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How to create a strong identity for your practice

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Graphic designer and filmmaker Marina Willer on working with Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners

I’ve worked with Richard Rogers and Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners (RSHP) for many years, as well with Herzog & de Meuron and SelgasCano. With Richard, I’ve made films about his vision, both personally and for the practice. These have been included at exhibitions in the Design Museum and Royal Academy in London, and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

My work on RSHP’s identity was a natural progression of that relationship. The practice has an incredible history and it is now thinking about how it will carry on when Richard retires.

Often the websites of successful architects express something so different to the architecture

We were trying to create a flexible visual system where many different names can appear to emphasise partnership. It is a flexible, vertical design that resembles a skyline (above left) and represents an evolution of the previous identity. This allows for many potential uses and configurations (above right) that can draw attention to the teams, partners, associate partners, areas of work or locations. It illustrates the importance of collaboration and teamwork at the practice.

Representing a brand graphically is very important, even if it’s done in a subtle way. Creating an identity is a very different process to designing a building. The team at RSHP thought very carefully about every element of the identity, including their name, colours, typefaces, paper and so on. They wanted something that really reflected what they are about and what makes them different to other practices. This graphic identity is not really about selling the practice;  it’s about communicating its distinctiveness.


In the film Ethos for the Inside Out exhibition at the Royal Academy, we used the visual metaphor of Richard’s watch that was given to him by his mother and serves as an inspiration to him. It was perfect because its elements are exposed, like many of RSHP’s buildings, and its parts are connected in a similar way to how buildings connect with a city – it’s a celebration of mechanics.

Creating or refining a winning visual identity does not need to be an expensive project, and architects do not need to use a large firm to create a strong graphic solution that brings coherence. These areas might seem small, but they are actually big decisions that require careful thought.

Often I see the websites of successful architects and they express something so different to the architecture itself. Decisions made on colour or font can seem random. This shows just how different the disciplines of graphic design and architecture are. The key to bridging this involves communicating quality of design throughout what you do.

Marina Willer is a partner at Pentagram Design

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