“As architects we face a complete misalignment [between] our sphere of concern [and] our sphere of influence.” — Rahul Mehrotra
Any profession needs to demonstrate its value. No value, no work. In professions where the work is nuanced, unnoticed or misconstrued it becomes even more important. This is the lot of the architecture profession.
The profession urges the public to value design. Doing their utmost to demonstrate why design matters. It’s an oft discussed matter, with few doing it well.
Here are some observations…
Where is this communication happening? Where matters. It mostly seems to be in the architecture bubble.
Who are the cultural gatekeepers? They’re the audience that matter the most, the message doesn’t need to be for everyone. Change the culture, change the proposition.
Who are you trying to communicate with? Understanding who, is important. To effectively communicate you need to understand your audience, the way they think, what their values are, what language is appropriate and so on. Empathetic consideration is crucial.
Are these people listening? Are they interested in what is being said? How might that be changed, if necessary?
For this communication to connect it needs to speak to world views. Challenging world views is a difficult path. Instead speak to world view, establish an emotional connection and exhort them to join you. In order to change what people think, first you must change how they feel, then how they act (to paraphrase Bernadette Jiwa).
Here’s where I think all this leads…
Design value needs a reframe. Reframed as a consideration of what is valued by the audience, rather than a consideration of the value of design and what is valued by architects.
I’m not sure what this might this look like, but I’ll riff on a few ideas and observations.
What does the intended audience value? Any communication of the value of design, must be framed around what your audience values. As the audience changes so too the content and/or message. It cannot be, nor should it be, all things to all people. Be specific in the message to your audience.
Emphasising the value of design, is ultimately a sales pitch. It’s generally accepted that the majority resist being sold to. Consider focusing less on selling and more on serving. Instead of highlighting the value of design, ask the right questions in order to understand and serve. Importantly listen to the answers and reflect them back. Where might that take things instead?
I’m still thinking through this, but one consideration is that design is about identifying and magnifying that of worth to us, whilst editing out those parts that do not serve. These can be spoken of without referring to the value of design per se.
The thinking’s still at sketch design stage. It’s a start, but interested in people’s thoughts.
Michael is the founder of unmeasured, supporting architects in their practice through coaching, workshops and community.
Helping architects find their desire lines in practice.