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Learning from Apple: Can Architecture Brand Thinking Help Your Design?

Image Credit: © mattbuchanan | Flickr

The first thing I think of when I think of an architecture brand is “experience” — that is, when sensory design elements come together to yield a place’s personality. And this “personality” can go a long way toward helping a place to achieve its goal. For example, a well branded architectural retail store can help to make more sales. And this is because the architectural experience contributes toward the retail store’s culture, product line, and customer appreciation.

But what goes into an architecture brand, beyond the colors, smells, layout, and messaging that would be a part of its sensory design? Well, one must ask if the designed experience is “repeatable”. In other words, can the experience be replicated from place to place? Also, can the branded architectural language be extended beyond “place” — to products, print materials, or employee dress code or behavior, for example?

All in all, an architecture that becomes a brand becomes like a “signature” for a building’s culture. In such cases, architecture can create micro-cultures (a culture within a culture) — and doing this will make an architectural experience memorable. This is important in retail stores and office buildings. Each of the latter building types maintains its own culture, whether it is for a retail company (store) or a business (office building). Each building type has its own culture, its own way to be memorable, and its own experience.

So, when you design, think about the experience you are creating in terms of its “brand-ability”. Is it memorable? Is it a micro-culture? Is it different and unique? Can it be replicated?

Of course, not all designs should strive to become an architecture brand. But for those projects that require an architecture’s personality to step up and “sell” or “unite”, an architecture brand could be just the ticket.

For example, Apple’s retail stores are unique. In fact, they just trademarked them. They create a micro-culture. They are different. They can be replicated. And they are memorable. Apple’s signature retail environment promotes visitors to interact with their products, to ask questions and get answers, and of course the environment also promotes visitor purchases. Apple’s environment is an architecture brand that both “sells” and “unites”.

So, when you need to design an architecture brand. Think in terms of the keys I mentioned earlier: memory, culture, uniqueness, replication, and experience. Think about what goals your architectural brand needs to accomplish — and about how the architectural “signature” created will promote those goals from place to place.

Usually, architecture is involved in trying to be unique, while standing strong in an individual place. But there are times when its signature experience must be replicated — and for those instances, you can design with an architecture brand in mind.

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what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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