Releasing fear, embracing creativity.

As a design geek, I read a lot of design blogs. One of which I follow religiously is Seth Godin's blog. Frankly, I think he's brilliant.

Several months ago, I was struck by his post on the lizard brain. This is an actual part of the brain, and has been with humankind for millennia. It's the amygdala, near the brain stem, and is responsible for the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events. If you've experienced an event that left you afraid of heights, for example, your lizard brain tells you to slowly back away from the ledge, to be careful.

Unfortunately, it also tells you to play it safe, to stay within that comfortable bubble you've built for yourself. This is particularly bad in business.

Every designer has had those clients who are terrified of breaking out of that bubble. You start off with a presentation of inspired, thought-provoking design work, but are forced to go through round after round of dilution only to end up with the same old tired line.

Pushing past that pattern is difficult. We at Function: are lucky to have trusting and truly brave clients. And while we worked for years to get here, we're constantly working to make our expertise ever more solid. We push ourselves every day to find innovative and exciting methods of promoting our clients and their initiatives. We do this through super smart strategy and, of course, slammin' design.

Case in point, the recently-launched integrated campaign announcing Kawneer's partnership with Forster. It's a spectacular leap forward for Kawneer, adding steel to their already all-encompassing array of aluminum products. Thanks to this partnership, Kawneer leverages themselves as the only supplier in North America to offer a complete range of aluminum and steel glazing solutions.

To fully express the bigness of the partnership, we went big with the design.. and the message. And Kawneer fell hard for the concept. We can't say we blame them.

angela k mitchell
art director

we’re into building things through marketing, design and public relations

Excellence has its rewards!

Below is a video clip from Architectural Record's AIA Excellence in Advertising Awards Ceremony featuring commentary from the jury on our print ad that won Best in Class: Single Page.

From one of the judges:
"I gave it high marks for aesthetics; it stopped me in my tracks and compelled me to read more. I read every word of it, yet it never even showed the product."

Video courtesy McGraw-Hill Construction.

ted hettick
FUNCTION: we’re into building things through marketing, design and public relations

lighting up the market [ GKD Webinar ]

See and Be Seen: Designing a Transparent Media Facade

Situation: One of GKD’s 2010 objectives was to increase awareness of its transparent media facade products, Mediamesh® and Illumesh®. Because the products had been on the market for a while, Function: suggested GKD re-introduce them to its audience of architects and contractors by focusing on product capabilities. Function: also recommended educating GKD’s audience through a new approach rather than the traditional product press release.

To educate the market, Function: worked with GKD to develop messages and content that emphasized the unique features, as well as the aesthetic, environmental and financial benefits of transparent media facades. Function: developed an internal calendar of bylined articles the company could develop and pitch, as well as various case studies, a comprehensive webinar and more. The key was promoting an integrated message that consistently educated architects on the benefits of transparent media facades. Consideration of the vertical markets played a large part in message and byline development. Because education was a critical factor throughout the re-introduction campaign, segmenting the audience into vertical markets was essential.

To reach the audience, Function: targeted specific industry publications across the vertical segments, as well as architectural and environmental building and design magazines. All case studies and webinar information was distributed to the targeted media list. In addition, bylined articles have been developed and tweaked with the specific publication’s audience in mind.

Results: The re-introduction of GKD’s transparent media fa├žades is an ongoing campaign and has been very successful thus far. GKD hosted its webinar, “See and Be Seen: Understanding Transparent Media Facades” and drew more than 125 registered attendees, which included architects and media. Function: produced this webinar and developed all promotional content including press announcements and eblasts. Function: and GKD continue to find that emphasizing the specific benefits of the products has not only made the products more memorable, but also has been an effective way to educate GKD’s audience.

things are looking up [ Ceiling Tile Focus Group ]

A+D Ceiling Tile Qualitative Research

Situation: Despite a superior product offering, a ceiling tile manufacturer was struggling to compete for market share against established competitors with larger marketing budgets. The client needed to adjust their message and positioning for better alignment against the competitive landscape and turned to Function: for an insightful, customer focused marketing strategy.

Qualitative research was conducted to gain favor with new and existing ceiling tile specifiers by aligning the client with current industry style trends, creating new sales and marketing opportunities, and generating R+D initiatives. The study focused on revealing trends such as aesthetic preferences and nomenclature within the architect and designer audience segments. To uncover these findings, interviews were conducted with 22 ceiling tile specifiers from the A+D community.

