How I was inspired by a writer to look at architecture differently.

The State of Architectural Journalism.

I love talking to people in the architecture industry to find out what makes their jobs exciting, learn about their challenges and use that information to try new things. I often do this with journalists and editors and find it fascinating to learn how to think like they do, and it helps me help them to find good stories for their publications.  

When I met with Dave LeBlanc, columnist for the Globe and Mail and well-known for his weekly column, “The Architourist”, I learned a lot about architecture from a non-architect’s perspective. Dave is not a trained journalist, he spent his whole career in radio production and serendipitously fell into writing about architecture a couple of decades ago when asked to produce short radio stories on Toronto architecture. Having been a fan of design and specifically mid-century modern architecture since childhood he jumped at the opportunity, which eventually led him to become a weekly columnist at the Globe.

Dave is as much interested in stories as I am and, similarly, thinks architectural narratives in their current state are a bit dry and factual, too often forgetting to speak about the human stories unfolding within the built environment, in favor of the building as an object, replete with facts, statistics and bombastic declarations, which are no-more than transparent, ego-inflating statements that makes the designers feel good, but leave the people who are looking to connect with architecture on a deeper level a bit hungry for a relatable story.

 

How Kahn and Mies brought this home.

When I think about some the best and most memorable buildings I've ever had the chance to visit and get to know intimately, like Crown Hall by Mies van der Rohe and the Kimbell Art Museum by Louis Kahn, the spiritual experiences that I've had in those space had very little to do with the architecture itself, but rather with my experience of the space, specifically through the way natural light was managed and let into the building in very specific and deliberate ways.

I didn't care that much that the building was made of metal, concrete or wood but rather that these materials provided me with an phenomenal sensory experience and therefore deeply influenced me. The Kimbell with its silvery natural light flooding from the slits at the top of each vaulted ceiling, grazing the galleries’ surfaces and revealing the textures and warmth of the wood and concrete combination. Crown Hall through the enormous amount of natural light flooding the space from all sides, and reflecting the seasons and time of day, while blocking a direct views on the outside, the black steel curtain walls, terrazzo floors and wooden partition walls taking a back seat to that experience.

I believe this is what Leblanc is trying to convey in his weekly column: how architecture is a machine for sensory experience, to paraphrase Le Corbusier. Perhaps that's what his "Machine for living " idea meant? After all, what is life if nothing but a succession of sensory experiences?
 

More experiential narratives, less verbosity.

The lesson to retain from this, is that aside from other designers and self-proclaimed design nerds, very few people care about who designed a given building, how much of a celebrity the designers or how expensive the finishes are, because these facts are completely irrelevant to the physical experience of a space. There is a reason the best writers and magazines in the design world are more interested in how the architecture is lived in and like to include the users in their stories. That reason is that it makes for quality content that will capture a reader’s attention. It is an absolute necessity that the story you tell speaks to your audience, or you run the risk of losing their interest.

There is no shortcut for getting to know your audience. You have to spend time engaging with them. It helps greatly to be able to show a vulnerable side of yourself that they may not know about. Digital and social media allows for unprecedented levels of access to your audience at a very low cost, making it easy to be in dialogue with the people who are interested in your work.

Spending the time to craft compelling narratives that speak to the way your building is lived in is the way to go. I know it’s tempting to wax lyrical about the technical achievements of your project, but if they do not directly contribute to the human, dare I say emotional, experience of your space, they can be ignored. Instead the focus should be put on what it feels like to experience your space from a user perspective.

In these days of instant gratification and casual consumption, most people will probably not pay attention to what you are putting out. However the level of care that you put into it will be noticed by the people who relate to what you have to offer. This minority of ardent supporters will go to bat for you. Once you have a few of those, you’ll know you’re on the right track.

A community of followers, the kind of people who will fervently support you and promote you because they believe in your vision, cannot be bought. It is primarily based on trust and that trust has to be earned. There are no shortcuts.

What can you do today to build such a following?

If you liked this, share with a friend and let us know in the comments!

