Is Architecture the Archetype for New Media Firms?
Silicon Alley Corporations Learn from the Architecture Profession
New York, December 5, 1997 —As the new media industry expands, service firms are developing structures by which they can achieve a strong degree of client satisfaction. While some companies look to models from the advertising industry, print design firms, and software developers, Plumb Design, an Internet design and development company based in New York City, models itself after an architecture firm. From the company's systematic process to its core group of employees with architecture backgrounds, Plumb Design has developed an approach toward creating digital media that has many of the same characteristics of the methodology used by an architecture firm.
This should be of no surprise. Plumb Design founder and creative director Marc Tinkler studied architecture and computer science at Carnegie Mellon University before choosing to devote himself to Internet development. His architecture background has been instrumental in setting both the tone and the structure of Plumb Design's creative approach.
"Creating an Internet application is a demanding challenge that incorporates many of the same methodologies that I would use in designing a building," says Tinkler. "In each there is a great deal of conceptual planning, and in each the underlying structure is an essential element that determines the success or failure of the project. At Plumb, we have developed a systematic iterative process that we believe leads to consistent high-quality results."
Internet projects, similar to architecture, have both technical and creative constraints. Plumb Design begins each project with a research phase to analyze the client's needs. Each client's goals for communication and transactions are examined to determine a systematic process of design and development that achieves the client's objectives. Plumb Design then creates a schematic design, which much like the plans of a complex building, serves as a working document by which the creative team and the client can understand the structure of the site. This process, combined with a firm commitment to close collaboration with the client, helps avoid pitfalls that might occur from improper planning.
Plumb Design's systematic approach, as well as some of its nomenclature, are derived from the architecture profession. "We often find ourselves using architecture hot-button words like 'sustainability' and 'adaptive reuse' to describe Internet applications," says Edward Pak, another member of Plumb Design with a background in architecture.
Not only does Plumb Design model its process after an architecture firm, it hopes to aggressively recruit employees with backgrounds in architecture. It has found that students of architecture possess a unique ability to consider complex, ill-defined problems, and solve them in creative ways that ultimately translate the client's needs into something both useful and aesthetically pleasing.
Most architecture schools today expose students to a curriculum that encourages them to explore the use of computers for creative means. The ability to use and think about technology as an integral part of the creative process is an essential element that Plumb Design and other new media firms are looking for in their employees.
Plumb Design is not the only firm in Silicon Alley with key personnel from architecture backgrounds. The new media industry provides an alternative outlet for these students that often offers them higher pay and more creative control than they would get at a similar position in an architecture firm. Founders of both MethodFive and io360 come from architecture backgrounds, and many designers and programmers throughout the industry have some connection with architecture.
Plumb Design creates online experiences that facilitate the exchange of knowledge and the interplay of ideas. Plumb Design is an Internet design and development company based in New York City. Founded in 1997, Plumb Design builds Internet applications for organizations that use the Internet as a vehicle for exchanging information and ideas. Clients include Audible Words, The National Geographic Society, The New York Academy of Medicine, and The Smithsonian Institution. More information about Plumb Design can be found on the Internet at
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