We understand that the best, most effective and successful work we ever do is the result of starting each project with as deep an understanding of the prevailing circumstances and companies that we are working with as possible. We’re never satisfied that the assumptions put forth at the beginning of a project are anything other than just that.
We call design without strategy “prettymaking”. Indeed, for some, this hits the mark. Not us. Not for our clients.
We are sought after by those who understand the need to uncover the hidden truths and insights that bear the fruit of real success. This approach takes more time, effort and expense, but the outcomes are long term: broader reach, better client and staff retention, and positive, sustainable growth.
Today we face globalizing economies, rapid changes in technologies, the changing (younger) face of the Millennial workforce, downward pressure on margins, and even greater competition. Never before has it been more important to break free of old conventions and habits in order for AEC firms to thrive.
We believe that for those in the architecture, engineering, construction and related built environment professionals, the communication and marketing habits and traditions of the past are now the very things standing the way of their successful future.
Although not typically well-versed in branding and marketing, AEC has historically viewed marketing as a dirty word at worst, a low priority at best—or mistaken marketing as procurement response and brand building as something that does not require marketing.
Recruiting and retaining skilled AEC staff is becoming as much as, or more of, a challenge than business development and sales. This makes commitment to ethics, sustainability, culture, community, design, mentorship and training/advancement more important than ever.
In the future, the most successful firms with the greatest levels of business stability and growth will be the ones not afraid to specialize in a meaningful way. Those fearful of saying no to projects and losing out on opportunities, even if not a core expertise, will keep things running, but will lose out on the benefits of a strong position and distinctive reputation. Prospective clients searching for AEC firms frequently do so by seeking out experts in specific sectors. Those firms able to demonstrate thought leadership, knowledge, and expertise will be best positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.
Amongst AEC professionals, there is a fear of using social media. This is often manifest as not having the time or resources to do it, or retreating to more conventional sales tactics. As long as these firms remain busy,moving resources to new, future-forward marketing models will be held back. Once the work slows down, if they even can, catching up to rivals will be a challenge.
Characterized as skeptical, altruistic, diverse, frugal, green, candid and successful multitaskers, Millennials are not opposed to connecting with brands, but do so only when there is an exchange of value and when it is on their terms. What this means for firms is that an authentic brand is crucial. Professional development and advancement needs to be at the forefront of the corporate culture to attract and retain emerging talent.
Increasingly advanced, affordable, and accessible digital tools are democratizing firm capabilities and furthering the brand and marketing divide. On the receiving end of this, the primary target audiences for AEC (clients, talent, and staff) are increasingly tech savvy, and rely much more on mobile devices. For greater numbers of clients, and certainly prospective talent, decision on who to award work to or what firm to work for, is influenced online first.
An increasingly greater portion of the Baby Boomer generation currently in leadership positions in AEC will be retiring in the next 8–10 years. Typically, AEC firms have not been proactive in addressing succession planning, nor have they been bringing the next generation (Gen X) of associates into the boardroom soon enough.
Oh, and in case you are not from the AEC world, one more thing: MOST OF THE ABOVE APPLIES TO YOU TOO.
Co-Founder & Principal, BA, CGD, FGDC
Principal/Strategy Director, BComm
Mark Busse is a strategist, communication designer, engagement specialist, and facilitator with a strong belief in the power of design, ideas, creativity, and conversation as catalysts for positive change.
Prior to studying graphic arts and design, Busse studied business administration and fine arts during his undergraduate education. In 1997 Busse founded the strategy and design consultancy Industrial Brand where he focused on the AEC built environment sector, using his background in research, strategy, identity, and communication design, and creative process to help organizations realize brand and marketing potential.
As a CGD™ Certified Graphic Designer and Fellow of Graphic Designers of Canada, he has served the national design association in a variety of executive positions, including president of the British Columbia chapter. A graduate of TWU’s School of Business and UBC’s Visual Arts Program, and with nearly three decades of design and creative management experience, Busse’s career has put him on the frontier of applying design methods to social and strategic questions in business, community, and the arts. He is an outspoken design industry writer, speaker, activist, as well as an educator, mentor, and advisor for design programs at Capilano University, University of the Fraser Valley, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Vancouver Film School, Langara College and others.
Busse invests in the creative community by producing and hosting events such as CreativeMornings/Vancouver, Interesting Vancouver, and Likemind Vancouver, as well as a regular speaker at industry events and conferences. He is a writer for Design Edge Magazine and Canadian Architect Magazine, an advisory board member for Vancouver is Awesome, and a regular guest commentator on the live TV news talk show “Unfiltered” with Jill Krop.
Driven by a desire to extract learnings and process innovation from a variety of design practices, Busse is fascinated by new and emerging technologies and the revolutionary impact they have on humanity and the environments in which they live. As a burgeoning urbanist with a new perspective, Busse’s skills as a creativity and process facilitator, educator, and engagement strategist has allowed him to create communities and host conversations, workshops, and large events in a variety of forms, including hosting workshops and public engagement events for various non-profits.
From 2015 to 2020 was as a senior member of HCMA’s leadership team, played a kay role in developing their interdisciplinary design practice, and served as director of TILT Curiosity Labs, where the firm tilt/shift perspectives to explore, experiment, and seek new discoveries, approaches, and opportunities. Through various community and creative collaborations, including an artist in residency (AIR) program, TILT became a key engine driving the firm’s curiosity, creativity, and capacity to increase social impact in the communities they serve.
As a member of various non-profit boards and avid volunteer, Busse has supported professional organizations such as GDC, Siggraph, APDF, as well as supported non-profits such as Pivot Legal Society, Binners Project, Megaphone, Vancouver Food Bank, Vancouver Rotary Club, DOXA Documentary Film Festival, Beaumont Studios, Museum of Vancouver, Urbanarium, Kwi Awt Stelmexw, Story Money Impact, A Better Life Foundation, Brands for Better, and others. He launched the online children safety initiative Red Hood Project with co-founders Sandy Garossino and Raffi Cavoukian. He was also a citizen member of the Vancouver Engaged City Task Force, helping develop innovative best practices for civic engagement for the City of Vancouver. Busse is an avid cook and co-founded the popular food blog Foodists.ca. Busse lives in East Vancouver with his wife Andrea and snaggletoothed little dog Pepper.
You can learn more about Busse’s past and upcoming speaking engagements here, and to book him to speak by emailing him at [email protected][email protected]
Ben’s primary role is to lead strategic direction and creative concept, ensuring a strong strategic foundation for our clients is in place from the outset.
Ben has over 20 years of experience in brand and direct marketing strategy, communications and project management at advertising agencies BBDO, Bryant Fulton & Shee, and Lanyon Phillips Communications. In 1998 he co-founded Industrial Brand, a brand strategy and design consultancy specializing in architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC). In addition to AEC, Ben has worked with all manner of clients and industries, including BC Children’s Hospital, HSBC, VanCity Credit Union, Molson, Labatts, and Granville Island Brewing. Combining his passion for photography and graphic arts with business, led Ben to graduate from the University of Toronto with a commerce and art history degree. Ben is an active member of the Association of Professional Design Firms (APDF) and the Canadian Society for Marketing Professional Services (CSMPS), and is a student mentor at Vancouver Film School (VFS).
Ben supports numerous not-for-profit and charitable organizations such as University of Toronto Alumni Association, Canstruction Vancouver, and Red Hood Project. Ben is an avid cook, certified barbecue judge, and co-founder of the popular food blog Foodists.ca.[email protected]