Welcome, design enthusiasts, to another enlightening session of Future Talks by RTF. In this conversation, we have the privilege of delving into the dynamic journey of Dima Stouhi, a Beirut-born and raised innovator who has seamlessly navigated the realms of architecture and design. From her early days shaping interiors for a family steel company to becoming a Content Editor at ArchDaily and later pursuing a Master’s in Integrated Innovation in Switzerland, Dima’s career is a tapestry of diverse disciplines. 

Join us as we uncover the intricacies of her multifaceted experiences and explore the stories behind her impactful contributions to the world of design.

*In 2021, ArchDaily was acquired by Architonic (owned by NZZ (Neue Zürcher Zeitung) Media Group). The following year, Architonic ArchDaily teamed up with Designboom to create DAAily Platforms, the world’s largest online Architecture and Design community.

RTF: Hi Dima, We are glad to have you as a guest on Future Talks by RTF. Thanks for joining us. Managing organisations of the magnitude of ArchDaily and DAAily Platforms is great. How rewarding has your time been?

Dima: It’s been incredible. I get to work with people who share the same passion as I do and have been fans of the platform before becoming a part of it, so it’s been really fun. And being so involved in the day-to-day projects and campaigns, we forget the scale of our platform and the magnitude it holds in the architecture and design industry. So whenever we meet people from our community during our travels and they share how we’ve been a part of their careers or academic journey, it’s always such a heartfelt “pinch-me” moment. 

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©Dima Stouhi
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RTF: What propelled you towards Architecture Media from Interior Architecture?

Dima: When I was deciding what I wanted to study in university, my first choice was journalism and interior architecture was second. I find a lot of comfort in writing. But for personal reasons (and of course, the pressure of choosing an industry that’s more profitable), I chose to go with interior architecture. I don’t regret it at all, my passion is still very much architecture, design, and everything in between, but part of me really hung on to wanting to be a journalist. Being in architecture school, our holy book was ArchDaily (I’m not saying that because I work there, it really was for all of my classmates, professors, and myself), and a couple of years after graduating, I saw that they were looking for editorial interns. So I decided to apply just to say to myself that I did, at some point in my life, attempt to get into journalism. And this particular job made so much sense to me because I get to write and create content about topics I’m super passionate about, so it really was the best of both worlds. Luckily, I got the internship, and began my journey as a content editor for a couple of years. Around 2020 or 2021, ArchDaily was invited to cover the Venice Architecture Biennale, but it was during the pandemic so we were only allowed 2-3 people on site and for 120 hours only. I was based in Switzerland at the time so I was one of the few who were able to go, but as a community and social media editor. Basically I was asked to find creative ways to bring our audience to the biennale virtually and communicate the exhibition to them through photography, film, and storytelling. It was during this trip that I found an interest in the visual communication side of architecture media – I found it so fun and creative that I wanted to shift my focus towards it. This pretty much sums up my journey so far; 6 years later, I’m still here.

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©Dima Stouhi
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RTF: What are some challenges that the general exchanges with architects and designers present?

Dima: It depends on the project but on a personal level, I would say the challenges have more to do with how spread out across the world we are which makes it challenging to stay up to speed with the communication and implementation of projects, especially if there are a lot of people involved in the process. With social media for example, you can’t really afford a lot of delays. It’s a very fast-paced-constantly-changing medium. But the language is very much universal, especially since the majority of the team comes from an architecture background. We’ve rarely had encounters where we’re not on the same page as architects or we don’t share the same vision. There are certain situations when commercial clients are very keen on a certain idea that doesn’t follow our stylistic approach or guidelines, so we end up in a very long discourse about what can and can’t be compromised. This is common when the clients are not architects or designers, and are not knowledgeable about what is relevant and what’s not to this particular audience. That’s why eventually they rely on us and trust us to guide them. But the pros outway the cons for sure.

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©Dima Stouhi

RTF: Magazines have a unique relationship with advertisers. How do you maintain editorial independence and integrity while working with advertisers and sponsors?

 Dima: There is a global audience that has been following us for over a decade, so they’ve built a strong connection to the brand and are easily able to pinpoint when we’re putting out content that’s not “us”. We can clearly see the engagement difference between sponsored and organic content, so to ensure that commercial content is well-received and all parties are happy, we try to avoid having content that feels very unfamiliar or “staged”. This is something that we always communicate with advertisers. 

