In the life of every architect comes one of the moments that usually marks a before and after in our practice like any design professional, sometimes that event has been planned, and other times it just happens by chance. We call that moment our first freelance job, which can therefore mark the start of your design business.

Things to know before starting your design business - Sheet1
La Défense_©Diane Picchiottino

It is clear that there is no infallible and exact guide of steps to follow to start; sometimes, opportunities just come, and other times they are the product of a programmed process. But even though the circumstances may be different for each design business, some aspects can work for most, and that will be addressed in this text.

Don’t forget to Document your Work

One of the great virtues of working in the world of design is the versatility that exists to be able to get involved in different scales and types of projects. Regardless of whether your focus is design, illustration, or a specialty in the field, it becomes essential to create a testimonial of your work to lay the foundations for future projects.

It is important to realize that no project is insignificant. Sometimes that project with strange characteristics that you carried out in a small city can be the turning point to become a benchmark in the field. Every time you develop a project, look for a way to document the process and final result through sketches, plans, models, photographs, or any other element that serves to leave a testimony of your work. One day someone might be looking for something similar to what you have already done.

Things to know before starting your design business - Sheet2
Kiev Children’s Railway Museum_©Marjan Blan

Another aspect of vital importance within the documentation of projects is the need to create a text that works together with the graphic material. It is common that in our early training as architects, we are highly focused on fine-tuning our graphic representation skills and forget that being able to describe your project through words is as necessary as doing it through visual elements. It may be an element that is needed to give total force to our projects.

Show the World What you Do

This point could be a consequence of the first one mentioned in this text, but it is necessary to ask: How will the world know that you are doing relevant things if nobody sees them? Making your design practice something recognizable can be the key so that more projects can come to you.

To become visible to others, we must realize that documenting is not synonymous with archiving. Possibly the Eiffel Tower would never have existed in the idea of Maurice Koechlin, and Émile Nouguier had been kept in a drawer. 

Things to know before starting your design business - Sheet3
©Sincerely Media

One of the great advantages of our generation is the ease and speed with which information can be moved. Now more than ever, information has become more accessible and practically free to access. Social networks like LinkedIn and Instagram can be the perfect window to show your work processes and will allow your work to become visible to more people.

Things to know before starting your design business - Sheet4
©Georgia de Lotz

In addition to social networks, one of the best windows that exist are magazines and design platforms. Much of the information that exists on the internet about architecture projects can be found in these media, and most of the information they need is the one generated during the documentation process. Many of these platforms display a dedicated tab for new content production on their homepages.

Collaborate!

The practice of architecture is so diverse and complex that it requires multiple design firms and individuals to be involved in the same project. We all have a talent or an area of expertise, which in isolation could only lead to the solution of a specific problem.

Even if your design firm is made up of a multi-person team or a one-man company, it is necessary to recognize that it is not possible to do everything. Collaboration across disciplines can be the key to expanding the horizons of your work, plus it can give you that extra push when time and resources are limited. How do you know those people? Many times those people are already on your contact list, they can be your former classmates from architecture school or those friends you made at your last 9-5 job. You can grow together!

©Brooke Cagle

It is no coincidence that from the early stages of architecture students’ training, teamwork is one of the means to replicate what can be experienced in professional life. Exploring problem-solving through various perspectives can lead to results that would be difficult to achieve individually. The more fractured the perspective, the more different results are obtained.

 

Regardless of whether you have already started your design business or are planning to do so, you may find that the road can be long and with different nuances for each one. But every result requires a process and as such, there is no shortcut for it, that is why the existence of the phrase “Rome was not built in a day” is not a coincidence.

 

References:

  1. Granet, K. (2021). Business Of Design. S.L.: Princeton Architectural.
  2. TEDx Talks (2019) What’s good architecture and why the world doesn’t need more star architects | Xi Zhang | TEDxZurich [YouTube video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvnLV49DP2M 
Author

Mexican architect, LEED Green associate & CPABE. Design lover in all its expressions with a strong interest in sustainable development and accessibility. Enrique Tovar lives through dedication and passion. He firmly believes that creating a narrative through writing and photography is a vital tool to reach a deep understanding of design.

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