Social media has dramatically transformed what we create and produce, but also how spatial experiences and culture are designed. Each day, we constantly flow between online and offline images and experiences. This continuous flow is especially felt in interiors, manufacturing and the AEC industries. As a result, builders and designers are exploring new ways to embrace social media and utilize new forms of communication to tell compelling stories.
Over the last twenty years, the priority of communicating the built environment has shifted from static, heroic images to the story behind a building or project. We are starting to show what happens as spaces are occupied, rather than an empty, pristine space itself. As everyone and anyone is able to produce images and capture the built environment, it presents an opportunity to further showcase the process and life of a project: how it is used, how it ages, and how it changes over time.
Storytelling is becoming more and more important, and not only for clients, but how designers can understand their own work. Social media is at the heart of this change, and it holds the potential to share new narratives about who we design for, and why.
What classifies as Social Media?
Social media can be defined as web-based and mobile technologies that turn communication into interactive dialogue. It is also a system that allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content, often with ubiquitously accessible and scalable communication techniques. The result is a change in the way organizations, communities, and individuals communicate.
Broadly speaking, social media falls into a series of categories: blogs, microblogs, video and photo sharing, social bookmarking, and social networking. We’ve now become deeply familiar with platforms and companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Before the internet and social networking, design projects were documented and viewed by a relatively small circle. Not unlike fashion, the public’s exposure and understanding of these industries changed as new technologies were created.
Before the widespread adoption of social media, buildings and interiors were published in magazines, edited and curated for an audience that was mostly other designers. Now, digital communication has changed the way people view and interact with architecture, providing new insights on storytelling and how to design.
AEC Applications: Advantages to Social Media
There are a wide range of applications to social media in the context of design and construction industries. From marketing and networking to branding and thought leadership, there are diverse advantages to utilizing the tools now available to shape external communications. These also extend to internal communications and firm culture: ideas and inspiration, corporate memory, continuing education and knowledge sharing.
Social media looks at storytelling as more than the curated image of a space, but also the experience of the event and a place. Today, the public’s experience of the built environment is no longer tied to having to physically visit a space. Instead, the image and identity of a work can be experienced digitally, and often through the lens of the public itself. Social media shaped this change through connectivity, and as the digital domain is seemingly boundless, so too has it presented new forms of digital agency for designers and the stories of how space is occupied.
There is agency in tools that can be adopted and reimagined by the public and consumers: uploading, archiving, posting and sharing has given design a new role within the public domain. Accessibility allows ideas and projects to be seen more readily, including in the hands of clients. But this agency is also internal; how a practice shares ideas, comes together as a team, and how they are inspired by the work of others.
Designers and manufacturers should be aware of how they are shaping their work in response to the influx and demand for online sharing. They should consider how they have adapted their designs and marketing models to satisfy online platforms like Instagram and Twitter, and at the same time, what these platforms mean for internal collaboration and work. By its nature, social media is tied to consistent updates, as well as problem solving and identity building from multiple angles.
Tools to Consider
When utilizing social media as a way to frame a practice or office, social platforms can help create projects and attract clients in unprecedented ways. Integrating social media is a great way to not only improve brand exposure, but also drive traffic to the work. Social media not only promotes dialogue among peers, but also provides a platform for showcasing images and visual inspiration.
Social media platforms like Instagram made sharing architecture to the masses easier than ever. Capitalizing on this trend, cities have found ways to use the social media platform to increase visitor traffic. The notion of “experience-driven” design is reshaping how manufacturers, interior designers, architects, and even retailers create new projects.
Social media has challenged, inspired, and guided manufacturers and creators around the world. The use of technology and advancements like geotagging and hashtags have helped designers develop existing processes like post-occupancy analysis, and in turn, create projects that are better suited for clients while reaching a global audience that expands awareness.
While social media has already reshaped design and storytelling, content creators and placemakers can utilize these technologies to drive innovation and build better processes for both their business and for consumers. Social media is a powerful storytelling tool to build identity, and when used to its fullest potential, can lead to more diverse, inclusive, and compelling designs.