Property business sets design example for others

It’s great to see Land Securities adopting such a positive attitude towards design (see News, page 3). It is one of the few property companies of any size that appears to have a coherent creative strategy that goes beyond the brochure – however beautiful it is – to be part of the thinking of the organisation.

And with claims to be Europe’s largest property business, with half of its £8bn portfolio located in London, its influence in the sector is awesome. Buildings in its diverse UK portfolio include Westminster City Hall, Bowater House and the Home Office in London, as well as Birmingham’s Bull Ring retail complex.

With the help of brand and marketing consultant Jan Casey, who was with Lambie-Nairn for years before it agreed the WPP buy-out, the publicly quoted developer has devised a marketing campaign for London, called Capital Commitment, with input from design consultancy Hat-Trick. It has created a coffee table book on the Victoria area designed by Simon Esterson and it has established a design roster, which includes some of the top names in design. The only thing left, arguably, is for it to appoint a design director on the board.

All this has been achieved in just a year, and while the focus is currently on London, the marketing strategy could well extend to Land Securities’ interests beyond the capital. More importantly, it might set an example for its rivals, creating great opportunities not just for individual design groups, but for the industry to show what it can do when given free rein by clients.

Land Securities isn’t the first property firm to espouse design as a key marketing tool, but it is one of the most established and concerned mainly with business clients. To date, design has best been used by niche, ‘lifestyle’ developers such as London’s Manhattan Lofts or for particular developments such as the 1980s Broadgate office complex near Liverpool Street Station, which gloried in award-winning promotions with photography by the legendary Brian Griffin, among many others.

But if its holistic design-led approach pays off, Land Securities could open up new markets for design. At a time when the property world is once more under pressure from falling house prices and the like, key players may benefit from taking a more proactive view of marketing, beyond the brochures, Internet promotions and interiors makeovers they already employ.

It’s up to design groups to seize those opportunities with equally proactive zeal and show that creativity constitutes more than a piece of print or a website. It is a way of thinking, best achieved through true partnership between designer and client.

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