Posted in practice on July 1, 2016 1:59 pm EDT

How Branding Drives Design Decisions

It's critical that a church's DNA influence every aspect of branding, including and especially the design of its physical space.

At the largest scale, the architectural form will be a significant branding element.


 

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TAGS: architectural design, branding, collaboration, design,

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By Chuck Hulstrand

A successful design process must always be founded upon a clear understanding of what makes each congregation unique, and when those core values are clear they can be expressed in physical form, step by step, throughout the worship experience.

Discussions of “branding” conjure up images of “Mad Men” style advertising agencies, celebrity endorsements, eye-catching logos, and marketing campaigns. This all seems far from the realm of houses of worship and the ways in which they connect with their congregations. Surely we don’t need flash-over-substance tactics to build meaningful engagement? (We don’t.) We do, however, need branding, and most worship centers are employing branding strategies whether they intend to or not.

Why should your house of worship clients be talking about branding?

A brand isn’t simply a marketing gimmick. A brand helps to define our identity and tells people who we are, what we’re like, and what they can expect from us. Branding helps to build powerful connections with congregations, if church leaders know whom they are trying to reach and why. Newcomers will look to churches’ brands for clues about what their experience will be like. When it’s an authentic representation of our values and mission, our brand is a promise to the people we serve, and an invitation to develop a deeper level of commitment as members of a group with a clear vision.

The key word is “authentic.” A brand goes far beyond logos, website design, and flyers. It’s critical that a church’s DNA influence every aspect of branding, including and especially the design of its physical space. Even for those who aren’t keen to use the lexicon of business and marketing, these early discussions about identity are integral to creating an architectural language that projects a worship center’s values at the room, building, and campus levels. Every detail matters.

Many houses of worship are working to refine their branding so that their core values are visible in every facet of the design. Photo credit: Roby 1960.

Branding will ultimately impact every aspect of design, from form to circulation to programming to operations. A successful design process must always be founded upon a clear understanding of what makes each congregation unique, and when those core values are clear they can be expressed in physical form, step by step, throughout the worship experience.

This process has historically been ingrained and subconscious. When we see a red door, we might guess we’re looking at a Lutheran church; a Gothic revival stone building hints at an Episcopal sanctuary; a dome may indicate Greek Orthodox. Subtle branding is embedded in the architectural language. Congregations have built this way for centuries without much deliberation, drawing upon the traditions of their particular denominations. These architectural typologies impact our assumptions. If congregants resonate with a particular type of worship experience, from traditional to contemporary; visitors to a space will be taking in messages about the congregation from the moment they arrive.  continued >>

 

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