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Nuts + Bolts #16: What's in a Name?

Branding can be a bit of a foreign concept to established (and even to newer) architecture firms. Here are some central takeaways from a firm rebranding itself after 40 years in practice.

February 15, 2018

Editor’s note: This is the 16th installment of Nuts+Bolts, an exclusive ArchNewsNow series to provide A/E professionals with practical tips for a more successful, profitable practice.


Every architecture firm goes through change. Whether it’s an internal evolution or a public-facing redefinition, the process poses both challenges and opportunities. At FXCollaborative (formerly FXFOWLE), we recently completed a top-to-bottom rebranding process that included creating a new name for the office – after 40 years in practice, it wasn’t something we took lightly! Here are some central takeaways that other firms can learn from based on our experience:


·  See yourself through the eyes of others. Working with branding agency The Seventh Art, we went through a series of exercises to get a better understanding of how our clients and our consultants perceived us; specifically, we wanted to know their thoughts on “FXFOWLE” and what they considered the critical components of the firm’s name.


·  Take a good look at your competition. We also looked at the approaches other architecture offices took to naming. We found that almost no firms had names that reflected their character, culture, or philosophy – they were all peoples’ names or abbreviations of them.


·  Make a name that has meaning. We wanted something that described as much as identified our firm. Once we learned that the “FX” element of our name was memorable to our clients and consultants, we knew it should be a part of the new name.


After conducting this extensive process, we built consensus around a new name that combines a reference to our legacy with a noun and an adverb. Our new name, FXCollaborative, builds on the firm’s history while establishing a clear identity for the practice as we head into the future. The name reinforces our shared core values and the essence of working together: creating buildings and environments that resonate and endure; celebrating our clients’ unique cultures; designing with deep respect for our planet’s resources; and embracing diversity and promoting social responsibility.


Our rebranding had been in the works for the last two years, so when it came time to press the button and roll out our new identity, we had everything ready. We synchronized announcing the new name with the occasion of the firm’s 40th anniversary. Another noteworthy milestone: After 30 years in Manhattan, we made the decision to relocate our studio to One Willoughby Square, a building of our own design in downtown Brooklyn. So it made strategic sense to combine the news about the name change, the anniversary, and our upcoming move into one announcement.


Branding can be a bit of a foreign concept to established (and even to newer) architecture firms. After all, our profession once prohibited practitioners from advertising their services. While being in the relatively unfamiliar role of the client during a rebranding campaign may feel disruptive, it’s worth remembering that change is endemic to the design process we are engaged with on a daily basis – and that we are indeed masters of creating solutions for buildings and, sometimes, even for our own identities.



Guy Geier, FAIA, FIIDA, LEED AP, is Managing Partner of FXCollaborative and 2018 President of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY).


See also:


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Nuts + Bolts #14: Start Me Up: Taking Cultural Cues From Our Tech Sector Clients
Why can't the rules (or lack thereof) of start-up culture apply to an AEC firm?
By Christian D. Giordano / Mancini Duffy


Nuts + Bolts #13: Safe Harbors: A Case Study on End-game Strategies

A new way of dealing with ownership transition that can benefit some principals who face difficulties in achieving successful exits.

By Peter Piven, FAIA


Nuts + Bolts #12: Hiring Interns for the Summer? What You Need to Know
Architecture and engineering firms engaging unpaid interns can avoid liability in connection with their internship programs by meeting six specific requirements.
By John Balitis


Nuts + Bolts #11: CAPitalizing on Culture Change 
How candor, authenticity, and provocation (CAP) can create a firm culture that drives thoughtful, positive, and creative change.
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Nuts + Bolts #10: Charting a Course from Career Bewilderment to Career Betterment 
Be curious, be adventurous and, when necessary, be assertive.
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Nuts + Bolts #9: The 80/20 Architect: How to Spend Wisely by Investing in Your Clients

Focusing on your top clients can increase your confidence, stability, and profitability.

By Steve Whitehorn


Nuts + Bolts #8: Best Friends Don't Make the Best Partners 
For the successful partnership, it's all a matter of balance.
By Michael M. Samuelian, AIA, AICP


Nuts + Bolts #7: Leveraging Your Passion 
Principals already know what they love to do. It is learning to let go of the other, more mundane tasks that they find difficult.
By Steve Whitehorn 


Nuts + Bolts #6: Changing Habits: The Secret to Successful Time Management 
Some practical steps to make time for business development when you've been avoiding it or aren't sure how to fit it into your day-to-day practice.
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Nuts + Bolts #5: Why Mid-Sized Design Firms Should Hire a Director of Operations 
Hiring a DOO has the potential to significantly increase revenues while creating an environment where designers design, not manage!
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Nuts + Bolts #4: Spring into Growth Mode: Organize Your Process to Maximize Your Potential 
Internal organization, clearly defined workflows, and a focused approach to the things you do best will put you on the right track to long-term growth.

By Steve Whitehorn


Nuts + Bolts #3: Focus on the Future: Keys to Steady Growth in a Slow Recovery 
Business forecasts are looking brighter, but steady, measured growth is still your best strategy for success.
By Steve Whitehorn


Nuts + Bolts #2: You Can't SELL If You Can't TELL 
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By Tami D. Hausman, Ph.D.


Nuts + Bolts #1: Mission Possible: Increase Your Value Without Lowering Your Fees 
Fact or fiction: Lowering your fees makes you competitive? You decide.
By Steve Whitehorn



(click on pictures to enlarge)

Johnathan Ward