With many of the great “starchitects” out there (depending on how they are perceived), one can typically tell who designed the building by its overall forms and features; Gehry and his amorphous shapes, Wright and his harmony with environment, Pei and his modern cubist themes, etc. The common core these architects share is how they have a personal brand.
Now, I am not saying that emerging professionals should design in a certain way, and one way only. Not only would that be a detriment to your career path this early on, but this should be left for when one becomes a seasoned professional who has spent countless hours and years becoming who they are, and what they represent in architectural form. What it can translate to, however, is giving some importance to personal branding, and how it can help show who you are as a designer and as a person.
Your personal brand can become, in many ways, your calling card. In almost every interview I have been in, I have either been asked or made it a point to share with my interviewers my personal view when it comes to the architecture world. The ‘Elevator Pitch,’ if you will. Short, sweet, and to the point. It should not only be a representation of who you are, but in some ways, should attempt to set you apart from others. If you know exactly who you are as a designer, employee, or aspiring architect, it will only help sell the product of, well, you.
Another way to brand yourself is to become involved with groups, events, and organizations that demonstrate those values. This can become invaluable in interviews, as well as trying to climb the office ladder. Do you think you are a great designer? You should enter as many design competitions as you can handle, and list any placed finishes on your resume. Heck, list all the competitions you’ve participated in on your resume even if you don’t finish. (Shameless plug: the AIANH EPN Competition officially kicked off in September…see boxed item above.) If you enjoy doing renderings and architectural drawings, practice as much as possible, and become a member of The American Society of Architectural Illustrators. Steven Holl, for example, is world renowned for his architectural watercolors. If you feel you gravitate more towards the code aspect of building, join your local code review committee. Office code experts are often more valuable than the designers and drafters.
Finally, the fun way to brand yourself is how you create drawings, renderings, diagrams, models, and anything else related in the architectural field. Like I said above, Holl’s watercolors are world renowned and, quite honestly, aren’t really even that technical. But, he found his own niche in how he is able to translate his architectural vision to built form. Gehry, whether you like his work or not, creates amazing study models of his buildings from a wide variety of materials to convey his ideas. One of our past EPN Directors, Nathan Stolarz AIA, has a very distinct personal branding, not in his actual building forms, but in the way he composes his drawings, diagrams, and boards. His composition and style of graphics, text, and diagraming are very distinct, and very effective. In a design thesis, I once used one single color throughout the entire design process to convey important ideas that would immediately stand out to my advisor, crits, and jurors.
The ways in which you brand yourself are endless, but should come both naturally and with some practice. You shouldn’t try to jazz up your resume with neat graphics and images just because you saw someone else do it through a Google image search. If you aren’t a very good model builder, it would be foolish to try and mimic the models done at Gehry Partners. If you don’t have an ‘Elevator Pitch,’ I recommend creating one with some architectural soul-searching. At the end of the day, personal branding starts to become what every architect wants, which is to be known for something great.