Kicking Fear In The Nuts

Writing these articles for you my dear readers, is always a challenge.

“Will they like what I have to say?”

”Does it even make sense?”

“Will I look stupid?”

“Is it a bad idea?”

“Will it fail?”

“Is there value in it?”

Those are some of the questions that I constantly have to grapple with, in an effort to fight off my second-guessing self, that little voice that always finds very rational, if not “beneficial”, reasons to not do something. I’ve learned from experience that this gut feeling, this fear, is my brain pulling convincing tricks on me to keep me inside the proverbial comfort zone.

I also know that coming out of that comfort zone is where the most learning and growth happens. I’ve seen it time and time again, in me and others. I know people who purposely push themselves past every one of their fear as an exercise in testing their boundaries. In return, they get so much more than they bargained for.

Historically Influential figures like the Eames and Bukowski, among many others, overcame their fear of failure on a daily basis which in turn shaped them as the masters of their respective fields we know today.

The Eames invited and welcomed failure. They saw it as a way to quickly learn and come to an optimal solution, the result of many brains, not just their own, tackling a problem, failure being the mechanism enabling them to shed the bad ideas and only keep the good ones, slowly arriving at a solution that while maynot have been perfect, it had been optimized through an iterative process. It’s been said that new hires in their office would be tasked with work they had no expertise in, like a graphic designer being asked to think up a building concept. It was a clever way to send a powerful message to their employees: don’t let fear of failure stop you.

Bukowski wrote for over 25 years before he got his first novel published, at age 50. An epic failure by any conventional standards, but he didn’t write to fulfill someone else’s definition of a successful writer. He wrote because he had an insatiable urge to create and overcame his fear of not making it by not worrying about the outcome, he just wanted to write. He was eventually able to make a living as a writer. Ironically, the first two thirds of his life before his late career as a full-time writer are in large part what made him such a compelling writer. Indeed his semi-autobiographical novels were heavily inspired by his own life and we wouldn’t have his amazing body of work to enjoy if it weren’t for him grinding for 25+ years relentlessly sending out manuscripts to publishers.

Fear keeps us from doing what the Eames, Bukowski and countless others have done before. Fear of failure, fear of not being able to pay the bills, fear of not looking good, fear of disapproving opinions and the countless other excuses that our cunning little brains cook up to keep us safe. The problem is that this safe zone is antithetical to growth, learning and accomplishing something greater than ourselves.

The key to overcoming fear and become comfortable with being uncomfortable is to find what moves you. Call it a purpose or a mission. With a clear mission, it becomes a lot easier to push past fear and be uncomfortable, in service of something greater than ourselves. With strong values and a clear goal, the path lays itself down and all it takes is actually doing the hard work to make it happen. Hard work being the operative word. In the course of this work, failure is inevitable, embrace it and make it a central part of your learning.

The most successfully durable companies in the world, are those with an undeniable sense of purpose and a clear mission (Zappos and Whole Foods are great examples of this) and if you look into their history, their wake is littered with personal and professional failures. But it is their seeking and embracing failure as well as their ability to learn from it in order to better themselves that makes them great today.

Don’t wait for permission to do something, nobody will ever give it to you. Get out there and try new things. If it fails, you’ll learn more from failure than you will from success. It’s time to boldly get out there and kick fear in the nuts!

If you liked this, share with a friend and let us know in the comments!

The 10 Commandments of Design Culture, Strategy and Communications - Our Manifesto

Two kinds of architects populate this universe: those who understand culture and communications as a critical part of running their practice and those who don’t.

Let’s do a little mental exercise and picture two architects, both mid-career, with very similar experience and talent:

Architect numero uno is deeply invested in the success of her business and although her talent has gotten her some attention, she understands that a prosperous company needs much more than sheer artistic genius. She invests equally in the success of her stakeholders: employees, client and suppliers. As a result, she gets work that’s profitable, that she’s passionate about and challenging but delightful clients, which often become her friends. Her employees are happy and invested in their work and her suppliers are very friendly and accommodating.

