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Much of the industry is driven by high-quality imagery. Stellar photos are essential if a firm aims to build a good online presence. Very often firms that are starting out with a handful of great projects lose their potential clients due to bad presentation alone. We’ve all seen unflattering amateur photos of great products that bury the project and are too quickly disregarded by both the press and clients. Publishing has undergone a process of democratization and today most mid-size firms can pride themselves with their own monographs and projects with impressive images. This fixation on the visual side of things extends far beyond design-it has permeated all aspects of our lives. Images are perceived quickly and can be absorbed without much effort. The more emotionally appealing they are, the longer they’re stored in our memory. While most clients can get the general idea of how a project looks through sketches, their excitement about the project largely depends on the emotional impact of the visual content.
Some of the giants in architecture have few images on their websites. SANAA’s website has no content at all. Nor does Frank Gehry’s. Peter Zumthor doesn’t even have a website. But what works for these renowned architects will not work for a young firm. In the case of start-ups in particular, which initially have little built work, having great-looking 3d images is essential to the growth of their businesses. Besides all the energy, money and long nights spent preparing for the launch, small companies often neglect the crucial element of building a business-brand identity. Because of the simple day-to-day operations, small firms often fail to properly document their work. This is indistinguishable from the visual identity built upon not only loges, website and project design, but on great looking content that communicates the philosophy, consistent visual style and structure of the company. There is no logo or web design that covers up a flawed product/service. Sloppy renders or their absence will create the impression of an inexperienced team and bad management. Even in the case of corporate businesses, only a handful of companies have been able to develop effective images. Most feature visual cliches that use the same generic types of 3d renderings lacking any uniqueness. It is common knowledge that people included in blind testing of beverages change their opinions of the taste once they see the trademark of a manufacturer with the most impactful visual identity and marketing. What can be learned from simple consumer logic is that one has to distinguish him/herself from the competition. Developing a particular style in rendering and going for more than generic imagery is guaranteed to help when it comes to acquiring new clients and shaping customer and public perception of your business. Because negative perception can ruin the reputation of a start-up, young entrepreneurs should consider laying out a branding strategy before launch date and recognize the important role of renderings. Allowing clients to watch products come to life through great images reinforces your brand value and is more likely to attract new clients.
An example of great branding is Populous, one of the world’s leading architecture firms specialized in sports facilities. In an interview, Gina Stingley, the company’s Marketing Manager and Associate Principal mentions their original approach to photography: ” If you look back 6 years, nobody was showing photography with people in it. Really, across the industry, no architecture firms were doing that. One of the fundamental tenets of our brand is about the experience people have in our buildings. So, we made it a priority to bring people into our project photography. This approach has humanized our work.” This type of attitude can be applied to 3d renderings and animations used by most firms these days. Young entrepreneurs have to find an economically viable way of obtaining these. While larger firms have the capacity to send their employees through training and are constantly up on the latest technology, startups have to get creative and decide whether to invest in bettering their own rendering skills or outsource the work to specialized visualization firms and freelancers. If the latter sounds like a good way to go, it is crucial to prioritize and chose only the projects which will best represent the direction in which the company is headed.
When it comes to their online presence, most firms should focus on a few major points. Firstly, the site should be usable, easy to navigate and with a simple layout. It has to be responsive and under no circumstances should include flash. Another core aspect is providing a clear idea of what type of services the firm provides. Lastly, the images. These are far more important than logos, texts of fancy layout. Images are there to convince potential clients that you’re the right architecture firm for them. They have to stand out and be the focal point on every page. It is important to only use your best work-it is better to have a handful of stunning images than several mediocre ones.