Developers must learn to capitalise on design

This summer we provoked a debate about estate agents in these pages. We identified a market crying out for consistent branding and the use of design to differentiate between firms (DW 3 July). And you responded with a vengeance, though the impact has still to be seen on the high street.

It’s ironic that estate agents have remained staid when the properties they peddle are increasingly modern, particularly the industrial conversions for studio use or living. This conservatism is all the more remarkable when you think of the amount of space and airtime the national media gives to lifestyle ideas. Meanwhile, ads for all sorts of commodities continue to be shot in moody docklands warehouses reminiscent of the Eighties.

The big developers and specialist agencies have already got the message. They have espoused design through graphics and interiors as a marketing tool and as a means of creating personality for a particular development.

Marc Lopatin’s comments suggest they might find themselves up against design groups when it comes to winning a client’s trust in dealing with property issues (see Feature, page 25). This has long been the case with corporate clients looking for offices, bringing in architects such as DEGW and BDP to help evaluate options. But if you think of other property types, particularly retail and hotels, design groups have been getting more of a look in from the outset, even advising on the suitability of buildings or locations.

It’s been hard for design groups to hang on to this role, and some bear the scars of failed relationships with clients they thought were rock solid. The commercial property world is, after all, ultimately about money, however switched on to design the client appears. But there is scope to make interior design a more strategic offer. It’s about pushing the full extent of your expertise where appropriate, rather than settling for a simple fit out. –

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