Christmastime is filled with traditions from the 1800′s; carols with antiquated phrases, retelling of stories by Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Dickens, early images of Saint Nicholas and winter-scene lithographs by Currier and Ives. There is another tradition that dates back to this period – the architectural profession.
The American Institute Architects was founded in 1857, a time when when a professional would identify his intent to practice by merely “hanging out his shingle.” How quaint – a simple painted signboard on the side of a home or office was all the marketing that was needed. Or permitted. You can almost see it as a Dickens scene; a simple proprietor, hunched over his drawing board late into the Winter night, hoping a client might wander in. (If you like, picture Bob Borson’s banner art at Life of an Architect – without the electric lamp!)
I love the traditions of the holidays. I honor the history of our profession. I even think an antique professional “shingle” would look good on the wall in my office. But that’s where my historic affinities end. This is the digital age and architectural marketing should be more that a simple sign twisting in the wind.
The static website is the “shingle” of the digital age – and most firms have a one – but it isn’t enough to engage potential clients.
To reach the culture at large and to connect with your next client, you need to tell a good story. Allusions to history aide, let’s look again at this Charles Dickens fellow. Did you know that his early stories (such as The Pickwick Papers) were told in serial form, month by month before they were published as a whole. Pickwick was illustrated, making it a forerunner of the graphic novel, and a great example of multimedia storytelling. Readers paid to read Dickens work, making his an early model of subscriber funded content. Let’s face it, Dickens was the Victorian proto-blogger. He was the “content architect” of his day.
Architecture holds a thousand stories. In these December days of tradition and reflection, let us look ahead to how we might – as Mr. Dickens did in his day – use the various media platforms available to us to begin to tell the thousand stories of Architecture.
“God bless us every one!”