The art of branding buildings

Published 16th August 2012Shares

The phrase "branding buildings" tends to be associated with how existing brands are interpreted and expressed through architecture and design. Apple's retail stores heroise the brand with their illuminated giant logos and interiors that encourage involvement with the products. The City of London's Tower 42 physically embodies the logo of its original owners, the Natwest bank; New York's Chrysler building features giant versions of radiator caps and bonnet ornaments from its cars of the 1930s.

Yet the phrase is also misused to mean how buildings are named. Given the emblematic nature or architecture, it is not surprising that much value is placed on the naming of buildings. The $10bn bail out received by Dubai from the Emir of Abu Dhabi came with one very particular condition - that the world's tallest tower would no longer be associated in name with Dubai, but instead would be named after the Emir himself, hence Burj Khalifa.

When it comes to branding a new building or scheme, there is no doubt that creating an evocative name can make a real difference to the perceptions of potential visitors or purchasers. Just as famous actors or artists choose a more aspirational image via their stage name – would Maurice Micklewhite have been as successful as (Sir) Michael Caine – so creating the right name for a building can have a huge impact on its perceived and actual value.

But of course, coming up with a potential name on its own runs the risk of ending up with something either unoriginal or out of keeping with the architecture itself. Instead, start the process with considering what brand you are looking to create – what will you offer, to whom, in what way – and you will create a far better foundation not just for creating a name, but for designing the whole experience that users or purchasers will enjoy. A residential scheme in the city of Bristol went through this process with Totality; the end result was a scheme that was not only unique within the immediate area but also across the whole of Europe, creating disproportionately high value for the client.

Starting this process as early as possible and involving the whole project team, can lead to greater cohesion throughout the whole development process, easier buy-in for investors and other stakeholders, and greater end value for all concerned.

This is an extract of a longer talk given by Totality to architects, developers and other interested organisations, providing advice and examples of how to create value through a disciplined and integrated approach to branding buildings and locations.