knowing our values
By Erica Dixon, Collaborator
the see arch brand process.
how it started.
In the Fall of 2018, the See Arch team asked me to facilitate the creation of their new brand. See Arch was started just two years before and was incrementally grown from the ground up. The all-woman team knew from the start that they wanted to do architecture a little differently. As Sarah, Daniela, and Karina, (along with Liz and Naomi who joined the team later on) grew their portfolio of projects, they began to wonder about how to talk about the ways they were approaching the work with a fresh perspective. They were fitting in big conversations about community-rootedness, accountability, communication, and feminist practice along with the heavy workload of an emerging firm actively scaling their practice. I came in to help them name the ways they were doing architecture differently through creating a brand strategy—the articulation of their values within their practice-- and then communicate those values through the brand identity—the voice and aesthetic representation of the firm.
When I began working with the team I had already experienced some of their alternative approaches as a collaborator on a project in Spring of 2018—a restaurant brand and space build for a proudly Trans woman-owned waffle restaurant in Berkeley. This helped me understand their unique approach and I was excited for the opportunity to help define what it was.
vision & values workshops.
We began our work with a season of facilitated conversations about the shared vision for See Arch and the values each team member wanted to bring into the work. The conversations were future-forward as well as an investigation and inventory of how the team was already addressing their work and collaborations.
We began with a series of one-on-one conversations with myself and each team member. From the start, there were deep alignments as well as diverse ideas about what See Arch was. We proceeded into a series of all-team workshops. We had deep conversations, sometimes profound, equal times frustrating, about what See Arch is. By the end of this process, we had developed the language that defined what See Arch is at the core.
We identified an essential open-mindedness and flexibility the team uniquely brought to projects. This openness was structured through a commitment to a transparent process and rigorous communication. This approach felt connected to their drive to break down barriers in the architecture field, an industry where 80% of leadership positions are held by white men. As a woman-owned and operated team, See Arch wanted to shift the way power dynamics exist in architecture, from the context of the firm to the way architecture exists within the built environment, its local community, and society. We identified the essential way See Arch sought to create change—not as disruptors—but by leading through example in the way they work and collaborate; invigorating the field from the inside out.
The output of these conversations was the brand strategy: a set of core values, a manifesto, and a slogan that defined their approach at the core: “Be bold, stay humble, ask questions.” By taking this time to get into alignment as a team and create a shared vision See Arch has built a strong foundation for the firm to grow from. In naming their values, they can now share them with clients and collaborators. See Arch knows how they are different from other architecture practices and how to stand behind their unique approach.
We believe that beauty is created through rigor in our attention to detail and our commitment to process.
We demand that the architectural field must become more progressive, diverse, and equitable.
We believe in leading the change we crave from the inside out by running our office democratically, collaboratively, and centering resilient process.
We reject pretentious design and big egos.
We believe in cultivating deep curiosity to build design that truly empathizes with the needs of our clients, intersecting communities, and place.
We believe generous and transparent communication between architects, clients, and design-build collaborators improves not only the quality of our design but also the field at large.
We believe in being bold, staying humble, and asking questions.
Working off our brand strategy we then collaboratively created the look and feel of See Arch. We sourced inspiration from all kinds of places: utopian mid-century architecture, Californian landscapes, traditional women's handicraft, and natural forms. We created moodboards, sketched shapes that reflected our values, and played with swatches. For a designer who usually works with non-designers, designing with a bunch of architects with a very developed aesthetic sense was super fun for me.
The See Arch brand identity conveys the gentle but assertive personality of the firm. The all-lowercase logotype with a period, references back to the way See Arch was initially written; it feels humble and bold all at once. The shapekit brings together a series of organic and geometric forms that can be used as graphic elements in a variety of implementations. The logomark employs shapes from the shapekit for flexible more visual logo for watermarks and documents. Finally, the color palette references Mid-Century Modern design, and the utopian spirit of that era, as well as California landscapes of oceans and dunes. The core colors of gray, white, and mint are intended to be understated with a pop—humble and bold.
Thanks for reading about the process we implemented to define the See Arch brand. As a designer and strategist and I'm inspired to support businesses of all kinds to bring their values fully into their work, and I believe aligning and defining what they are is the critical place to start. I'm personally really excited to see where See Arch goes as they continue to develop a portfolio of projects that invigorate the architecture field form the inside out.
See the new brand in action by browsing the new See Arch website!
And stay in touch! If you have reflections or questions about this process or you're interested in hiring me to work with your team please reach out, firstname.lastname@example.org