Architect numéro deux believes that his great talent alone will bring him all the work he needs to be successful. Alas, his reality is different and his business has a high turnover rate, his clients are often pissed off at his lack of professionalism and his suppliers have stopped any largesse after his nth unpaid bill. Yes, he got his big break when talent alone got him his first commission, but it hasn’t gotten any better since and he’s been riding that wave for 20 years. The cognitive dissonance between his idea of a successful business and his reality is staggering and sadly, doesn’t realize that business as usual will eventually, well, put him out of business.

As an architect, your success largely rests on your ability to create, develop and foster a purposeful culture that promotes value-based decision making and business practices as well as open and clear communications. It really boils down to the way the information flows between designers, clients, employees and suppliers. It starts with the way you communicate inside your company, with employees and suppliers, as well as outside, with clients and prospects.

Since we care greatly about your success and that of the industry, here are the 10 commandments of design culture, strategy and communications. If you’re practicing in this field, they will help you identify which areas you may need to work on and act as a guidepost to help you make the important decisions for your business:

The 10 commandments:

  1. Be purposeful and mission-driven: A clear purpose and mission will serve as the foundation of every decision made inside your business.

  2. Nail your values on your door: Being vocal about what you stand for serves as an accountability tool internally and externally. When the going gets tough, it serves as a reminder to not cut corners.

  3. Strive to speak human: Speak to your stakeholders in their own language. To them, archispeak is gobbledygook and serves no purpose. Lose it.

  4. Do your best to empathize and understand: Your ability to empathize with your stakeholders, will defuse many tense situations and help you make the decisions that serve everybody’s best interest. Asking the right question is often all it takes to solve an intractable problem.

  5. Be strategic: Before you start solving problems, it is crucial to reframe, challenge assumptions and get to the bottom of the issue. Only then a suitable strategy will emerge.

  6. Do not allow the commodification of your craft: Only by using different behaviours, language and strategy from everybody else, you will distinguish yourself, be valued for your expertise and not be treated like a dispensable commodity.

  7. Treat every stakeholder the way you want to be treated: Your wise grandmother probably reminded you of that one all the time. Trust her wisdom.

  8. Be honest and truthful: Sometimes honesty is hard to deliver, but it will serve your relationships in the long term and build trust. If you’re honest with yourself, people will be honest with you.

  9. Acknowledge, own and learn from your failures: We all fuck-up from time to time. Accepting failure as part of the learning process is fundamental. If you’re unsure of what the lesson is, ask for help.

  10. Experiment with new ideas: There is more than one way to skin a cat. Give yourself room to experiment and play in order to create a culture of openness and innovation. We call it kicking fear in the nuts.

Bonus commandment: When in doubt, less is more.

Don’t do it alone! It’s okay to ask for help when you’re stuck. Getting help will help you focus on what you should be doing most of the time: successfully running your business.

It’s time to kick fear in the nuts and get crackin’!

Truth Is Golden 202 - We're All Going To Die

In episode 2 of our second season, Stefan Hunt, recounted his -short- life story, from a typical western childhood in New South Wales, Australia, to his early foray into film making, crossing the US at 18 with no money, a bieber haircut and a drive to surf all 48 states, including the 20+ landlocked ones. His first film, self-described as “cringeworthy”, got him some attention and eventually led him to become the multi-talented professional filmmaker, artist and storyteller he is today; all the while continuing on his literally off the beaten path journey. Listen in to hear more about how one can be a highly creative, decent and compassionate human being at the same time.

You're not you when you're a commodity.

Last week, we took a look at well-know advertisers and some of their campaigns, as well what makes great advertising.

In this second instalment, we take a look at how creativity is here to save the day, how empathy can help us gain a deeper understanding of our audiences and ourselves as well as the value of risk-taking in a safety-obsessed world.

 

Creativity is only way to stand out

There are many examples of ads out there that were able to stand out and be remembered many years after they were released. If not all of them, the huge majority are remembered because they were conceived in contrast with other, more conventional ads. It’s that contrast with the conventions that made them stand out.

