As time goes by I am starting to realize that this whole gig will be as much about planning as it will be about improvisation.
When me and Stefano started talking about our marketing strategies we sort of pushed the whole multimedia/printed material part of it in the back of our mind, thinking it would be more about one-to-one communication and hand-shaking than collecting views on a website. But it turned out we were wrong, at least in part.
We found ourselves in the position of having to quickly provide a client with samples of our work. And this client was 6000 km away. This forced us to come up with a bit of a presentation strategy. We realized that we should (and could, given the scarce time and cash resources) concentrate on three aspects:
Considering you might not have any web programming experience, or have some (like me) but not enough to manage a whole website on your own with getting stuck for days on some piece of html code, the easiest solution is to jump on one of several website/blog/portfolio platforms. The choice is wide: Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr, behance, carbonmade, Facebook pages… But you really have to do some research beforehand to realize what the plusses and minuses of each platform are. Do you want to be limited to a Facebook audience? Will you be able to modify the website later on, or will you have to switch platform? Do you want it to look like a blog or a proper website?
To answer all of these questions my suggestion is: take a step back, and think who your audience will be. When looking for inspiration on other practices' websites it dawned on me: most Architecture office websites are built for a peculiar audience. Other architects.
Established practices rarely fetch clients through their websites, and chances are that neither will yours. But if, like us, you need a showcase of your work in order to present it to someone you contacted through other means, the website needs to present you as you wish to be presented. What will be the age group? what will be their approach to the web? What kind of stuff will they be interested in? Chances are they will be very different form you, probably older, possibly less accustomed to the whole multimedia experience…
We decided to go for a wordpress blog, choosing a template that would allow us for some showcasing to be done on the front page, but with the possibility of preserving some "blog feel" to the website: there will not be that many projects to presented at the beginning, so we wanted to keep it fresh by adding news and updates. As our portfolio will hopefully increase over time, I am already eyeing some other templates that will un-blog the website: the customization options are endless.
A side-note: be careful with what you publish on the website. Former employers might not be happy about their designs (even the ones on which you worked) being published under someone else's name, regardless of your right to use them. Always give credit, be honest, and ask for permission if in doubt.
This is really simple: don't print too many, stuff might change quickly. A different address or phone number and you will be stuck with 500 useless cards. Unless you have a really good idea for a gimmick, keep it simple. If you get blank page syndrome (like I do on any graphic design project) just make it consistent with your website: font family, color and layout are pretty much already there. Print them on heavy paper. Read American Psycho about it :).
On this we are going all in: all the projects we can safely demonstrate we have worked on are going here. There is a huge InDesign document in the making, which will be about 100 pages long when finished, divided into categories: interior, architecture, design, non-architectural projects… These will be then selected on a client-to-client basis and exported to a pdf, to be emailed or presented as a slideshow. We won't be printing any for the time being: we want to be flexible and create a custom presentation for each situation, plus we don't feel like investing in high-end reprographics.
I am not sure this will tackle every situation we might be faced with, but this is as good as we can do right now, especially time-wise. Having a projector and a tablet you can use/borrow will save you a lot of printing and make you ready for any impromptu presentation need you might have. And stuff ALWAYS looks better on a backlit screen.
In the immortal words of the great Chinese architect Bruce Lee: "be like water my friend".
Starting up your own practice is often something you only dream of... what if one day you woke up and realized that you really had no other option? Young, determined, absolutely pennyless and without much of a clue, these are the chronicles of Richard and Stefano trying to start their dream practice: Osom Architects.