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As we all know, it takes a community of people to make architecture happen: public advocates, clients, a general public to populate buildings, and of course architects themselves. As such, in this latest Repositioning the AIA update, our consultants Arthur Cohen and Allison Jones explain the latest results of their research and how that research is helping to develop new positioning messages.

Recently, in Seattle we shared initial insights and observations at the Council of Architectural Component Executives Annual Meeting (CACE) and Knowledge Leadership Assembly (KLA) to test emerging positioning hypotheses. We plan to continue visiting component meetings across the country this fall, and participate in numerous key AIA meetings and conferences to ensure we hear from as many constituents as possible. We will continue to update you regularly on the repositioning effort. And don’t forget to check out our landing page for more background on the initiative.

Robert Ivy, FAIA

AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer

Repositioning Update: Clients, the Public, and Architects Speak Up on the Value of Architecture

By Arthur Cohen and Allison Jones
LaPlaca Cohen

In our last update, we shared the key issues that emerged throughout our extensive research process. Since then, we’ve focused on reviewing these findings with AIA constituent groups to ensure that they resonate with their experiences in the field, and what they consider to be the AIA’s most significant goals and challenges. We have visited components across the country and participated in key AIA gatherings to hear from as many of you as possible. This fall, we will continue to reach out to AIA members through their local components at visits and events across the nation, as documented by this map.

Most recently, we travelled to Seattle to present our findings at the CACE and KLA annual meetings. We were inspired by the component executives who work tirelessly to support their members and impressed with the Knowledge Community leaders who share the AIA’s wealth of expertise. Connecting with these groups was a crucial step in our process, and affirmed that our insights and observations are tracking in the right direction.

Concurrent with these visits, we’ve been building on our research to develop positioning concepts detailed below, and we have tested these with online surveys of AIA members and members of the general public. Here are a few highlights from these survey results:

    • When asked to choose which statements made AIA members feel “positive about the work that they do,” 53 percent of respondents chose the following: “Architects are problem-solvers and community builders who direct the vision of a building project from concept to reality.” Significantly, this statement was chosen by architects of all firm sizes and experience levels, indicating that it is an aspirational vision with real meaning for a broad range of AIA membership.

    • Members also voiced a strong desire for the AIA to be a bold leader. Among statements about the AIA that most appealed to members, 69 percent of respondents chose “The AIA is the voice of the profession, advocating for architects, championing innovation, anticipating change, and leading the way forward.”

    • In the national general public survey, statements that stood out to respondents as both most accurate and most likely to motivate them to work with an architect included “Architects create value through their ability to design environments and structures that realize their fullest potential,” and “Architects influence everyone’s lives every day—enhancing the spaces where we live, work, relax, play, and shop.”

It also is noteworthy that members of the general public believe it is difficult to know where to find a qualified architect and choose the right architect for a project. This points to the need for informational resources to be focused toward the public to provide fundamental logistical guidance. This finding is both consistent with (and was a catalyst for) public-focused initiatives implemented by RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects), as revealed during our comparative analysis of that organization.

We also conducted a survey with clients of architects to assess their experiences, motivations, and barriers to working with architects:

    • The leading motivator cited for working with an architect was “Architects have knowledge of construction requirements and building codes.” This statement was selected over twice as frequently as “Architects have superior design expertise.”

    • Of the barriers to working with an architect, the two most frequently cited reasons were “Architect fees are too expensive” and “Paying architect fees as an up-front lump sum in the whole building process is a challenge.”

These findings will be used as guideposts as we develop a set of key concepts and messages that will enable the AIA to best communicate why it is an indispensable resource, and why architects and architecture play an essential role in everyone’s lives.

Our research and engagement with thousands of members has made it clear to us that there is a strong appetite for change throughout the AIA. But genuine change can only occur when everyone within the AIA community recognizes their individual and essential responsibility as messengers in this process. We hope that you are energized in knowing that you’ll have the tools (in the form of consistent messages and relevant insights) to effect real change.

Further information on the repositioning initiative and the latest updates on our project process can be found at, and we invite you to share your thoughts and join the conversation on the KnowledgeNet Forum.


Back to AIArchitect August 24, 2012

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