Branding for architects – how to stand out in a niche industry

Creating a brand for your business is tricky at the best of times. But in a small, niche industry, such as architecture, it’s even more complicated. A brand – by definition – should set you apart from other business within the same industry. So how do you create a brand in a niche industry and manage to stand apart?

If you’re selling (and marketing a product) you’re working with a tangible thing ie. the product or sometimes even you. But when you’re in the service industry there is nothing tangible to sell. Instead, service businesses needs to look at the reason clients are choosing them over a competitor.


The what rather than the who

This means identifying the aspects that makes you unique – your customer care, additional / complementary services and obviously your work. Marketing a service business becomes more about your client (and their preferences) than it is about you. This explains why architecture branding, historically speaking, is usually very simple and pared back. It’s not about you, or your brand – it’s about what you can do for your client, hence the word ‘architects’ is usually featured in the brand of an architects practice.

architects brand overview
Do you want to fit in or stand out?


The simple approach to architecture branding works because of one thing – context. The main task of the architectural brand is to deliver the reputation of the practice. If the logo for an architect firm was too ‘flashy’ or flamboyant it would distract from the actual work. This does not mean that you shouldn’t put some effort into the brand and logo of your practice. It may not be a deciding factor when choosing a practice, but a poorly created logo will surely stand out in all the wrong ways for any discerning client.


What’s in a name?

There’s generally two aspects to the brand of an architect – the name of the architect(s) (usually the last names) and the qualifications of the practice, ie. is it a registered architect? In Ireland, a person or practice can only use the term architect if they’re registered as such by the RIAI (Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland). To use it if you’re not is an offense. So you can see why architects are so set on displaying the term – across stationery, signage and their logo. The exclusivity of it has turned it into a feature.


Final thoughts on branding for architects

So, how do you differentiate yourself in an industry where everyone’s logo is their names in a wordmark written in Helvetica Neue? (I’m exaggerating here, but only slightly). We’ve discussed what a brand is in a previous blog post so I won’t go too much into it here but basically your logo is one part of the whole. Your brand is also the style of photography you use on your website, the language in the copy and the colours. Little things, like how you present yourself when you meet clients and how you stay in touch with them after the project is completed – it all adds up to form your unique brand. We have worked with a number of architects and have come to realise that these various elements are really useful when building a brand (new or rebranding an existing).


The three most important ones (in our opinion) are: photography, colours and fonts. If you can identify a unique visual language using these three elements you should have no trouble setting yourself and your practice apart from your competitors.