I’ve been interested in the way that architects and designers find and choose products for many years. As a practice manager for architects, I played a part in filtering out unsolicited communications from product manufacturers, a continual source of irritation to busy designers.
Last year I wrote a white paper about the issue, ‘Talking to Architects’ which explained how wasteful and unhelpful push marketing techniques are to designers. The white paper has been downloaded over 500 times, so we have clearly touched a nerve.
Of course, designers still need to source products for their building, interior and landscape projects. The alternative to receiving loads of inappropriate information when you don’t need it, is to go looking for specific product types when you do need the information, which can be at the design stage as well as during detailed specification.
The problem is, if we want to use the internet to find things, we go to Google first, and as a point of contact it is too broad, not industry specific, and lacking in any sort of moderation or standards that help us trust the information we receive. So it is important that reliable alternative methods exist that add to the power of search online.
Alternatives to Google
Over the summer I have been working with ESI.info to explore how designers can find products online more effectively.
You may know ESI.info from their dark green product directories, including Building Products, External Works, PENTEC and Interior Design, or more recently the Built Environment directory. Over the last three years ESI.info (formerly Endat Standard Indexes) have transferred these directories to their website www.ESI.info, with additional tools and content, and they are blogging and engaging with specifiers via twitter as well as by traditional means. These activities are teaching the team at ESI.info all about how architects, interior designers and landscape architects choose products and helping them develop a better resource.
My collaboration with ESI.info is resulting in a series of videos about finding products online. The first will be published shortly and I’ll share it with you here.
ESI.info twitter accounts:
ESI.info Marketplace blogs:
External Works Blog
Interior Design Blog
Building Design Blog
Gill Few says
Brilliant idea! Looking forward to seeing them
Thanks Gill, listening to what specifiers need is really enlightening. I’m enjoying making them.
Mathew Byron says
I couldn’t agree more – a trusted source of information is very valuable. The danger otherwise is that things get specified from ‘memory’ and the big brand names get used over and over again even if they are not the best. Choice can be overwhelming! http://architecturally.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/its-like-ice-cream/
Thanks for agreeing to share your post here Mathew, it raises a really important issue for designers, and one which should enlighten product companies. How can they meet that challenge for you?
I’ve put some thoughts on your post too.
Clare Watson says
I could not agree more with the sentiment. It’s really important for architects to have the relevant specialist information at their fingertips without hours of searching. Specialist sites such as ESI, Barbour and RIBA Product Selector provide a faster, specialist service with the depth of data architects need.
At RIBA Product Selector, we find that architects use both our printed directories and our online version, http://www.ribaproductselector.com. Not only does our web directory get huge monthly traffic, our 2012 printed directory is still very popular. It has just received accreditation of it’s circulation by ABC and has exceeded 20,000 requested copies yet again. The popularity of both formats is backed up by our specification survey which we publish every year.
I feel that the challenge ahead is going to be providing not only the relevant product information for specification but a depth of data which will support BIM and COBie reporting.
That’s why RIBA Product Selector will be linked with the NBS National BIM Library, providing not only generic BIM objects, but proprietry manufacturer BIM objects, rich in just the sort of high quality data archirtects, contractors and clients need.
Hope to catch up with you soon.
Andrew Brown says
See the latest posting on The Spec Man Blog.
Thanks for the blog post, that’s much appreciated.
Here’s a direct link to the post for future visitors:
Sourcing construction products
Michael James says
Similar to the experience of Clare at RIBA Product Selector, although we do not have a hardcopy version of specifinder.com, when professional specifiers request information online they are still opting to receive hardcopy literature from product manufacturers through us – 60% of people in fact!
Although our online services are thriving, we also find that architects still require the face-to-face service that our Information Centre at The Building Centre provides – as well as the touch-and-feel that our product galleries provide.
Thanks for all the comments everyone, you can see the first video interview with architect Matt Franklin here:
The comments on the ESI Building Design blog here are worth a look/contribution too: