from your clients. Make it easy for them to become your brand ambassadors! In the world of architecture, where referrals are so critical to finding and winning the right projects, your brand ambassadors will have that direct experience with your firm that lets them share about how you work and what you deliver. 

One of the secrets we have found works is to ask for reviews at high points in the process — don’t wait until the work is all done! At certain stages in your architectural design process and through construction, you know when your client is delighted. Take time out to ask how things are going, get a quote from them or even do a quick video as you walk through the design process or construction site in progress. Putting these pieces together helps you create memorable and authentic testimonials you can use on your website, social media, presentations, case studies, and so on. 

And, finally, always include a request for a review in your project wrap-up process. This can be as easy as sending an email with a link to your Google business page or Facebook business page. That client validation and perspective can help you build trust and attract prospects with similar needs and sensibilities.

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Courtesy of Archmark

This article was originally published on Archmark.

Bryon McCartney is the co-founder and Chief Creative Strategist at Archmark Architect Branding and Marketing []. The Archmark team has studied more than 600 architecture firm websites to learn how architects can improve their online presence. Their programs and resources have helped more than 2,000 architects use branding and marketing to increase their firm’s visibility and influence so they can win better projects.

Bryon has more than 30 years of experience working with major clients, including Clavin Klein, General Motors, Lipton Foods, and many others. He considers himself an ”Archi-Geek” having traveled to more than 160 cities seeking to experience architecture of different kinds around the globe. Bryon is a featured contributor and speaker for Archipreneur, Architect Marketing Institute, Business of Architecture, Entrearchitect, Zweig Group, and many others.

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Cite: Bryon McCartney/ Archmark. " Architect's Guide to Effective Branding: 7 Steps for Architecture Firms to Follow" 05 Apr 2023. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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