Results: The results provided an overall look at the competitive landscape and how other manufacturers are describing their products. A competitive analysis was created from the findings and recommendations were made for strategic positioning and branding. A simple approach to A+D customers was uncovered, resulting in an opportunity to increase sales by saving specifiers a step in the product selection process. The study was designed to maximize reception of market insights and the findings ultimately helped the client to:

  • Better understand the needs and preferences of target audience
  • Deliver a system/solution comparable to the competition
  • Establish a tighter spec
  • Increase awareness
  • Develop brand loyalty
  • Increase sales and capture market share

Other recommendations helped the client:

  • Understand the thought process of the architect or designer at the time of product specification
  • Differentiate their products amongst the competition
  • Achieve deeper vertical segment marketing

laying ground for haiti [ Johnsonite NeoCon Event ]

Johnsonite – Promoting Sustainability Through Interactive NeoCon Event

Situation: With a history of strong sustainable product development and practices, Johnsonite sought to increase awareness around its ongoing sustainable programs and efforts during the NeoCon® World’s Trade Fair 2010. However, gathering an audience through a static event at tradeshows can be difficult and costly. The company wanted to develop an event that created an ongoing buzz at show, gaining them recognition amongst designers, architects and media.

To help develop a campaign, Johnsonite enlisted Function:. Taking the audience and messages into consideration, Function: worked with Johnsonite to create an interactive event that would unite architects and designers to create a larger picture of sustainability, generate awareness of the platform, showcase products and provide ongoing education to these audiences. To do so, NeoCon attendees were invited to come by the Johnsonite booth to pick up a piece of the company’s floor tile (getting specific product samples into the hands of the audience). The attendees were then asked to place their piece on a larger canvas, working with their peers to create a collage. For every tile placed, Johnsonite pledged to donate five-square-feet of flooring product to Architecture for Humanity for its efforts to rebuild in Haiti.

Promotion of the event was critical. In addition to working with Johnsonite to create and execute the event, Function: also worked on developing several promotional items, including a microsite, Tweet cards and Collage stickers. The microsite was designed to replicate the visual of the collage, with links to Tarkett, Johnsonite and Azrock sites, key product information, sustainable messages, event information and a downloadable press kit. In addition, Function: created an online Twitter campaign for Johnsonite to share sustainable messaging and show information. The event was also promoted prior to the show via press release and with media during scheduled interviews throughout NeoCon.

Results: Due to excellent event attendance, Johnsonite will donate 3,000-square-feet of its Harmonium xf Linoleum Flooring to Architecture for Humanity. In addition, several industry publications featured the story online and blogged about the event. These included Interior Design, Interiors & Sources, Environmental Design & Construction, and PME, amongst others. Johnsonite also gained followers and recognition on Twitter and continues to grow its group of online followers.

getting social with the industry [ Function: Social Media Campaign ]

Function: Socialize with Your Audience Campaign

Situation: Successful public relations and communications are dependent upon a company’s ability to reach its target audience. As an agency that specializes in connecting building product manufacturers with the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, Function: sees connecting clients with their target audience as our most important task. Recently, we launched our “Socialize” campaign. “Socialize” allows us to use new and rapidly growing forms of technology to engage and connect with architects, manufacturers, contractors, engineers and more. The ultimate goal of these efforts was to fulfill their promise to clients: “we’re connected to the audience you need to reach.”

To better understand our audience, we began our “Socialize” campaign by conducting a study on the social media activity of architects (What sites do they use? How often? For what purposes?). Using this research, we began to connect to and build a following of AEC industry professionals on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and also created guidelines and schedules to ensure our consistent and active involvement on each of these sites.

With the foundation of relationships and guidelines of consistency, the second step of “Socialize” was creativity. Function: hosted a conference on Twitter (termed Function:140), webinars on social media and content management, which included participation from architects and members of the media and conducted a survey on the number of architects using social media. We also developed a “Meet Up” group, inviting architects from around the country to join us at AIA in order to tour manufacturer booths and provide first-hand advice on how building product manufacturers can improve their products and communications tactics.

Results: “Socialize” has achieved tremendous results. Industry media and architects regularly approach Function: with questions about social media and its role in the industry, and have utilized our research in blogs and presentations, ultimately showing they value Function: as a resource and as expert thought-leaders In addition, we have seen an increase in client media placement as a result of the relationships we have formed through our “Socialize” campaign. Clients are also beginning to look at social media as a viable communications tool and calling on our expertise to develop strategic plans, content management services and internal guidelines.

talk the talk [ Mohawk Sales Training ]

Training for the A+D community

Situation: With new single family home construction diminishing, Mohawk Industries decided to focus its sales efforts beyond the residential builder/contractor to capitalize on current market opportunities. Mohawk expanded its target audience to include architects and designers, developers, and facility managers/owners to increase market share in multi-family residential, mixed-use development and commercial building applications. Accustomed to selling to builders and contractors, Mohawk’s reps were immediately challenged by the complexity and difference of the A+D Community, quickly realizing their usual residential sales approach would not work. To help their sales force better understand and sell to their expanded customer base, Mohawk sought out Function: for our in-depth knowledge of and expertise with the trade audience.

