What do architects sell?

For hundreds of years architects have been admired professionals held in relatively high esteem. Whilst architecture is a wondrous profession, the business of being an architect has become a minefield of difficulty and obstacles.
Architects generally do not become “Rich”, which seems disappointing when you consider the long education process and the amount of work and knowledge required to become a registered architect. Being the architect on a project comes with risk. You can be held responsible for such things as the combustible cladding that a builder has chosen, that you have had nothing to do with.
Today Architects operate in a confused industry where the lines of responsibility are blurred. For hundreds of years an architect controlled all aspects of a building project. These days having an architect oversee a project’s construction seems like an unnecessary expense when there are project managers and builders who can inspect and supervise. Even the value of architectural design has been removed through the numerous display homes that offer effortless and instant choice. Popular TV shows and DIY programs also make you feel that design is easy and that anyone can do it. All of this has reduced and obscured an architect’s role. This bring us to the question, what exactly do architects have to offer and how can they sell it.
An architectural practice is a service-based business. Many architects lose sight of this and fail to connect with their customers. There is no physical product produced, as physical drawings disappeared with the last blue printing machine, and the credit for creating the buildings usually goes to the builders and developers. Today we trade information in Kilobytes for dollars. This is not particularly unique, as many professions operate on information alone. What makes architectural practice different are the long time spans and processes. The design and documentation process can take a long time and gaining permits can make it even longer. Construction can often take years. It can be very hard to convince someone of the value of an architects Kilobytes over such a long period of time.
What about a design? Surely that is a product? Yes, the design is a product, but ideas are worthless until they become reality. Any new or innovative concept cannot be fully tested until the building is completed and occupied. It’s a long and risky wait. Architects must get the design right and work very closely with their clients. At WOLF Architects most designs are client inspired, because they are generated from the client’s brief. Architects mostly just help to translate and facilitate their client’s ideas and needs into reality. It’s not an easy thing to put a price on.
As architects our most valuable product is our intellectual property. This must be protected and also marketed in a way that others can value and appreciate it. The promise that our ideas will translate into a reality at some point in the future must be explained in a way that clarifies its true meaning and value. At WOLF Architects we call this “Keeping the dream alive”.
Good architects perfect the skill of keeping their clients well informed, inspired and engaged from start to finish. Those who let the dream die give up their control and risk having others run off with all of the credit.

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