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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.
By Guy Geier, FAIA, FIIDA, LEED AP
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.
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