Results: Function: executed a phased research and sales training program based on the clients’ short and long term goals and sales strategy. Structured content branded the sales message, creating a consistent and successful customer experience. Within 12 months of implementation, year-over-year sales increased by 25% and their sales force had become reportedly comfortable in their interactions with the A+D Community. Project scope/deliverables included:

  • Market Analysis – micro-segment the clients target audiences to help sales people identify the proper entry point, based on firm type, size and specialization.
  • Customer Behavior Profile – online surveys and video interviews with architects and designers to develop value propositions per target audience, identify vertical market opportunities and create a level of comfort for reps dealing with the A+D Community.
  • Sales Training – creation of sales program based on research findings and existing knowledge. Featured interactive presentation materials and workbooks with content and instruction for conducting sales calls and lunch & learns, facilitator training guide, and sales tools per target audience.

FUNCTION: Construct Knowledge Series Webinar "Design with a Conscience: Humanitarianism in Architecture"

Function:'s latest Webinar focused on the burgeoning practice of “humanitarian design” and its effect on the industry. Below are four segments from the Webinar.

“Function: has seen design focus continue to shift from the elaborate to the purposeful. We’ve seen sustainability grow to include a responsibility not only to the environment but toward humanity as a
whole. Humanitarian design in architecture has been around for many, many years but has been overlooked or less publicized. Through this webinar we hope to continue to shed light on this important industry movement and on this advance toward social responsibility in architecture.” -
Dana Castle, Function:’s Principal and Director of Strategy.

Clip 1 - Introductions, discussion topics include:

  • How does humanitarian design differ from general community service practices?

  • Do building trends often come from a change in market demand or vice versa?

  • What do you think is the best way to raise awareness of this trend/draw others in too?

Clip 2 - Discussion topics include:
  • What is the reaction from the A&D community toward this shift to humanitarian design and architecture? 

  • How can the industry get involved – from architects to BPMs?

Clip 3 - Discussion topics include:
  • How do these projects come to fruition? 
  • What channels do architects go through to find out about these types of projects and how are specific projects selected? 
  • What makes one more appropriate than another? 

  • What are the things most important in humanitarian design that are not often encountered in traditional planning?

  • What is the product criteria for these projects? More or less strict?

Clip 4 - Discussion topics include:

  • Do architects and designers expect manufacturers to have sustainable products or is it still a commodity? 
  • If sustainability is an expectation, what kind of messages do you want to hear from them? What do you tire of hearing about?

  • From the media perspective how have you seen this design trend evolve over the last several years? 
  • Do you see this as something that is layered on top of the sustainable building practices as a new thought process?  
  • Where did this trend come from? 
  • What role do you see Humanitarian Design and Architecture having in the future?

ted hettick
business development manager
FUNCTION: we’re into building things through marketing, design and public relations

Four Words So Much

I’ve always been a lover of words. When I was a little girl my mom and dad spent hours and hours reading to me each week. As soon as I could read myself, my parents urged me to keep a “book list” (they paid me a dollar a book…always good to have the financial incentive!) My closet in my parents’ house is still filled with stacks of journals I kept over the years- beginning with the scrawling handwriting of a 5-year-old and eventually filled with stories and reflections in high school. I majored in English in college- and here I am today using my love of words in a public relations career. Anyway, that’s my writing background. Hopefully that gives you a little more of an idea what I mean when I say that I love words.

Function: uses words to market ourselves and our clients. Function: understands the power of words and the value of selecting the right words and placing them in an order that truly communicates a message effectively. I love how Function: constantly uses the phrase: “We’re into building things.” To me, that phrase is artistic. It obviously makes a reference to Function:’s specialty as an agency for the architecture, engineering and construction industry. But its meaning continues beyond that. Function: is into building things. Lots of things. Function: builds our clients- their reputations, their messages, their sales. Function: builds creatively. Function: builds to last. Function: builds knowledge. We study industry trends and use our knowledge to benefit our clients. We also build relationships- with our clients, with the media and with industry professionals like architects, contractors and more. Through our pro bono work, we help build positive communities.

When I really stop to think of it, so much of who we are as a company is packed into the four words “We’re into building things.”