Architects and Interior Designers - Ask this of Yourself!

by Karan Bhatt

The Million Dollar Question for Architects and Interior Designers

Most fruitful human efforts always start with a question. Your branding or marketing efforts are no different.

Today, let’s raise a question that goes beyond marketing, branding, and perhaps, your business itself. The importance of the said question emerges from the essence of what makes us human.

Without clarity about this, it is easy to stumble along the way and get lost in the ever-growing mess of handling a business.

And why does this question matter?

Because there are humans behind every business. Whatever you feel, think, and do, affects you, and more importantly, those you serve. Hence it is important to address this first and foremost.

Most Architecture and Interior Design firms do not start with this question. Ignoring this question may not always lead to monetary losses, but it is bound to keep you from a more manageable venture.

So what is the question, you might ask? It's a simple one. Why. Why are you doing what you are doing?

Viktor Frankl describes this as a core of the human condition in his book, Man's Search for Meaning, "Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'."

There is an entire philosophy encapsulated in this one sentence and it rings true for every area of your life - even your business. After all, businesses are designed to make human lives easier. Architecture and Interior Design, also fall into this category. You make the lives of those you touch easier.

Why did you start? Why do you persevere?

Man walking through the woods

In short, why does your firm exist? You might be tempted to talk about how you resolve the needs of your customers through your work, but don’t fall into that trap. The answer to these questions needs to come from you, not your customers.

Your work is directly related to your clients, and sure, your company should most absolutely find solutions to the issues that they face, but the answer to the 'why' lies within you.

It goes beyond what you can provide with your business and becomes more about what drives you which ultimately helps in connecting deeply with your audience.

Understanding the reason for your firm’s existence goes a long way in helping you make difficult decisions that arise in your business. The clarity it brings is not commonly experienced by most business owners, or just people, in general.

Three simple questions - who, what, why

Golden Circle

Greg Galle, author of Think Wrong Practices points to the three questions necessary for change.

1. Who are you?

2. What do you do?

3. Why does it matter?

The first two are easy. You essentially tell what you do and respond as to the features and benefits you can provide your clients. The third however is notoriously elusive.

You will rarely find a clear answer on the brand messaging of most firms. In the competition research you might have done, note how many got their "why" noted down. How many of those were you able to say were truly different because of what they stood for?

As many of you creatives are visual thinkers, let's grant some simplicity to this idea and see it pictorially.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle

This is a concept inspired by the golden ratio, a mathematical concept to explain a lot of unpredictable natural behavior.

The Who: This is a fairly simple question especially when it comes to business. All Architecture and Interior Design firms can tell you and will tell you who they are when asked this.

The What: Again, every business knows this. They know what they can deliver to their customer and are vocal about it.

The How: This is where the problems start. How do you promise to deliver what you do? Here is where things like "unique selling points" or "value propositions" come in.

We've seen thousands of Interior Design and Architecture websites and most firms cannot answer this clearly (at least not in the digital space) simply because they have not differentiated enough.

In fact, most of the people we've met in the field are afraid to differentiate, but this is a conversation for another day.

The Why: Even fewer firms have this figured out or are vocal about it. And this is the entire reason that has inspired the writing of this article.

To quote Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why, "When I say WHY, I don't mean to make money, that's a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause, or belief? Why does your company exist? Why do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?"

We creatives are an odd breed. All of us have beliefs, but we are rarely able to express them except through our work. Our art itself becomes a way of expression and it may show.

That is the reason that people do resonate with our art. But in the world of business, we must put this "WHY" forward, and not in the backseat.

The messaging - what do they take away?

Natural circle

Most companies start with the outer part of the golden circle - “We are so and so. We do this and that. We are very good at doing this and that.”

On certain websites, we aren't even able to find information on how they are so good at what they do. They just post a few testimonials and a few big names and expect the work to sell itself. This is a grave error.

Regardless of how big you or your clients are, the Internet does not care. Think of the time you are surfing websites. You are rarely surprised by things and the attention you give to things is severely limited.

The same pattern is followed by your audience. They won't magically be more interested in your work just because you mention big testimonials or amazing pictures.

Testimonials are important but there's something even more important - What drives your life's work? Why do you work at all? This would be the answer that will ultimately bring you loyal customers.

Is it becoming more about me and less about them?


Your ‘why’ stems from you and this is what will help your audience resonate with you. It is a way to attract your ‘tribe’, or if we want to stick to business terms, your ‘ideal clients’.

Clients do not engage with you because they like you as a person, they engage with you if you show them what you believe in - perhaps a common ground. They will opt for your services because they want their house or business space to look a certain way and reflect a certain ideology.

And if they hire you it will be because they believe in the same things you do. You will be surprised how much this can simplify the sales process and the work itself.

Giving your audience what they want, creates happy customers, but revealing to them why it matters to them, and why they should want what they want, will create loyal customers.

So to answer your concern, most of the things about them are also within you.

Conclusion: The journey to the beginning

I leave you with a quote by Osho, "You yourself don't know yourself and you expect me to know you? Don't I have anything else to do? Why should I know you? And how is it going to help you? The only thing that can help is that you have to know yourself... It is impossible to know anything real unless you know yourself. And the only way to know yourself is through vulnerability and openness."

This thought stands true in the context of your business and clients as well. You must know and understand your business well for your clients to understand why they need them.

Thank you for reading thus far, perhaps we will meet at the beginning.

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Computer table and library