Creativity can take many forms, but humor is the widely considered to be the fastest way to break the mold and send a message that company X isn’t like companies A,B,C and D. It takes courage because as humans, we generally do not like to stand out and want to blend in, to relate. A company with the confidence to stand out, is a company that knows itself well enough to know what makes them unique and not be afraid to communicate that message in their adverts.

 

Understanding of one’s audience is the only way to truly connect.

The risks taken in setting oneself on the path to stand out from one’s competitors can be mitigated by researching one's audience and gaining a deeper understanding of who they are. You need to learn about them, their fears and their aspirations. By doing so, you will gain two things: first, a direct path to forming an emotional connection with them and second, the ability to cut through the noise and send a message that they will instantly relate to.

 

Understanding oneself

Similarly, companies have to spend time understanding themselves and do their homework reflecting on what makes them unique, as well as combine that knowledge with that gained of studying their audience. Finding a purpose is a great place to start. A lot of companies out there have a default purpose that is uninspiring. It is necessary to dig down to what the aspirations of the business are. Every great company has clear and concise purpose and is very clear on what that is.

Armed with the tools of empathetic understanding of itself as well as its audience, any business can set itself on the path to stand out.

 

But I'm afraid of taking risks!

Setting oneself apart is taking a risk, no question about this. There are many examples out there of companies that alienated their audience because their messaging veered too far from what people were accustomed to. However, armed with the right tools, solid knowledge about itself and its audience, a business should be able to find a way to both stand out and not alienate the people it caters to.

Ultimately, it comes down to this choice: either one is willing to take risks and the potential reward is great, or one decides to stick with the status quo with the high probability of commoditization and increased competition, making it harder to run a successful business. Do you want to be Old Spice or Charmin?

It is also important to remember, and O'Reilly explains that in detail in his book, that the large majority of companies who have taken a leap of faith and changed their messaging for the better have seen tremendous returns. Case in point: Snickers with their ongoing "You're not you when you're hungry" campaign has seen their global sales in the first year of running the campaign increase by 15.9%

What are examples of businesses you’ve seen taking similar risks and get results? Comment below to share your thoughts!

Old Spice or Charmin?

This I Know, is a book the advertising by industry veteran Terry O’Reilly. O’Reilly not only is one of the best storytellers out there, but his hilarious take on the advertising industry reveals a lot of secrets about great advertising, and what makes it successful.

In this first installment of our 3-part article, we will take a look at what makes an ad memorable and why Charmin has nothing on Old Spice when it comes to creativity.

 

What makes a memorable ad?

Think about a memorable ad that you’ve seen - any one of them will do - and now try to remember why it stands out in your memory, even years later. Chances are it was unlike any other ads of the time and perhaps even since.

The most memorable of these are funny, irreverent, sometimes downright outrageous (warning: NSFW - sound off), highly creative and often do not focus on the product or service offered, but rather how the offering makes the audience feel.

 

Old Spice does it right.

These ads usually fit two criteria: they are creative, often by employing humour and they manage to create a strong connection to the audience. The creativity enables the ad to stand out. By presenting the subject in an unexpected way, it commands the audience attention.

Take any of the Old Spice ads with Terry Crews, they are funny, nonsensical and talk less about the product than its supposed benefits for the user. Seeing Crews being a goofball is a treat in itself, but hearing in the subtext that Old Spice will somehow make me smell and look like him, makes me want to buy Old Spice, even though I would never in a million years buy a scented shower gel. It does so by connecting with the deepest desires and fears of their target: men. Indeed, who wouldn't want to smell, look cool and ripped? The creators of the ad went through the trouble of understanding their audience - empathizing with them - and used this knowledge to address their fears and desires.

 

Charmin does it wrong.

Conversely, take Charmin toilet paper ads for example, are for the most part safe, ultra-boring and speak to their audience like children. There is a reason we never remember any of them. They place the product firmly in the commodity box, where one roll of toilet paper is perceived as the same as any other roll of toilet paper.