Our audience is not just practicing architects, we have architecture students as well, engineers, designers, artists, professors… Some are just architecture and design enthusiasts who don’t know much about the technicalities of the practice, so the way we communicate our content should cater to everyone and be understood by everyone. And it’s such a global audience, the majority are non-native English speakers actually, so this also impacts the tone and language we use. Our authenticity and credibility are things we don’t compromise, and no one knows our audience better than we do so trust plays a key role here. 

RTF: We would like to get your idea of a good pitch and how you differentiate between a ‘positive’ and a ‘negative’ approach from writers and designers.

Dima: I think what makes or breaks a pitch is how homogenous the connection is between the project/product and its storytelling. Keep in mind that people are looking at this project through a screen, they can’t experience it first hand, they can’t touch the material or walk around the space, so it should really be delivered in a way that brings it to life as much as possible. From what we’ve seen, good pitches happen when designers and writers work collaboratively. I know a lot of content creators who request to visit the project instead of just receiving footage and information from the architects. It really does make a huge difference because writers get to experience it firsthand, and they might pay attention to certain details that were overlooked by architects, and vice versa of course. So there are many factors that create a good pitch: having a nice and consistent narrative (in both text and visuals); a conversational and human tone in the copywriting (sorry, I’m not the biggest fan of ChatGPT – you can always tell when it’s a computer); finding subtle ways to simplify even the most complex words; highlighting what makes the product/project standout, making it relatable to the audience… Basically blurring the boundary between the audience, screen, and product as much as possible. Personally, I am the biggest fan of storytelling, I think regardless of what you’re trying to convey, sell, create.. If it has a good story behind it and it is told properly, it’s a win.

RTF: What is the striking factor in the chunk of content that comes your way, how do you look at the content and decide on working towards that? What is the process like?

Dima: Luckily it’s not a one-man show. There is an entire team of project curators and editors who filter out what goes online and what doesn’t. But regardless of what it is that we’re working on (projects, articles, social media posts…) we go through a series of questions that help us decide: Is it informative and educational? Is it offering new and relevant content? Is it aesthetically pleasing? Does it photograph well? Will people be inspired after looking at it? Is it offering insights or tools that add value to current practicing architects or students?

RTF: How has ‘redefining’ come into play for magazines when it comes to ideas and approaches, looking at a constant shift in the media landscape and people’s perception towards it?

Dima: If you compare how magazines were a few decades ago and today, the past couple of years really changed the way people consume social media, especially after the pandemic. It’s a lot more than just checking up on what your friends and family are doing or looking for inspiration. A lot of people are now using social media as a main source of learning, so there is a strong educational factor which can not be overlooked or taken for granted. I think it’s also very individualistic and inclusive nowadays, it’s not a one-sided exchange anymore. I think these are factors that editors will look at more closely in times to come, and we’re starting to see the shift in how magazines engage with their communities and not just put out content for the sake of putting it out there. 

RTF: How has your job influenced you creatively?

Dima: When you’re constantly exposed to such an international team, whether it be my colleagues or the architects and designers we collaborate with, the way you view things and absorb everything around you changes. “Thinking outside the box” becomes inevitable; you become a lot more curious and open minded, which is such an added value to any creative project you’re working on. 

RTF: What are the other paths that you stroll on when not working?

Dima: I wish I had a more fun answer to that like some extreme sport but beyond work I like to spend my time either doing something within the design/creative world, just being outdoors, or trying something new. Photography is definitely up there in the list of things I love to do, especially architectural photography. I love art, fashion, and music. I’m a big football fan also. I love traveling to new places and exploring new cultures, cuisines, music, etc. so I try to do that as much as I can. I like to get in the car, blast music, and just drive around… Your question inspired me to pick up a new hobby. 

RTF: What do you think about the media landscape today, and what is the route for magazines and publications going to look like in the times to come?

Dima: It’s great to see that publications are now paying more attention to the way they deliver content and not just the content itself. Platforms are getting a lot more experimental and interactive which is really fun to see. You can find the same piece of information on 10,000 platforms, it’s the internet, but it’s the delivery that gets people engaged. There is also a lot more awareness on credibility of content and fact-checking, so less room for inaccurate and misleading information. 

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us. It has been a pleasure getting to know about you and your work. We’re sure that your insights will be highly valuable to our audience which includes architects and design students. We look forward to publishing this interview on our website soon.

Author

Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.