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Moneti$ing Architectural Fame (In 6 Easy Diagrams!)

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Diagram 1.

This situation was quite normal prior to 1900 when most architect publicity was by personal recommendation, but it won’t make you any money today. Or if it does, it won’t happen very fast. You need to let more people know about you. What you need to do is get some pictures of your work in magazines.

Diagram 2.

You provide a magazine with some content in the form of photographs and some helpful text and the magazine will publish it for the enlightenment of their readers who would like to know about it. The readers pay for the magazine of course, so the magazine is happy. However, the architect is not making any money in this arrangement. I’ll get to that bit soon.

Diagram 3.

Actually, the magazine makes money in two ways. Once from the readers who subscribe or purchase the magazine, and also from advertisers who pay for space so readers can know about their products. Now, the architect is not providing all this content just so other people can make money out of it.

Diagram 4.

Some of those magazine subscribers learn about the architect and his work from the magazine, and commission the architect. This situation was the norm between 1900-1930. The magazine is happy. The architect is happy. What’s good about this situation is that the new building can become new content and keep the cycle going. The magazines are about to be not very happy because the internet will come along and do whatever they did, better. (Actually, the internet doesn’t do detailed plans and sections very well and it doesn’t do detailed commentary very well either, but they weren’t important anyway, as the following diagram shows.)

Diagram 5.

Notice that Magazines has been replaced by Media. We may as well say The Internet. As before, the architect provides content that the media puts in front of us as news and information, but is really just entertainment so we can amuse or distract ourselves. If we are silly enough to click on any advertising, then some advertiser will obtain some revenue from somewhere to offset the media space they bought. Everyone in this corner is happy. Media has news-out and money-in. Advertisers have money-out, money-in. And the consumers of architectural imagery aren’t bored anymore. They are presented with buildings and architects to idolise and make famous. Interesting things happen once fame occurs.

  1. Notice that the client is separate from all this. All a client needs to do is ask who is famous, and employ them. That bit stays the same. Architect designs building, client pays architect.
  2. As before, the newly-completed building becomes new content to keep the cycle going but, if there aren’t enough newly-completed buildings, then some reject render of a project long abandoned, a sketch for a project that went no further, some theoretical bollocks, a book, an article or anything really can be fed to the media as content to keep the fame alive. This happened a lot in the 1970 when many architects found themselves without much to do – New York Whites, Post Modernists …
  3. In this diagram, the architect makes effort in two ways. One is as a content generator to feed the media, and the other is as the person who designs the building the client pays for. The solution to this is to have two types of architect. One type is the face of the brand and spends all their time on the road. The other type stays behind to mind the store, and does the dull and dirty work of designing buildings. Building the brand is more important. Clients and buildings are merely the vehicles to achieve that. But for what ends? Diagram 6.
Diagram 6.

Once an architect is granted this thing called fame, media consumers can thank the architect in the many monetary ways I mentioned in yesterday’s post. What does the average consumer of architectural imagery get out of this? In what ways are their lives enriched? I can’t think of anything more tangible than them having “something to talk about” – possibly at work with others in a “did you see the pics of so-and-so’s latest?” kind of way, or possibly as “comment” on architectural websites that fling it back immediately as site content. It doesn’t seem like a fair transaction, but it must be catering to some need or else it wouldn’t happen.

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The only way to be a content provider instead of a content consumer is to learn the ways of these people.


    • Hello Peter! Yes, the latest ZH design to grace the internet is the Donna Karan perfume bottle. We’re one step closer to being able to buy the smell of an architect! Much of the work has already been done by Porsche Design, who expanded their brand into fragrances. Porsches are sexy however, in a way that architects generally aren’t.