As we’ve learned to tune them out after a lifetime of conditioning, they lose their effectiveness. They end up sounding condescending as they are the advertising equivalent of someone robotically repeating the same sentence over and over with no end in sight. I don't know about you, but I personally find pastel-colored bears irritating, insulting even. I am looking forward to the day where we see old-spice like TP adverts.

We’ve just looked at how effective advertising can be. In the next instalment, we will take a look at the power of creativity and risk-taking. Stay tuned!

What are some examples of bad ads that have stood out to you? Comment below to share your thoughts.

Truth is Golden Ep. 2.01 - Creativity Is An Interesting Word

In episode our first episode of season 2, John Dewolf, Vice President at Form : Media walks us through his youth in the Canadian Maritimes, his early career as a graphic designer before he realized, while working on a software to help people save for retirement and later on the redesign of the US census forms, the power of design to positively influence people’s lives. We also talked creativity, his design process and how his career is bridging the gap across many design disciplines to create places that people can relate to. Listen in to hear more about John and his captivating career.

About the podcast: The intent behind our podcast series "Truth Is Golden" is to look at renowned creatives and their work with a critical eye. We aim to ask deep questions in order to peel back the layers of marketing, clever one-liners and sexy branding. We want to show the world what it truly takes for genuinely creative forces to find their own voice build a career on what is very often nothing more than a drive to do things differently. We want to hear about the successes, the failures, the inspirational stories and the lessons gleaned from all of it. We want the truth, so that we can inspire other people to fulfill their own creative aspirations and in the process contribute to making the world a better place.

 

 

Kicking Fear In The Nuts - A Webinar On Architectural Storytelling And Strategic Communications

RVLTR is offering a Webinar on storytelling and strategic communications on August 30th 2018.

It is aimed at anyone in the architecture and design industry who wants to figure out how to get better clients, projects and get paid more while doing it. We'll cover topics such as ethics, values, purpose, strategy, media production and press relations. Stay tuned while we refine the program and announce all the details shortly. 

Register here, on or after June 4th.

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Meet our new podcast series, "Truth is Golden" - Ep. 1 | Rocking the furniture world

At Revelateur Studio, we are ardent advocates for creativity, but always find ourselves a little isolated from the rest of the creative world, because, let's face it, our job can be a touch lonely at times. 

As a result, we wanted to create our own community of creative people, to share our successes and lament our defeats with, but more importantly, get to know them better and learn some lessons along the way. 

This podcast the result of our desire to share this passion of ours with you as well as the lessons we gleaned from the people we are interviewing.

In the first episode, we interview Joe Prendergast, VP of sales at Muzo, a band of rockers from the UK who decided 15 or so years ago to disrupt the office furniture market. Not only their products are cool, but they are really well designed with the end user in mind. What makes them unique? Their love for music and endless creativity when it comes to promoting themselves guerilla-style. Listen to Joe talk about the company's DNA, products, their love for music and answer the perennial question: Stones or Beatles?

Give it a listen here.

Muzo_Logo

About the podcast: The intent behind "Truth Is Golden" is to look at renowned creatives and their work with a critical eye. We aim to ask deep questions in order to peel back the layers of marketing, clever one-liners and sexy branding. We want to show the world what it truly takes for genuinely creative forces to find their own voice make a go of a career at it. We want to hear about the successes, the failures, the inspirational stories and the lessons gleaned from all of it. In short, we want the truth, so that we can inspire other people to fulfill their creative vision and in the process, hopefully make the world a better place.

 

dunn house in the globe and mail

we are truly passionate about design and we love collaborating with designers who have an elevated design sensibility. the practice of everyday design is one such collective. we collaborated with them in 2014-2015 for the photography of the dunn house. not only their design skills are amazing but they're also a pleasure to work with and are happy to now count them amongst our friends.

the dunn house has been published multiple times since it was shot, the latest of which was just a few days ago in the globe. this time, the article tells the story of how the project came to be. even we learned some interesting anecdotes about the house that we had not heard before!

read on...

even the cat received special treatment!